Open Mic Night Showcases Full Range Of GRAMMY Camp Talent

Zoe Adler, 2013 GRAMMY Camp LA

As the first day of GRAMMY Camp wound down, all the newly arrived campers convened in Ground Zero for Open Mic Night, a showcase for the many different performers at Camp.

Daniel Davila bravely started off the whole night with “Things Are Changing” by Gary Clark, Jr. He moved very slightly to the beat, and as his song progressed he became more and more comfortable; he had a very sweet and expressive voice along with quality guitar playing. From Davila's impressive opening performance, the night, befitting the title Open Mic, jumped around from genre to genre.

There were a few jazz groups that did some amazing improvisation. There was one faculty group, the first to take the stage, with the two Japanese students, Takumi Nakayama and Ryota Sasaguri.

All the solos were really amazing and creative, especially the intricate alto solo. Sasaguri's trombone solo was very clear and he played very loudly and pronounced for the solo to be enjoyably audible.

The trumpet solo done by David Sears was very improv-y and experienced, and had an extreme use of space that was fun to hear. After everyone got a chance to have a featured solo, a hand-off between the instrumentalists and the drummer took place that was intense, but still entertaining for the audience. This was where, for example, the first saxophonist would improvise for four measures and then the drummer would respond with his own four measures, and back and forth with all the other instruments. The second jazz group played “Chameleon,” by Herbie Hancock. The guitar background was excellent and the bassist was visibly into the music. The keyboardist was vibrant and had some entertaining dance moves such as doing the moonwalk while on stage. Mainly at the beginning of the performance, it seemed that there was a competition to play the loudest; this definitely brought down the quality of the sound. This was a huge problem during the alto solo, which was really great, but the background was too loud for it to really be heard. Otherwise they did a really amazing job. The third group played a blues song by Freddy King with really great drumming and an amazing lead guitar. The guitar solo by Chase Walker was fantastic and at one point, the two guitarists did a guitar duel that was awesome, and the vocals were very accurate and low.

Original songs were another treat that we experienced at the Open Mic Night. Chloe Tang sang “Steal You Away” with her guitar, and though she was visibly nervous and shy, she put on an amazing performance. Accompanied by her expressive piano playing, Ahn Le sang “On Your Own,” a song she wrote about being an adult and being expected to be the “better person” when sometimes you just want to let out your angst. She may have struggled slightly with the higher pitches, but her amazing piano made up for it entirely. The lovely ballad “Isabel,” which Zach Gospe sang next, was beautiful. His voice was very comforting and soft with an odd fluctuation of the vowels. What came next completely blew me away and was very out-of-character with the previous performances. Patrick "PJ" Bucknor  came to rap with really fantastic rhythm and a strong stage presence. Everyone had to take a step back and rewind what they saw, thinking “Wow. I cannot believe this!”

Rachel Brothers sang a song written only two weeks before GRAMMY Camp. Brendan Eprile then sang “Way Back Home,” and I was stunned by his expressive voice that sounded great no matter what he was singing, whether it be a long sustained note or short and sweet, loud or soft. Hayley Emerson's piano-based “Invisible Me” showed off her songwriting. “Manhattan Project,” written by Lilliana Villines, was incredibly awesome. She had a folky voice, great guitar playing, unique lyrics and a well-created melody. Kennedi Lykken came along to sing “You’re Not Innocent” while playing the piano. She did an excellent job creating a melody and working off of it. Rapping resurfaced when Kellcee Batchelor came up with a great rhyme about GRAMMY Camp. He was very comfortable on stage, and his lyrics were quite humorous. Colby Benson sang a song about young love that she wrote with her sister called “Sweet Honey.” The song had a very cool guitar part that subdivided the beat into eighth notes, and her voice was very rich.

All the original songs were amazing and impressive.

Covers were also a big part of the night. Besides Davila's performance other covers included Zoe Concha, who sang with a very moldable and beautiful voice. She was obviously comfortable on stage, and moved expressively with the music, sometimes in a very humorous way. Then came the “unexpected” cover of Britney Spears' “Hit Me Baby One More Time,” sung by Jason Saitta and accompanied by his “amateur” piano playing. The high notes were understandably difficult for him, but otherwise his vocals were very well done. A duet came up and it was the funniest combo, ukulele and rap. Wyatt Giampa sang and strummed chords on the ukulele and "PJ" rapped awesomely. David Lee was going to play the same song as Concha, but upon hearing her performance, settled on “These Are The Days” by Jaime Cullum. He did a great job, especially considering he hadn’t been prepared to perform that song. He had a great voice within his comfort zone, and also seemed to have this tendency to move his shoulder up and down while playing the piano. An air of confidence literally flowing off her, Haleigh Bowers walked onto the stage to sing a very interesting cover of “Thrift Shop.”  She was very enthusiastic and supportive of all the other performers and actually got on the audience’s case for not clapping enough. Bowers had a neat spin on rapping that really worked with her version of the song.

Sabrina Elam sang a very solid rendition of “Valerie.” She had expressive vocals and a creative end to the song. When she put herself into the song at the end, the whole venue came to life. A “My Boo” by Usher cover came next by Cael Dadian. He had exceptional vocals and very intense guitar playing. He utilized the instrument in unique ways that were not demonstrated by other performers that night.

The whole performance at Open Mic Night was amazing. Thank you to everyone who performed for an awesome evening!

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