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07 April 2006 @ 01:09 pm
ICCA Semifinals - part 2  
Continuing where this post left off...

Intermission went smoothly.  Strange that I actually have to include that sentence, but it seems the best way to start this story.  The VoCals ended their set, the lights went up, the judges went to the deliberation room to finish their notes and such, and everybody enjoyed their fifteen minutes of freedom and restroom breaks.  I chatted with Brendan, one of the founders of Reverse Osmosis, and we agreed that VoCals had taken the first half, hands down.  The lights dimmed, and people took their seats.  The MCs came out and introduced the next competitor, who took the stage and started their set.

From the first chords USC Reverse Osmosis sang, it was clear that we were watching a completely different competition in the second half than we saw in the first.  The tuning was tighter, the sound was bigger, the group both was dynamic and had dynamics...  It's true that I'm biased (and I'm very glad they didn't let me judge this year because of it), but this was a completely different caliber of group.

Two thirds through their first song, Jen and I saw something more than a little disquieting.  One of the judges ducked across the front row from the side, and walked up the center aisle to try to find her seat.  We looked to the side of the auditorium where the deliberations room was, and saw the other four judges entering the room.

The performance was a great one, but I think they were a bit thrown off by the fact that the judges took their seats in the middle of the set.  They were clearly the best we'd seen so far, but I think they did a little better on their home turf.  (Side note: that's a new website they've got.  They're also now on MySpace.)

Next up was Mt SAC Fermata Nowhere.  My opinion of FN has been fairly consistent - they tend to do music I don't like (R&B and rap), but they tend to do it well.  When they're trying to.  The problem is that they seem to have an attention span that only allows for one thing at a time - either they can concentrate on sounding good or they can concentrate on their choreo.  In the past, they've done three songs, the first was a mix of choreo and singing, neither done as well as they're capable; the second being a ballad that shows off their singing, and the third being a medley whose sole purpose was to make the audience laugh with the choreo and parody lyrics.  This year, they seemed to concentrate even less on their singing.  They had a huge sound, but no control over it.

The penultimate competitor was BYU Vocal Point

Before I go into their performance, I need to take a side track for a moment to explain what this was like.  I've been in five competitions with the Masters of Harmony.  Every time, I've received the same comment, with some variations.  Generally it goes something like this: 
This was an interesting competition until you guys took the stage.  The moment you opened your mouths, the competition was over - there was no question who was walking away with first place.

Occasionally, there's some variation.  For example, in Portland, it went more like this:
When Toronto finished their set, I figured it was over.  Nobody sounded like that before they came on, and nobody came close for several competitors after.  Then you started singing....

Vocal Point came on stage, and I understood what the people making those comments meant.  There were a few things that set these guys apart.  First, they had nine men on stage - and sounded like 20 singing with ease.  In other words, they had a huge sound without any oversinging.  Add to that another factor that we hadn't seen yet - nobody took a microphone off its stand.  They performed as if the mics weren't even there - and you never had any trouble hearing them, their soloist, their vocal percussion, or their arrangements' complexities.  All this while doing choreo that some might call acrobatics.  They did their requisite spiritual number, but we were relieved to see it wasn't the one they'd brought to ICCAs several times in the past.  The new one, "He is Born," was good, but we felt the "Spider-Man" soloist with his running around and Buble-esque performance was the best soloist of the evening.  All in all, a very exciting performance - it's a shame their most recent album is two years old and most of that audience probably already had it.  I'm sure I wasn't the only one ready to lay my $15 down for something new, but there wasn't any.

The final competitor was Oregon State University Outspoken.  We had high expectations, since they had the highest score of the quarterfinals.  Shoulda known better than to count on that - having been a judge, I know firsthand how non-standardized the judging is.  There's a form that's standardized, but how each individual judges is extremely subjective.  Anyway, Outspoken wasn't a bad group at all - they had earned the right to be at this competition...but they were far from the best group there.  When they were doing music they liked, they had a lot of fun, as was evident in their rendition of "Macho Man."  It would have been nice if they'd been feeling the other stuff they did, rather than going through the motions.  Another group that used choreography to try to cover up musical shortcomings.  It never works as well as you'd hope.

That ended the competition, and the judges went to have their scores tabulated, and to deliberate on special awards.  Meanwhile, we were treated to the group that won at the first ever Europe division of the ICCAs this year, and seem to be touring the States between now and the Finals: Oxford Out of the Blue.  (also on MySpace).  These guys are good, but I don't know that they would have moved forward in the competition had they been in this district instead of Europe.  They'd certainly have done well, but VP was hard to beat.  OotB did several songs - probably everything they knew at this point.  Some of it had choreo, some of it was the basic stand-and-sing.  All of it was very fun.  Their version of Fat Bottomed Girls, for example, was phenomenal.  Picked up their two latest albums, which did not disappoint.

They left the stage and Till Dawn took over for a few songs, until the judges returned and the announcements were made:

Outstanding Soloist: Ryan Innes of Vocal Point for "He Is Born"
Outstanding Choreography: SoCal VoCals
Outstanding Arrangement: Vocal Point for "He Is Born"
Outstanding Vocal Percussion: Kenny Lowe of Oregon State University Outspoken

3rd: University of Southern California SoCal VoCals
2nd: University of Southern California Reverse Osmosis
1st: Brigham Young University Vocal Point

RO was thrilled, mostly.  This is the highest they've ever been ranked at this level, they were ranked best mixed vocal group in the West, and they were essentially named the best student-run group in the West.  (VP is a class at BYU, from what I understand)  They were unhappy with how things were run (the blame was later placed on the stage manager, who started the show without telling the Director of the evening - personally I think that the Director should have been the one making the call, rather than hanging out with the judges away from everything, but that's just me.  As far as I'm concerned, even if it wasn't the Director's fault, it was the Director's fault.), but most weren't unhappy with the results.  But because the process was unfair, they made the call to Amanda Grish, the executive producer of the ICCAs, in New York.  They made it clear that they were just calling to make sure she knew about what happened, so it wouldn't ever happen again.  Amanda thanked them, hung up, then proceeded to call each of the five judges individually.  She asked them each two questions, and got the exact same answers from all of them:
1.  Did you see all of Reverse Osmosis' set?
2:  If you had seen all of Reverse Osmosis' set, do you think there's even a possibility that they might have won?

Then Amanda made an executive decision (being the Executive Producer, she has that power).  In order to give the ICCA judges a chance to see the entire set, both Reverse Osmosis and Vocal Point will be allowed to proceed to the finals in New York on April 29!

Lightwayslightways on April 7th, 2006 08:24 pm (UTC)
Semi-side note... This is the West Producer's first year doing this. But already there were problems at the various quarterfinal competitions. And this was NOT the firs time that Amanda heard from RO. (RO hosted the quarterfinals at USC in February, where there were other issues.)

Thank goodness I didn't take that job. (I almost did.)