Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

FIG Engages Audiences at Cat in the Cream with Unconventional, Interactive Show

Abe Frato
FIG sang and asked trivia questions to her audience.

Whimsical indie harmonies underneath orange ambient lighting, the low chatter of voices catching up with friends unseen since last spring, a warm and oversized chocolate chip cookie in hand. The Cat in the Cream was filled with couches and small tables — reminiscent not of a chaotic concert venue but of a familiar living room. On the evening of Sept. 9, it became the home of student performers Madhav, and indie pop singer-songwriter Fay Liew, known by her stage name, “FIG,” who graced the audience with liveliness and humility.

Originally from Singapore and Malaysia and currently based in New York, FIG made memories and bonded with students. Her latest single, “Seeking for Connection,” describes a desire to rid oneself of a lingering loneliness. A line in the chorus repeats “are you seeking for connection?” These words seemed to be a personal inquiry by FIG, asking each individual in the audience to disregard their supposed role of a distant crowd member and instead actively partake in the process of performance. 

“Let’s see who can sing the loudest,” FIG said before splitting the audience in half. 

Her 2022 single, “Pair of You,” consisted of two distinct lines in the chorus she assigned to each half of the room. FIG led the right half to repeat after her “I don’t wanna love you like that, no,” while assigning the left half “I don’t wanna love you like you love you.” After a couple practice rounds, it was on. Knowing that she was a small indie singer whose songs were likely unfamiliar to most Obies, FIG had clearly prepared a plan to cultivate as much engagement as a rising artist could. In this singing competition that occurred each chorus, she successfully sought and gained connection with the wide-eyed audience members, laughter arising at each lyric slip-up.

Unconventionally structured, the most shocking addition to FIG’s setlist was perhaps the trivia break. Featuring three rounds of common knowledge questions, the choice of prizes was more unpredictable than the trivia itself. Awaiting FIG’s instruction with both their pride and bragging rights at stake, a hush fell over the crowd.

“Who can name all the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?” FIG announced as the first question, and the crowd’s silence quickly transitioned into eager screams and jumping hands. “What do you call the longest side of a triangle?” she asked as the second. “How many hearts does an octopus have?” 

Following each question was a flurry of panicked remarks, excited cries, and desperate glances at friends to get them to team up and rise to victory. FIG had managed to create an environment of passionate participation. Most artists do this by developing a large fanbase that knows the lyrics to each of their songs by heart; FIG did the same thing by presenting elementary-level trivia to a room full of college students. Imagine the enthusiasm you and your classmates convey when the professor displays a Kahoot on the screen in the midst of a typical lecture. Multiply that by 10. To the victors, FIG handed out the following prizes: a box of raspberries, a bag of carrots, and a graphic t-shirt depicting herself dropping a bagel. Each prize was received with the same level of cheering as is given to a sports team when they secure another win.

As the trivia break came to a close, FIG encouraged the audience to find a place to sit, whether it was on a couch or the floor. This marked the humble transition to a set of four slower acoustic songs. Although there was no physical bonfire, the same effects persisted. I was a child again, warmed by the crackling fire, with sparks reflected in my dilated pupils. The buzz and rush of trivia settled down into a calm feeling of unity. We were no longer standing, stretching out our necks and lifting our heels to catch a glimpse of the stage. Our heads were level, and there was no competition to achieve the highest status in the room. 

This sweep of modesty covered not only the audience but FIG herself.

 “I want to shout out the openers, Madhav. They were so sick.Round of applause!” She redirected the crowd’s attention to the six performers sitting several feet from the stage. Madhav opened the night with a set of four songs finished off by a cover of Bruno Mars’ “Finesse,” featuring solos from each member and the main vocalist’s rich, jazzy tone. 

For one unreleased acoustic song in particular, FIG provided a sentimental backstory, allowing the audience to personally relate our own experiences while swaying to the slow melodies and guitar strums. She took the audience members back to our high school days, recalling old friends that we may have lost contact with.

 “We were friends in that moment and it was really special,” she said. “I can look back at pictures and memories … but it’s okay to move on from those friendships.”

As the evening neared its end, I soaked up the last bits of indie harmonies, orange lighting, and chocolate-chip cookie aromas. I left but at the same time took things with me — the comfort, the warmth, and the unexpected moments of amusement that this small venue was able to hold. 

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