ICCA South Semifinal at Vanderbilt University

Event Reviews

On March 17, 2012, Vanderbilt University played host to the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) South Semifinal. The show took place in Ingram Hall. Before we get to the review, a quick summary of the show:

The Competitors
University of Maryland Faux Paz
The Johns Hopkins University Octopodes
North Carolina State University Acappology
Florida State University Reverb
The Florida State University Acabelles
The Vanderbilt University Melodores
Salisbury University Squawkappella
The University of Georgia Accidentals

Guest Group:
Nashville Singers

Photos from this show are available now on our Facebook page.

ICCA South Producer Lindsay Howerton led off the night with the standard announcements. She introduced the emcees, John Baunach and Shane Stever. Two quick asides. Leading up to this show, I had the pleasure of corresponding regularly with Baunach, who not only emceed but headed up planning and organization for this show (besides writing an excellent guest post for the ACB last Friday). My hat is off to John for all of his hard work. My second aside: it was really cool to the emcees to be a pair of individuals who were clearly well-integrated into the collegiate a cappella community. They were funny, on-point, and really added a little bit of extra entertainment to the show, without distracting from the competitors.

The first competitors were University of Maryland Faux Paz. The co-ed group wore black and purple. They opened on Parachute’s “What I Know.” Really rich solo here with great patience and controlled emotion—enough to sell the song without coming across as over the top. Nice little echoes of the lyrics from the group. Fun bit of choreography with the group clustering into rows and working their way through a series of rolling head motions, row by row. The group incorporated lots of reconfigurations and clever poses over the song—this brand of movement is so much more memorable and effective than the touch-step choreography so many groups settle for. Strong opening song.

Nice transition to the second song with the lead handing off the mic to the second soloist for Oh Land’s ”Son of a Gun”. There were three driving forces behind this song—the vocal percussion (very good), the bass (excellent) and the choreography (siiiiick. The bass pounded and swirled over the course of this number for a lot of really cool moments that, in and of themselves, told a story. From a visual perspective, this number was just so fluid, including a lot of really dramatic reaches and stop-motion movement—the visual presentation was all about intensity and patience, and it worked perfectly to culminate in the finish with the whole group bent at their waists, arms hanging limp. Really cool middle song.

Faux Paz incorporated another slick transition to move on to a mashup of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and ”The Lonely” by Christina Perri. So much gravitas on this piece—over the course of this set, I think Faux Paz actually innovated a new sub-genre: horror a cappella. This was powerful haunting, and at times downright creepy—and I mean that in a wonderful way. The David Cook-esque take on “Rigby” provided a frame for the song with that soloist sort of egging on the “Lonely” soloist with his repetitions of “look at all the lonely people.” The visual presentation was fantastic again, highlighted by a part on which the group members paired off to dance with one another in macabre fashion on the “dancing slowly” lyric, and a really cool visual when the group clustered and peeled down layer by layer. Very nice exhale-percussion from the group. This was an excellent way to close out the set. The final two parts, in particular, really clicked with one another. The only change I really would have liked to have seen would be for the first song to better correlate with the rest of the set. Despite offering up the group’s best soloist and some of their best musicality, it just didn’t quite jive with the rawer edge of that connected the last two numbers. Nonetheless, this was a polished set that had every right to be heard at semifinals.

The second group out was The Johns Hopkins University Octopodes. The group wore its traditional black and royal blue. They opened with Muse’s "MK Ultra". Positively sick bass sound on the intro--speaking of gravitas! Off the charts intensity from the solo. The rhythm section worked overtime on this piece to keep the pace pulsing—critical to a song that’s all about fire power and just barely holding onto control. The choreography was quite good here, but suffered from appearing directly after Faux Paz’s set, which was just a bit more ambitious from that perspective. I do have to credit The ‘Podes for the precision of their movement though—every bit of it was crisp and in synch—you just can’t find a single member of this group who is phoning it in. The group, and particularly the lead, really punched the power notes of this song to deliver a performance that was every bit as intense as it should have been and got the audience wrapped up their story from the get-go.

Beautiful transition as the first soloist pulsed with anger and energy until the second lead took his mic, touched his arm and ushered him back to the rest of the group for the start of Demi Lovato’s ”Skyscraper.” As I mentioned in my review of the quarterfinal out of which The Octopodes advanced, I loved the decisions the group made about how to start this song, giving the star soloist room to grab the audience through not only the beauty of her vocals but out of sheer contrast to the music that preceded this song. Gone were the industrial rock chords, to be replaced by a solitary voice, dripping with emotion, completely unaccompanied. A second vocal joined her a moment later, then a third before the group keyed in with more traditional instrumentation. Lovely moment as the solo got another split second alone before the group came back with a powerful bass sound leading the charge. The percussion entered on the second verse—an excellent dramatic decision to allow the song to keep building and evolving as it moved along. From a visual perspective, the group continued a theme from the first song with a lot sequential evolution—one row of people executed a move then the next, then the next, moving across in a wave. Cool stuff. The ending of the piece was sublime with the soloist ripping loose and group members lifting her up on their shoulders for the final iteration of the “skyscraper” lyric. Simply beautiful second song.

