A sold-out crowd graced the seats at Big Bridges last Friday night, Nov. 9, while onstage, guys wearing skinny ties stood next to girls in four-inch heels (and the occasional trucker hat or pajama bottoms).
The 2012 Southern California A Capella Music Festvial, more commonly known as SCAMFest, was a tribute to a cappella’s rising popularity and to the artistic transformation for which a cappella performers strive. In their effort to express uniqueness through borrowed songs, a cappella groups have to draw originality from creative arrangements and distinctive performances.
Not every performance at the concert managed to achieve this transformation. Women’s Blue and White’s rendition of “Call Me Maybe,” while preserving Jepsen’s sugary pop sweetness, was pitchy and failed to add anything new to the confection. Kosher Chords’s “Carry On My Wayward Son” went down easy but wasn’t memorable.
The soloists in Claremont Shades’s “Little Talks” managed an impressive imitation of the original singers, but in the end, the impression was just that—an imitation. And very occasionally, a song is transformed in all the wrong ways. Mood Swing’s “Morning Comes” opted to obliterate Delta Rae’s balance of sweetness and power, coming down heavy and blunt where the original was nuanced.
But often, if the crowd’s cheers were any indication, adaptations worked. The “Rehab” singers from UCLA’s all-male Bruin Harmony, one of four very talented (and tall) non-5C groups to perform, channeled Amy Winehouse as well as anybody who hasn’t smoked a pack a day since age five possibly could, with an added touch of cheekiness.
Speaking of cheekiness, let us not forget ASS (After School Specials), a highlight of the 5C performances. Their inspired choice to counterbalance male and female vocalists in the solos for “Payphone” lent an extra dimension of sadness to the lyrics, as if both sides of a broken relationship were singing their lament, unknowingly, to the same melody. ASS contrasted this with a solo by Sarah Ridge SC ’15, who sang a simplistically beautiful Florence + the Machine rendition.
On a lighter note, the gender switch in 9th Street Hooligans’s “Lip Gloss,” soloed by a male vocalist, was played for laughs rather than depth. Though the concept might seem sophomoric, they pulled it off fearlessly for a hilarious result, complete with comedic, slowed-down singing to contrast the original’s raps. In “Everybody Talks,” Men’s Blue and White showed the same willingness to commit, taking the original’s fast-paced energy and dialing it up.
Occasionally, the effect is not transformation but transcendence. For example, the soloist from USC’s SoCal VoCals in “Tightrope,” who deserves to be called out by name (Segun Oluwadele) but who will forever remain in memory as “Tightrope Guy,” slid, sashayed and back-flipped his way across the stage, belting out runs that seemed improvised on the spot. He seemed less a performer than a martyr, caught in the throes of divine ecstasy. This show-stopping performance received a standing ovation, a true example of star quality that made the other performances pale in comparison.