Travelin’ Max: Instant Party?

Pirates, maracas and the Backstreet Boys—what could be better? As it turns out, a fair amount. At the start of the Travelin’ Max Show last weekend, a crowd of about 30 students was taken by surprise when Max Mayer, the show’s single performer, began to throw pirate hats, skull necklaces and maracas into the audience. Handing out free giveaways is part of Mayer’s unique philosophy of extreme audience participation and maximum fun. “There’s no other way to do a show,” Mayer said. “If the audience doesn’t get involved in the show, it becomes one way. This way, it’s more fun for the audience and for me.” The crowd was initially shy, but they became enthusiastic as Mayer, dressed in a pirate costume, began to sing and play his guitar. But, after putting on their pirate hats and playing with the maracas, the audience quickly warmed up to Mayer’s quirky sense of humor. Mayer knew he wanted to be a performer since the age of six. Before he began performing on his own, he was a member of several different bands. Tired of living with the other members of the band, Mayer decided he wanted to do it alone. In 1992 Mayer started his show. Since then, he has won the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities Performer of the Year Award three times. “I have the best job in the world. I get to travel around the world and am paid to have fun,” Mayer said. Although he loves his job, he finds it difficult being away from home, his wife Vivien and his three dogs. After leading a Congo line out to the Ryley Roller with his wireless microphone and guitar, Mayer herded a group of students on stage to sing the song “Summer Nights” from “Grease.” Mayer said his favorite part of the show is when both groups sing to each other alone at the end of the song. The boys on stage then got a chance to serenade the girls with their version of “I Want it That Way” by the Backstreet Boys. Malin Adams ’09 said, “It was impressive to see the number of boys who knew all the words to the Backstreet Boys. We could see that girls were all taken in by our beautiful words and this simply inspired us to sing louder and stronger.” As the night went on, the number of students in Underwood almost tripled and Mayer began to give out even more free stuff. He held a disco dance-off and a root beer drinking contest in which the winners received pirate pillows and Travelin’ Max T-shirts. The crowd cheered for their favorite teams and sang along to songs they knew. This past Friday was Travelin’ Max’s second time at Phillips Academy. Last year, he performed in the Ryley Room with his traditional Hawaiian/Beach Party theme. Many of the students who attended both performances seemed to like last year’s show better because of the greater variety of songs he sang and the bigger crowd, including ’07 students. Alanna Waldman ’10 said, “They were both fun, but I think the pirate theme detracted from the whole performance because it made it seem like a children’s show.” A few other students agreed, and said the show would have appealed more to a younger audience. Mayer, however, loved performing at Phillips Academy. “It’s as good as the best colleges I’ve ever performed at,” he said. He was also very happy that he was allowed to bring his two smaller dogs to the show. On whether or not Travelin’ Max should come back to Phillips Academy next year, Adams said, “Although I love Travelin’ Max, I think that after two years, his time has passed at Phillips Academy.”