In an extravagant display of talent, five student artists wowed audience members at the 24th annual Commercial Music Showcase on Monday.
Alternatively known as “Riff Fest 2k16,” the showcase was everything you’d expect from the commercial music program. Complete with a 20-person choir, strobe lights and electric violins, the highly stimulating atmosphere left the audience impressed and positively overwhelmed by Belmont’s talent.
Former American Idol contestant and 2012 Commercial Music Showcase alum Rayvon Owens hosted the show, introducing each performer and also performing an original song of his own.
Also introducing each artist were short video montages in which the acts expressed their lifelong passion for music and excitement for the show. The video shorts included baby photos and footage of elementary school productions and were highly reminiscent of those emotional American Idol clips played when a contestant auditions or gets kicked off.
Country singer Kenzie Palmer performed first. With a wide-legged stance and enviable belting, she controlled the stage and asserted her presence as a natural star.
Palmer was the only artist to perform a set of all covers, but it was understandable. Her powerhouse range was all she needed to prove legitimacy, taking on larger than life songs such as “How Great Thou Art,” and Dolly Parton’s hit “9 to 5.”
During Palmer’s second song, a swaying choir appeared in the MPAC aisles, creating an unexpected surprise for the crowd. Dramatic? Perhaps. Impressive? Most definitely.
Next up was the show’s only duo, Weathered Souls. The self-described “folk-acoustic-blues-rock” group is the project of seniors Megan Rasmussen and Shawn Gough.
“If you want to help, we can all come up with a better genre name at the end,” said Rasmussen with a laugh.
The members of Weathered Souls performed two originals off their EP, harmonizing and scatting their way to music school glory. The group engaged the crowd with its cohesive onstage dynamic, and every musical decision was perfectly plotted and intentional.
The third act of the night, singer/songwriter Mignon Grabois, performed her brand of country pop in a set of three original songs.
The only artist of the night to deliver a stripped down, acoustic performance, her emotional song “Cry Tonight” melted the hearts of even the most cynical observers. Being backed by just a piano and violin is enough to make any performer feel vulnerable, but Grabois’ confidence never faltered as she showed off her raw talent as a vocalist and songwriter.
But for the rest of her set, Grabois had more than a few musicians onstage with her. A team of more than 10 instrumentalists, including four guitar players and a string quartet, accompanied her on the fiery jams “Heartbreak Queen” and “Shame.” While there was a lot going on, somehow the stage wasn’t too packed. I searched for any signs of a second drum kit. It was a no-show.
However, the second drum kit did make an appearance during the last set of the night. Just when you thought the stage couldn’t fit more people, senior pop-rock singer Cole Thannisch packed two keys players on stage left and a choir of 20-plus students on stage right.
The celebration of vocal runs and original material continued with Thannisch’s performance of confessional songs off his EP “Stockholm.” His power ballads and upbeat pop numbers brought the night to a heightened close.
Without any technical kinks or blatant screw-ups, the Commercial Music Showcase saw another successful year at Belmont. The professional-grade production ran seamlessly, providing no distraction from the music performed onstage.
In her video introduction, Grabois said she hoped her performance would be an “experiential, engaging, and emotional” night for audience members. It’s safe to say that Grabois and all her fellow showcase acts succeeded in creating an entertaining, emotional and electrifying experience for the night’s crowd.
This article was written by Jackie Zeisloft. Photos by Hunter Morgan.