The group’s drummer broke out from the side of the group to lead off Parachute’s ”Something to Believe In.” I’m not positive if it was a creative decision or a blend issue, but in a moment I don’t remembering hearing at quarterfinals, a group of women joined the lead on the opening lyrics of the song. While the resulting sound wasn’t actively bad, it also wasn’t as clean as I would have liked and sort of robbed the soloist of the chance to own the song from the pivotal opening lyrics. The lead, and the group in general, was coming off a little more tentative on the lead-in to this song than they did at quarters, which is a shame for a celebration song that should feel more like a party. Fortunately, the group seemed to regain a bit of its ease and swagger as the piece progressed, particularly on the freestyle dance breaks and cries of “yeah” from the background. The group split into male and female clusters with the perc and bass guys splitting the middle for a very nice little groove. Ripping solo work from the close and the group got the crowd to quite readily clap along on the finish. It’s so elementary and obvious but evening something as small as group members pointing at the crowd on the “you”s in the lyrics really helped them form a connection with the audience. While this song wasn’t quite the barnburner it felt like at quarterfinals, it still served as an excellent closer. The Octopodes set, on the whole, was so well constructed, demonstrating the diversity of what they could do, but also telling a story—starting with losing control on the Muse song, then achieving self-actualization on “Skyscraper” before cutting loose and partying on the Parachute song. A very strong set, indeed.

The third group out was NC State Acappology. The co-ed group wore black bases with bright solid-colored ties for the guys, bright stockings for the ladies. They opened on Breathe Carolina’s ”Blackout.“ Great attitude on the solo and nice bass sound. The group used some really well synched up, dramatic choreography, which was particularly interesting because so many group members weren’t making the same motions, but rather complementary ones to forge a really unique tapestry of a background for the soloist. Really nice fall out moment from the group toward the end. Good opener.

The second lead took the mic from the first and pushed him down on the seamless transition into “Paris (Ooh La La)” by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. This performance on the whole was just so sultry and bold. Really fun “get it” syllables on the chorus—perfect for the context. The soloist boomed on her big parts and positively exuded sexuality, owning the song perfectly. Very good percussion on this one. I loved the movement on this piece with provocative hip sways from the women as the men stood by, framing the action without doing anything to risk making this a comedy piece. In a sublime moment, as the soloist sang, “if I was a man,” the guys dropped to one knee with the girls standing tall, which is a great representation of what this performance of this song was all about—estrogen in the driver’s seat. Excellent middle song.

The group kept moving right into its third song, Imogen Heap’s ”The Moment I Said It.” Interesting choice to have an un-mic’ed lead here, in favor of having the entire group cluster at the front of the stage. It built a sense of intimacy, but I’m not sure it was worth the resulting sound quality—the soloist was audible, but probably not as clear as she should have been (and I was in the front-most third of the auditorium). Nice high harmonies from the girls behind the lead, and the guys came in with some cool exhaling sound effects. Choral handling of the follow up, with really haunting high harmonies. Dark, provocative passing of the solo baton as the lead for that song slowly, sensuously touched the cheek of the next soloist before receding into the rest of the group.

Acappology closed with ”Warzone” by The Wanted. Good sound from the group, and when a second soloist came out on the chorus and the two collaborated nicely. Really slick percussion here. A third lead entered the fray on the second chorus. Great harmonies and movement between the three, and I like the way in which they used the additional frontline vocals to develop the song. Cool visual moment with the three leads’ backs to the crowd and the group waving arms slowly but frantically like they were wrestling to break from within the three. It was a really cool idea as long as that’s what the group as going for. If they meant for us to see that background choreo more, it was a bit of a misstep because we couldn’t really see them behind the leads—they would need to spread that out more for that to work. In any event, it was a cool finisher to a neat set. All in all, I would have liked a little more coherence to the set, but I appreciated their fine transition work and the clear effort to make every song legitimately sound different from anything else we would hear that night—as good as it was Acappology didn’t turn in the best set of the show, but I defy anyone not to remember them.

Next up was Florida State University Reverb. The all-male group wore black shirts and slacks, accented with blue bow ties. They guys ran on stage, demonstrating great energy. From the opening bars of ”I Wanna Be Like You” from The Jungle Book, it was clear that these guys were representing a very different sound and motif from the aggressively modern feel of the acts that preceded them. They highlighted a really fun brass section in the early going and had an old school, jazzy flavor as the song moved along. Cheesy dance moves to match, but what made them work so effectively was that the guys sold every motion 100 percent—plenty of groups could learn a lot from a performance like this: be whoever you like, dance however you like, but don’t let anyone suspect that it’s put on, or that you’re embarrassed to do it. Fun secondary solo on a sample of “Bear Necessities” with an accompanying trombone solo. Very good percussion here. Excellent opening song.

