A cappella group performing on stage
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ICCA South Quarterfinal at University of Tennessee Knoxville

Event Reviews

Colleen Wilcox is an acappella enthusiast living in Baltimore, MD. Colleen is the former President of Salisbury University Squawkappella, and is excited to be doing her first review with The A Cappella Blog.

On Saturday February 8, 2014, The University of Tennessee Knoxville played host to an ICCA South Quarterfinal. Host group, VOLume from The University of Tennessee Knoxville, began the evening with a fun rendition of “Steal My Kisses” by Ben Harper. The all-male group looked sharp in jeans with orange and black shirts. The group provided a fun opener and a clap along that the audience really played into. Seth, a member of VOLume then took the stage as the emcee for the night.

The Competitors:
The Gardner-Webb University AcaFelons
University of Central Florida Gemini Blvd.
Vanderbilt University Harmonic Notion
The Vanderbilt University Melodores
University of Tennessee reVOLution
Salisbury University Squawkappella
The Belmont University Beltones
The UMBC Cleftomaniacs
The UMBC Stilettos

The competition began with the ladies of reVOLution from The University of Tennessee. The all-female group looked great in a casual mix of jeans with orange, black, and white shirts. They started off their set with Sara Bareilles’s ”Kaleidoscope Heart.” Nice choral sound here, and a captivating way to begin their set. The group then transitioned into David Guetta ft. Sia’s “Titanium.” Nicely executed solo work here, with some solid back up harmonies. Excellent mic technique and energy from the bass. The entire group looked committed to the performance and was radiating energy. I appreciated the well-executed soprano notes during the song. Controlled, in-tune, and utilized efficiently to enhance the group sound. Solid opener.

The group then transitioned into Heart’s “Alone.” Nice solo work here, with excellent supporting harmonies. The vocal percussion and bass both worked nicely together. Next up, a transition into Ingrid Michaelson’s “Always You.” Very impressive solo here. The soloist’s confidence was tangible and she really commanded the attention of the audience. Excellent back up harmonies allowed this song to connect with the audience on an emotional level. Very well-executed.

The group finished with Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher.” Great control and energy from the soloist. Nice moments when two soloists came together to share the solo line. Overall, a really fun performance from the group. This group did a nice job opening the show. I would love to see them take a few more risks within their competition selections, but this was a great opener for the evening.

Next up, Harmonic Notion from Vanderbilt University. This was the group’s first time competing in the ICCA’s. The co-ed group looked sharp in all black with gold accents. They started off their set with Christina Aguilera’s “Fighter.” Excellent solo work here. This was an ambitious song choice but the soloist lived up to the task and executed the performance very well. Nice, full sound from the group. The group followed up with Iscariot’s “Walk the Moon.” Really nice, controlled male solo on this song. Nice choral sound from the group. The group made use of some effective stomping for percussion that brought out the intensity of the song.

Next up was Haddaway’s “What Is Love.” Solid solo work here. The men of the group delivered some well executed comedic relief throughout this song that involved head bobbing to the beat. Going the comedic route can be risky in the competition setting because you never know if the audience will bite. In this case, they loved it and the group received a hearty laugh from the crowd. The group then transitioned into B-52’s “Love Shack.” Really fun, energetic solo here. The group incorporated portions of previous songs in their set to create a nice cohesive mash-up. Solid set from this group, especially considering it was their first time in the competition.

The next group to take the stage was The Melodores from Vanderbilt University. The all-male group looked great in their signature jeans and blazers. The reigning champions from this Quarterfinal began with a mash up of Michael Jackson’s “Pretty Young Thing” and Chris Brown’s “Fine China.” Absolutely fantastic solo here. The soloist was committed, controlled, and really commanded the crowd’s attention. Excellent bass and vocal percussion combo. Fantastic group blend and energy from all of the members. I’m always impressed with the Melodores ability to fill out their sound despite being an all-male group, and this performance was a perfect example of that. Excellent opener.

The group then transitioned into Zac Brown Band’s “Colder Weather.” The men opted for minimal choreography here, and decided to stand in an arc for most of the song. Excellent group sound. Very strong solo work here. The emotion from the soloist was tangible to the audience and he was confident and controlled. Really cool explosions of sound from the group- especially on the word ‘baby’. Awesome dynamics that left a lasting impression on the audience.

The Melodores then transitioned into a Backstreet Boys Medley. The men delivered the perfect mix of entertainment, comedy, and musicality. Excellent solo work from two of the men in the group. Superb bass and vocal percussion. The Melodores were committed and invested in their performance, and the audience could feel that. As an audience member, you get the impression that The Melodores know who they are as a unit, both on and off the stage. They perform with a level of cohesiveness that sets their performances apart from their competitors. Excellent set.

