Smoke and lights covered the stage as people entered the Curb Event Center for the Urban/Pop Showcase Saturday evening. R. Kelly’s “Ignition” played over the speaker system and set the mood. Tonight would be smooth, silky fun.
David Dennis took the stage first. As soon as as he walked onstage, his inviting presence intoxicated the crowd. Students enthusiastically ran to the stage to clap and dance to his cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours.” His cover was faithful to the original, keeping the soulful vocals backed with an upbeat, bright melody. The interactive frontman asked the crowd to sway phones’ flashlights in the air for his next song, “Heartbreaker,” a reggae-infused rock-power ballad. Dennis knew how to have fun with soul without losing the emotional backbone.
Dramatic cymbals rolled and piano and bass chords played as Lana Boleyjack took the stage next dressed in a silver sequined dress. While her voice was the main attraction of the performance, a noticeably nervous Boleyjack made a few mistakes. She alluded to her stage fright before her final song, admitting this was her first live show. Nevertheless, Boleyjack and her backing band delivered a strong performance highlighted with the song “Woman,” thanks to some emotional vocal freestylings and a smooth, funky break from the band.
Pop duo Sawyer performed third with Kel Taylor spotting an acoustic guitar and Emma Harvey playing a Gibson electric. Their sound was a unique mix of acoustic-folk pop with a backbone of electro-dance pop in a bit of a Alanis Morissette-meets-Chvrches sound. This sound shined with their cover of Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance,” which worked as well as the original as a power ballad by putting the power chords on the acoustic guitar and backing it with electric organ and drums.
R&B-meets-reggae trio Sound Proof closed the showcase, opening the set with a cover of Fetty Wap’s “My Way.” The song had just as many great verse deliveries as it did great vocal harmonies– which is to say, a lot. Chris Lee, Ethan Jones and Matt Mahfood’s onstage banter was as charming as it was playful, hitting somewhere in between the Ninja Turtles and the bobsled team from “Cool Runnings.” The group closed the night with an upbeat, Jamaican-sound-infused song featuring soulful harmonies and a relentless verse from Mahfood. The group won the showcase and will be performing at the Best of the Best Showcase in the spring. The showcase was a blast for hundreds of Belmont students, staff and visitors, thanks to some grade-A musical talent and a crew of dozens making the production quick and smooth. At the end of the night, it’s hard to decide what takes more talent; fronting a band for a show in front of thousands or managing the production for said show.
Story by Dan Updegraff. Photos by Hunter Morgan.