Updated: Oct 3, 2022
No one could seem to keep from dancing as four talented artists lit up the Curb Event Center at the Pop/Rock Showcase on Saturday night.
Hosted by local independent radio station Lightning 100, the showcase was filled with killer guitar riffs, heartfelt moments and a spunk that encapsulated the genre quite nicely.
Annie DiRusso was the night’s winner, receiving a prize package from Lightning 100, but all of the artists that took the stage brought with them a great energy.
The first act brought a sound that is starkly different from the typical Nashville songwriter. Alejandro Sierra’s music was full of his Latin American roots. His ability to take a style of music that has been around for centuries and add his own modern twist to it shined brightly in the second song of his set “Woman”, a song pulsing with Spanish passion.
“I wrote it back home in Quito. It’s in Español so, here you go,” said Sierra, prefacing the song.
Sierra ended his set with his song “After Midnight.” The song took a turn when Sierra and background vocalist Sophia Tilley brought in a cover of Shawn Mendes and Camilla Cabello’s hit “Senorita”. As Sierra hit the first note of Harry Styles’ “Watermelon Sugar,” the crowd burst out in excitement and helped Sierra end his set with a bang.
Up next was freshman group, Legit Smitty with a set full of early 2000s rock sounds. Lead singer Jake Smith charmed the crowd, recognizing that he was lucky to be the youngest one performing in the showcase.
“I’m a freshman so I don’t really know how we got up here, but I’m happy we’re here,” said Smith.
The group started off their set with two of their original songs, “Am I Okay??!!” and “This Is for All of You.” The songs were marked by intense guitar riffs and drum fills that had the entire band whipping their heads back and forth while Smith jumped around the stage.
The final song of the set was a haunting cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow.” Smith took the lead with just his electric guitar and a single spotlight as his band members sat behind him on the drum kit in support.
The band’s time ended with a pre-recorded message saying, “Thanks for joining us today at Smitty Land. We hope you’ve enjoyed your time, and we hope to see you again soon.”
The sound of the night changed up a bit when senior Jackson Wooten took the stage. His soft falsetto voice was a very different change from the previous two acts, but he brought just as much power and energy to his set.
His first song, “Honey,” was acoustically driven with a cello and violin rounding out the sound and filling the event center. The simple lyrics that beg a significant other to not leave were made even more heart wrenching by Wooten’s folky vocals mixing with the string section.
Next, Wooten received a gasp of excitement as he casually plucked the first few notes of Bon Iver’s “Holocene.” Wooten was able to match the folk singer’s specific sound well and left the audience awestruck.
Wooten’s third and final song, “Dirt,” built up towards the end as he slammed on his electric guitar, putting everything he had into it. The solid harmonies gave this song just the power it needed to bring the stage and the crowd to life.
His comfort on stage shone through as he finished the last few notes of the song by laying down right in front of the crowd.
The final act of the night and winner of the showcase embodied the genre of pop rock. DiRusso’s spunky attitude and her bright green eyeshadow complemented her amazing vocals.
DiRusso’s humour and talent shone through in her set as she sang about deceased pets and her fear of turning 20. Her cover of “Everything is Free” by Gillian Welch was an homage to all of the Belmont and Nashville artists that were struggling with writing music and making money.
Supported by an entirely male band, DiRusso brought explosive stage presence, jumping around and shredding on her electric guitar as videos from her childhood played in the background. Her stellar vocals no doubt led to her taking home the night’s win and landing her a spot at the Best of the Best showcase in April.
Pop/Rock Showcase was marked by several young and talented performers who brought an energy to the stage that won’t be forgotten.
Photos by Bronte Lebo and Tina James.