The next group to take the stage was Squawkappella from Salisbury University. The co-ed group looked sharp in black and gold. They began their set with Demi Lovato’s “Let It Go.” Nice solo work here, with the soloist commanding the audience’s attention. Great VP and bass. The group appeared committed and confident in their presentation. The group did a nice job of weaving in a story line between the soloist and a group member, which made for an interesting visual presentation. I feel like Squawkappella could have benefited from a different song choice for an opener to really grab the audience’s attention, but the delivery was solid nonetheless. Good opening song.

The group then transitioned into Linkin Park’s “Waiting for the End.” They began the song with four soloists on mics that created a nice full sound. A single soloist then took the stage and delivered a very strong performance. Strong belting from this guy, and an impressive level of stage presence. There were some very nice soaring soprano notes throughout the song. Really cool moments when the group transitioned into a ‘V’ formation, and the original four soloists returned to the front of the stage. The group energy from this song was palpable. Really strong middle song.

Squawkappella ended their set with Young the Giant’s “My Body.” Excellent delivery and energy from the soloist, who did a fantastic job of capturing the raw energy of the song. Nice use of two vocal percussionists to fill out the sound. Choreography looked sharp and well-thought out. Good dynamics here with the group exploding with energy and sound at the end of the song. Every person on stage was giving it their all throughout this song, and the audience could sense that. Very memorable performance and an excellent closer to a very strong set.

The next take to take the stage was Gemini Blvd from The University of Central Florida. The co-ed group took the stage in gold and black- a popular color combination for the evening. Gemini Blvd began their set with a creative choice to have the soloist enter from a door leading off stage. The rest of the group was scattered throughout the stage creating the sounds of a storm. Very cool effect that grabbed the audience’s attention. The group began with John Legend’s “Who Did That to You.” Excellent solo work here between multiple soloists. Group energy was high and they worked cohesively to create a strong opener to their set.

The group transitioned into Sia’s “Breathe Me.” Really spectacular, controlled solo from this woman. Nice VP and Bass. The group appeared committed and in touch with the emotions of the song. Big swell of sound on ‘what now’ that made for some attention grabbing dynamics. Really cool moment when the soloist dropped to her knees and the rest of the group faced away from her. Strong middle song.

Gemini Blvd finished their set with Zedd’s “Clarity.” Somewhat of a risky song choice for the competition setting because of its popularity, but the soloist here did a stunning job. Controlled, clear belting that was very impressive. There was an interesting utilization of a story line between the soloist and a male lead that kept the audience involved. That being said, some of the choreo/storyline felt a bit distracting from the spectacular solo that was happening simultaneously. The group could perhaps have benefited from either a different song choice, or more refined choreography to bring the focus back to the music. Overall, this group gave a very impressive performance and ended their set strong.

The UMBC Cleftomaniacs ended the first half of the show. The co-ed group looked cohesive and sharp in blue and black. They began their set with Muse’s “Madness.” Nice, cohesive, and well-thought out choreography here. Great addition of back up soloists that would begin to weave a storyline for the groups set. The main soloist did a nice job on the song and had a great tone that matched the emotions of the song. He had some struggles reaching the high notes in the song, which may have been due to nerves or other factors. Either way, it came across as a distraction to an otherwise really solid opening song. The group and soloist all maintained intensity and confidence though, and ended the song on a solid note.

The group then transitioned into A Great Big World’s “Say Something.” Really great storyline between a male and female soloist here that held the audience’s attention. Very solid solo’s. Strong dynamics and choreography throughout this song. Cool moments when the group separated and rearranged in lines to cover the soloist. Nice utilization of moments of quiet to add dynamic texture to the song. Very creative choice to have the group act as a moving barrier between both soloists, conveying the emotions of the song. Solid, emotionally riveting second song.

The Cleftomaniacs closed the first half of the show with One Republic’s “If I Lose Myself.” Strong solo work from this man. Really visually pleasing moments of choreography when the soloist used arm movements to seemingly ‘maneuver’ the group. Another highlight of this song was all of the group members moving their heads in unison in different directions. Very cool effect. As an audience member, sometimes choreography can feel a bit jumbled, which is why these clean, crisp movements make such an impact. Nice group energy and sound. Impressive and solid VP from a female beat-boxer. Cool moments when the group successfully managed 3 key changes. A few group members then lifted the soloist horizontally on his back. First, I commend this soloist for being able to sustain a note like that while virtually lying down in the air! I liked the idea behind the lift, but it felt a bit jumbled as the other group members were dancing in front and the soloists from the previous song did a spin with each other. The group energy was fantastic, but we lost some of the impact that the moment could have had due to the multiple things happening on stage. Nonetheless, a strong closer to a very solid set.

