Saturday December 29, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- No one knew exactly what set Javier Colon and Matt Cusson would be playing going into a fundraiser concert at BCC Friday night -- not even Colon and Cusson.

Longtime friends Colon, season one winner of NBC-TV's "The Voice," and Cusson, a Pittsfield musician and Berkshire Community College alumna, hung out in a backstage dressing room behind BCC's Boland Theatre, eating McDonald's French fries and gabbing about James Taylor's music.

"When we get together, we can kind of be clowns and fly from the seat of our pants," Colon said.

"It's two buddies getting together that play music and have fun," Cusson added. "When we get together, all bets are off. We're just up there having fun."

Though music planning and preparation didn't seem like a priority, the buddies still managed to electrify a crowd of more than 300 for an event that was to raise money for the college foundation's annual fund.

Cusson was the first of the two to perform, playing a keyboard and singing about how he and his fiance, Lisa, left Los Angeles, as well as a song called "Only Human," and another song that Cusson hadn't yet named.

"Call it ‘Chevelle,' " called out a female concert-goer toward the front of the stage. Cusson obliged.

Following a 10-minute intermission, Colon joined the stage with Cusson. He jokingly warned of the "silliness that was about to happen" since the two were on stage together again.

Between duets on songs like "Raise Your Hand" and "When," Colon and Cusson riffed with each other.

"You always said you hated the Berkshires," Cusson joked to Colon and the audience.

Colon retorted that the Berkshires was in fact "the most beautiful place on the Earth," and that it's so beautiful that people don't go through break-ups (nobody raised their hand when he asked who in the audience had been through a rough break-up).

Javier Colon says when he gets together to play music with Matt Cusson, ‘we can kind of be clowns.’
Javier Colon says when he gets together to play music with Matt Cusson, ‘we can kind of be clowns.’ (Kayla Galway / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

Colon also did several solo performances as well, mostly of slower R&B jams and covers including Coldplay's "Fix You."

The band Real Talk, comprised of some BCC students, performed for the audience as they rolled in. The band's drummer, Dylan Benciverga, played despite being sick with the flu.

The benefit's goal was to raise about $10,000 for the college's foundation, according to Jennifer Kerwood, the director of Developmental and Alumni Relations.

She said that plans to get Cusson, who graduated in 1998, to perform at a benefit concert, had been under way for a few years.

"When I learned that he and Javier Colon were really good friends, we were trying to find the perfect scenario to bring them both here," Kerwood said.

Berkshires resident Matt Cusson performs Friday at the concert to benefit Berkshire Community College’s foundation at the Boland Theatre in
Berkshires resident Matt Cusson performs Friday at the concert to benefit Berkshire Community College’s foundation at the Boland Theatre in Pittsfield. (Kayla Galway / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
"We thought it would be a great way to showcase both of them here."

Cusson performs locally as well as nationally on shows like "The View," but still regularly volunteers his time to events at the campus, like the summer workshop Rock On!

"BCC did a lot for me when I was here, and it's the only degree that I have," Cusson said.

Cusson met Colon in Boston about 10 years ago through a mutual friend that did back-up vocals for James Taylor, both of the artists' idol. This was before Colon won the first season of "The Voice."

The hit NBC show is about contestants that sing songs to four coaches -- Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine of Maroon 5, Cee Lo Green of "Forget You" fame and country singer Blake Shelton -- who have their backs turned so they can only judge the performer based on their voice. Colon won under Levine's coaching.

"It gives anyone confidence knowing they'll be judged solely on what you sound like," Colon said. "It keeps the integrity of the competition high. It puts you with the best of the best."

Despite Colon's grand prize of $100,000 and a contract signing for winning "The Voice," Cusson said their friendship "hasn't changed a bit."

To reach Adam Poulisse:
apoulisse@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6214.
On Twitter: @BE_Poulisse