Slam Up
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Slam Up

Teaneck, New Jersey, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2013

Teaneck, New Jersey, United States
Established on Jan, 2013
Band Spoken Word Comedy




"Slam Up: Fringe NYC 2014"

Adventures in being young and in love (or, more probably, lust). Slam Up is a rompin-stompin two-women-two-mikes sorta good time. Self described as being "for anyone who's ever contemplated suicide after a slam poetry show", Slam Up delivers on comedy and neon-coloured, wacky youthful indiscretions, but it still has a fairly slammy bite. And fair enough - it's in the title, after all.

Straight away, the pair confront us with our own preconceptions about sexuality and appearance when Emily Lowinger sings a song about having sex with boys and then laughingly tells us that the song causes confusion among audiences. You’re not lesbian? Cali Bulmash tells us that they don’t like labels, and then they go on to sing loads of songs about lesbians falling in and out of love (and bed). Despite a bit of politically motivated confusion, these two are fun and we are invited to play along. Mild audience participation comes in little unexpected surprises, and mixes things up. We are offered chances to play, not pulled up onto our feet and coerced into dancing.

There are loads of crazy, silly-time dances with ridiculously fun synchronized choreo - at one point, our heroines impersonate Jesus, up on the cross. Slam Up doesn’t apologise for what it is - it celebrates its own brazenness. At times we feel the incursion of that slam-typical monotonal drone, but then another song relieves the tension and takes us back where we want to be, groovin’ to the endlessly inventive rhythms of their delicious beats. Alternating between recorded tracks, a capella poetry moments, and lounge-pop band interludes (with Jarrett Walson filling in nicely on the drums) things are at their best when the pair work in tandem, Bulmash’s occasionally harsh recitations weaving in and out of Lowinger’s urban styles.

Slam Up is honest, uncertain, certain, self-contradictory, adamant, passionate, and confrontational. It’s underground speakeasy meets bubblegum pop. It’s dirty, jubilant, tender and inspiring. Not exactly a comedy music set, not exactly a poetry slam, not exactly a lesbian folk duo - Slam Up is something all to itself. A bit of fun, really, and that’s all it needs to be.

Reviewed by William Glenn 22 August 2014 - Fringe Review

"Slam Up"

Upright Citizens Brigade meets Def Poetry Jam meets comedy-folk duo Garfunkel & Oates in Cali Bulmash and Emily Lowinger’s genderf*ck cabaret Slam Up at the Celebration of Whimsy (aka The C.O.W.) on Clinton Street, part of FringeNYC 2014.

Cali (the one with the blue hair) is a poet and Emily (the one with the mohawk) is a comedian and guitarist. The two lifelong friends have combined their talents for an hour-long revue about the good, the bad, and the ugly of modern-day love and relationships.

Brash and brutally honest with each other, their audience, and themselves, they bare their hearts and souls in a series of impassioned songs, poems, and skits that nonetheless offer heaping doses of humor alongside the heartache. The deep connection and closeness between the two is evident from the start.

Ms. Bulmash is a gifted poet. Her spoken word interludes, alone on stage under the unrelenting spotlight, demonstrate a keen linguistic facility and ardor, particularly in “Loveless Love” — a love letter to herself.

Ms. Lowinger has a knack for pairing the ideal musical accompaniment to the pair’s interactions. She also has a lovely singing voice (on display in the tongue-firmly-in-cheek “Neither Here Nor There”) that is all too often passed over in favor of sing-song joke telling and onstage dialogue.

The best bits of Slam Up are when “CalEmity” play off each other, like the rhythmic poems “Slam Up” and “FriendShips” where they recite many of the same words at the same time. The song “Don’t Care What You Say,” about Cali’s disdain for Em’s current girlfriend, showcases the comedy partners’ deliciously cutting banter. “Don’t Care” is a highlight of the entire show and the most fully realized moment of their complementary abilities.

But the sketches in the middle of the show, unfortunately, aren’t as successful as the rest of Slam Up. When Ms. Lowinger appears costumed as Henry the Guitar, she gets laughs for sure. But even though the skits cover much of the same emotional territory as the lyrics of the songs and verses of the poems, they slow the pace of Slam Up down considerably and feel awkwardly sandwiched into a show focused on wordplay.

After all the misery and mockery, Slam Up ends on a positive note with “Good Kind of Love” as Cali and Emily ditch their 20-something ennui and imagine what it would be like to have healthy relationships full of love, kindness, and mutual respect. It’s a hopeful endpiece for two passionate performers full of potential. - NYTheater Now

"Teaneck natives perform as part of New York Fringe Festival"

When opening a new show in New York, conventional wisdom says it's always wise to first have an out-of-town tryout. And if that is so, Teaneck writers/performers Emily Lowinger and Cali Bulmash – fresh from a bumpy few months touring the country — might just have the most exhaustively tried and true show of the upcoming New York International Fringe Festival's season.

It's been a long, long road to the annual summer festival for the 24-year-old artists. Literally.