The second half of the show began with The AcaFelons from Gardner-Webb University. The co-ed group looked sharp in red and black. The group started their set with Go West’s “King of Wishful Thinking.” Nice, clear solo from this woman. Great group energy and really nice vocal percussion. I wish that this group had chosen a song with a bit more intensity for an opening number, but it was a very solid and enjoyable performance nonetheless. Nice opener!

Next, the group transitioned into a mash up of MGMT’s “Kids” and Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks.” Great group energy. Nice solo work between a male and female soloist. I would have liked to see some sharper choreography here, but otherwise a very good middle song.

The group then moved into a mash up of Heart’s “Alone” and Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” I commend the female Eminem soloist for committing to the rap, but it felt a bit distracting to the intensity of the group. While entertaining, I would have liked to see them steer clear of this choice for the competition setting. Good intensity from the group throughout the song. Great vocal percussion. Nice work from the “Alone” soloist. Cool choreography when the group moved in a way that resembled a clock ticking. Overall, a good set from the AcaFelons.

The next group to take the stage was The Beltones from Belmont University. The co-ed group looked fantastic in a mix of black and white. Dare I say the group looked straight out of an Urban Outfitters catalogue? But I digress. The Beltones began their set with Laura Mvula’s “Green Garden.” Really great solo here, and enchanting backup harmonies. I appreciated the group’s choice to opt out of traditional choreography. They instead focused on movements and formations, which really added to the overall performance. Fantastic bass throughout the entire set. Stellar opener.

The group then transitioned to Kibra’s “Cameo Lover.” Absolutely fantastic, controlled solo here. Very nice back-up harmonies on this song. Really great tone and emotions from the group. Excellent bass and VP. Great dynamics. The group as a whole sounded extremely full and solid--it almost felt like we were listening to a track. Excellent middle song.

Next, the group moved into Lianne La Havas’s “Gone.” Great solo work between a male and female soloist. Excellent emotion from both the soloist and the group as a whole. I had never heard this song before, and this was the kind of performance that made me want to run home and download it. Really fantastic group sound. The Beltones ended with Katy Perry’s “Ghost.” Stellar male soloist here who commanded the audience’s attention. Great group sound throughout and a very strong finish to an excellent set. I felt like thus far, The Beltones had produced the most innovative set of the night.

The last group of the night was The Stilettos from UMBC. The all-female group looked cohesive in matching sparkly dresses. This was their first time at ICCAs and they gave a very energetic performance. The ladies began their set with Zedd’s “Clarity.” This is a good example of where choosing a popular song can potentially harm you within a competition setting. Good solo work, high energy from the group, but the audience is left comparing the performance to Gemini Blvd’s earlier rendition of the same song. Nonetheless, the group looked like they were having so much fun on stage and it was very enjoyable to watch.

Next, The Stilettos transitioned into Evanescence’s “Call Me When You’re Sober.” Another high energy performance from the women. Nice solo work here--very pleasant belt and tone. The soloist made decisions to switch between head and chest voice that at times felt out of place, but otherwise it was an enjoyable performance.

Finally, the ladies ended the night with Florence and The Machines’ “Shake It Out.” Really good solo here. Nice energy from the group and each member looked totally involved in the performance. I feel like the ladies of The Stilettos sold themselves short by over-choreographing their set. While I commend their efforts and energy, I think their movements would have had more impact had they been selective in their placements rather than continuous throughout the entire set. It was distracting from their musicality, and in future competitions, I think they could benefit from focusing more on the music. This is a good female a cappella group that really enjoys themselves on stage, and I would like to hear more of them in the future. It was clear that they were giving it their all, and I commend their first ICCA performance.

As the judges deliberated, VOLume sang a few more songs. Ultimately, I felt that The Melodores and The Beltones had secured their positions in semi-finals. I had The Beltones just edging out The Melodores for first place. I thought Gemini Blvd would snag the third place position, and had Squawkappella and The Cleftomaniacs finishing close behind.

Colleen’s Picks
Overall Placement:
1. The Beltones
2. The Melodores
3. Gemini Blvd

Outstanding Soloist:
1. Gemini Blvd for “Clarity”
2. The Beltones for “Cameo Love”
3. Gemini Blvd for “Breathe Me”

Outstanding Vocal Percussion: The Melodores

Outstanding Visual Presentation: The Beltones

Official ICCA Results
Overall Placement:
1. Melodores
2. Beltones
3. Gemini Blvd

Outstanding Soloist: The Melodores for “Pretty Young Thing”/“Fine China”

Outstanding Choreography: The Cleftomaniacs

Outstanding Vocal Percussion: The AcaFelons

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