Belmont students stopped by the Curb Event Center Saturday for a night of strong fashion choices, ambiguous genre definitions and stellar performances from Belmont’s most gifted musicians at Urban Pop Showcase 2017.
Jordan Xidas opened the show with a performance that sounded like a cross between Troye Sivan and “Purpose” era Justin Bieber. Xidas looked comfortable on stage as the opening act and kicked off the show on a strong note. His cover of Backstreet Boys staple “I Want It That Way” was both unique and engaging, and it segued well into his closing song.
Throughout the entirety of Xidas’ performance, however, stage crew and Xidas’ guitarist struggled to make the guitar sound audible. With sound problems plaguing several past showcases — most recently Battle of the Belmont Bands in August and 2016’s Urban Pop showcase — this was a relatively small mishap in a show that otherwise featured strong mixes and a mesmerizing stage setup.
Before Stela Cole had even taken the stage, a crowd rushed to the front to get a closer look at her performance. They weren’t disappointed.
Cole had one of the more interesting setups of the night, with two guitars, a drummer and an electronic backing track coming together seamlessly to create a sound that was fresh and intriguing. Cole — rocking a white suit jacket and shorts reminiscent of David Bowie — blew away the Curb audience by flaunting her vocal prowess and range on a cover of Rihanna’s “Stay.” Her whole set grooved with infectious, pulsing electronic bass and flairs, and it was disappointing she had to stop at just three songs.
It was evident showcase winner Jake Wesley Rogers’ set was going to be something special when the stage crew began hauling out his array of instrumentation. Playing piano himself and backed by a band of keys, bongo drums, cello, bass, backing vocal, guitar and more, Rogers began his set on a calmer note. His opening original song quickly showcased his strong vocals — which could easily and fairly be likened to a deeper-voiced Sam Smith. His second song quickly picked the energy back up, with Rogers throwing off his jacket and grabbing a keytar to start the song.
It was Rogers’ cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” however, that was the true highlight of the show. Utilizing every member of his large backing band and taking over on the keys for the song’s extended solo sections, Rogers — dressed and moving like Jagger — proved that he was beyond comfortable and a force to be reckoned with on the stage. His backing vocalist also pulled off arguably one of the most challenging vocal solos in modern music almost effortlessly, which added even more to a performance that was already flowing over with talent.
Zach Taylor closed the show with a performance that was closest to what most probably imagine “Urban Pop” to actually be. With a Hip-Hop/R&B sound similar to that of Chance the Rapper and Frank Ocean, Taylor showed the Curb Center why he’d earned his spot in the showcase.
His rapping — which Taylor featured prominently during his set — provided a solid and original addition to a showcase that has featured alarmingly little, if any, rapping in recent years. Taylor — who may have come straight from fly fishing at Percy Priest Lake to the Curb Center — rapped verse after verse with ease and flow, and was a joy to watch close out the showcase.
Photos by Shelby Thacker and Olivia Amaral.