Both of them just a few years out of college and feeling a bit at loose ends professionally, they bought a sound system, borrowed one of their mothers' cars, gathered up their food stamps and bought all the non-perishables they could before embarking on a 45-gig nationwide tour that they booked themselves to perform their co-written piece.

The pair describe their show, "Slam Up," as a "funny, innovative mix of comedy, music, improv and spoken-word poetry about the many shades of love – requited, unrequited, gay, straight, queer, or just creative. Warning: Contains wonderfully, hilariously, poignantly adult material."

For this past winter's grassroots tour, gas and meals were paid for by ticket sales or out of their tip jar, nicknamed Phillup Dajar (it may sound corny but it worked). Food was paid for largely from food stamps Bulmash had collected while a full-time volunteer in a national community service program.

Accommodations were often the couches of friends, or welcoming strangers. The venues were places like college bookstores, coffee shops or actual homes that regularly hosted salon-type evenings of local and touring performers. Audiences ranged from as many as 40 to as little as one, on a snowy night in Oregon where the only audience member was their opening act.

If it sounds romantic – it wasn't always, really. Much like love itself.

"When it worked, it was so much fun. The fun outweighed the disappointments," Bulmash said. "But it was hard, and we learned a lot of things. It was definitely trial and error." One of the things they learned? "Shorter distances. The whole country in three months is just insane, unless you are Beyoncé. It was just too much. The other thing we learned is, if the venue isn't excited about having us, then it's not the venue for us. The places where it worked were places where they were stoked about us coming to their community."

Bulmash and Lowinger were acquaintances in high school. On into college, Bulmash was an environmental sciences major, Lowinger, a French major. While Lowinger studied and performed some stand-up and improv work, she did not pursue it professionally upon graduation.

Bulmash wrote some poetry in her spare time but was an environmental sciences major. "I did not expect to be a poet by profession. Nor did I want to be a scientist," she said. Betwixt and between, she moved to Utah and built straw bale houses for a year with an environmentally friendly non-profit called Community Rebuild. She later joined AmeriCorps in St. Louis, a national community service organization similar to the Peace Corps.

Lowinger, meanwhile, spent her first couple of years after college in a different way. "I pursued the path of depression," she said. "I couldn't fully commit to anything. I really wasn't productive. I was miserable. I was so confused."

Life changed, Lowinger said, when she took a trip with Bulmash and a mutual friend in which one of the stops was a music festival in Bonnaroo, Tenn. It was during this trip that she and Bulmash became closer friends – and the first time she got to see Bulmash's secret talents for performance and poetry.

"They had a small tent set up with some poetry workshops, and she just stole the show," Lowinger said. "People kept coming up to us, to her, saying, 'Oh, I saw you at the poetry workshop, you were amazing.' That kind of got the wheels turning in my head."

Later that summer, as Bulmash was preparing to move back to Teaneck from St. Louis, Lowinger threw the idea out there: "I sent her a Facebook message in August that just said, 'What if we went on tour together.' It was just this crazy idea I had. I love traveling. I love performing. I love writing. And she was like, 'Well, maybe.' One thing about Cali, she does not live a mainstream life. She's not about the money. She's about experiences."

The two agreed to do a tour before they had even settled upon what material they would perform. They worked on the show from August through January.

"We used previous things we had written, and added to those things. Then there are pieces we wrote entirely together," Lowinger said. "It's about love. We decided to make our show thematically about love, because both of us have or had a lot of previous work on the subject, so it seemed like the best place to start. I especially wrote a lot of funny songs on the subject. My specialty is funny songs."

There are sketches and songs about everything from forgetting a person's name within 10 seconds of meeting them at a bar, to bittersweet ballads about breaking up. "There is the poetic, the tragic, the funny. … We are all about the emotional experience. People ask us about the genre of the show. It's hard to say. But it's definitely emotional," Lowinger said. "You'll laugh, and you'll cry."

The two are planning an East Coast tour of "Slam Up" for the winter.

- See more at: - The Record


Still working on that hot first release.



Slam Up* is a modern cabaret journey through the many stages of life and shades of love: requited and unrequited, gay, straight, queer, and herpes-ridden. This musical remix of comedy, poetry, and improv is presented by childhood friends Cali Bulmash and Emily Lowinger. Cali is a poet who has participated in slams across the country and Emily is a stand-up comedian who wields a guitar. When the two reunited at the Bonnaroo music festival in Tennessee they decided to turn themselves into a performance duo to reckon with.

Cali and Emily took Slam Up on the road in January 2014 for a three-month international tour comprising 45 performances in 29 states, plus Washington DC and Canada. They spent their summer performing in the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival, traveling to Omaha for Lovefest in the Midwest, and recording their debut album Same Brain. They are currently in the midst of their CD release tour. 

*Fun fact: The original name was going to be CalEmity. However, after looking up the word “calamity”** they decided to go with Slam Up because they didn’t want to be confused with the plague.

**ca·lam·i·ty: noun \kə-ˈla-mə-tē\: an event that causes great harm and suffering.

Band Members