The guys had a long pause for the dramatic lead-in to The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” Much like Faux Paz before them, this was performed more int he style of David Cook than the original. Nice, dramatic step and slide moves in the background. Wonderful restraint on the lead who trusted the song enough to let it build and to wait for his big moments. Strong bass. Just as I was starting to feel the overall sound was a little repetitive on this one, the guys incorporated a really clever sampling of “Help!” done in a similar, dark dramatic style and featuring a really neat struggling-heartbeat style of percussion.
The guys had a new energy when they got back into “Eleanor Rigby”—and that’s exactly what a well-placed sample can and should do for you, making a group sound fresh mid-song. Nice breakdown section with the group echoing the solo for a moment before everyone fell out to let the lead sing alone for a second before the low end led the group to the finish.

Reverb wrapped up its set with “You and Me”“ by Dave Matthews Band. Really nice, sincere emotion on the lead. This is one of those songs where you get the feeling the soloist meant every last lyric he was singing—naïve, young and in love. Excellent bass and perc. I loved the choreography here, including a moment at which the group formed a long straight line at center staged and grapevine their way out of formation to spread the length of the stage. Imaginative stuff. Simply sublime moment as the group took on the lyrics chorally, singing “all of us together, we can do anything”—in a beautiful, subtle touch, the soloist had the mic down to his side as they marched forward together. It was evident this group was very much singing earnestly and about its own brotherhood—the feeling that they could do anything. Wonderful moment. This was a near-perfect closer that went a long way toward furthering the group’s identity—this isn’t a power group, a progressive rock group, a hip hop group, or even a group that I expect would ever claim itself to be cool. This was an assemblage of gloriously geeky guys, owning their identity and singing songs they wanted to sing—“You and Me” read like an ode to that identity. My only real knock against Reverb’s set was the use of “Eleanor Rigby” as their middle song, because it was such a departure from the identity they established in their other two songs, besides which the song itself dragged a bit. I think a more traditional ballad could have been more effective in the middle. Nonetheless, the group put forth a really strong account of itself—here’s hoping they continue to develop the persona at hand for years to come.

The last act before intermission was The Florida State University Acabelles. Four women stepped out, in black leather jackets, black tops, blue jeans, and Converse All-Stars with pink laces. They opened up on The O’jays’ “For the Love of Money” before keying into a remix of Kanye West’s “Gold Digger.” It’s hard to describe exactly what happened here. A group that dares to completely remix a popular song is making a huge gamble. The closest comparison I can think of is when Urban Method reinvented “Here I Go Again” on season three of The Sing-Off. Devoted ACB readers may remember that I absolutely hated the way Urban Method destroyed that classic. But The AcaBelles? If there’s any justice, they’ll be fielding calls from Kanye’s representation soon, begging to let him have a piece of their incredible reimagining of his work. Phenomenal energy and attitude from every single one of these ladies as they shared the solo mic and sprinkled in touches of The O’jays song throughout the number. Part of the apotheosis of this performance was that, more than any other a cappella performance I can remember, it felt like a party, not only featuring freestyle dance breaks galore but gossipy chatter among the girls. Brilliant ownership of one of the late lines as the girls converted “leave your *ss for a white girl” to “leave your butt for an AcaBelle.” Incredible breakdown to a four-part round as the group revised the last chorus. Ladies and gentlemen, opening songs just don’t get much better than that.

In trademark AcaBelle style, the women moved seamlessly into Michael Jackson’s ”Dirty Diana,“ featuring a sampling of Eric Benet’s “Femininity.” The group used this number at SoJam, and, quite similar to that performance, it was bold, sultry, and chock full of power moments for the soloist to rip and explode. So much sass on stage for this song and every second of it was sold vocally, facially, and physically by every single group member. It’s incredibly rare for a group to make a song this big and aggressive still sound musical, and still sound like a story. The ‘Belles owned it.

Another seamless transition into “Stay” by Shakespeare’s Sisters. I can hardly describe how excited I was to hear this song—one of my favorites from the early nineties that no one seems to remember anymore. I can still remember the music video to this song terrifying my 7-or-8-year-old-ish self. But enough about me, more about The ‘Belles. The lead started out unaccompanied, remarkably seeming to pick the first pitch out of the air. This lead stood out if just for how different she came across from those who preceded her—we go from the group threatening to blow the speakers via sheer force to this solitary voice, pristine and lovely. The group joined her and shuffled positions on the first chorus. Sick bass lead-in to the devilish second solo part, which sounded great and is exponentially more effective for the way in which the group visually backed her, reaching and contorting their faces. Beautiful simplicity to the perc and choral backing of the first lead when she came back in. My only knock on this leg of the set was that the girls clipped the song a little shorter than I wanted them to—I thought there were some real opportunities to push the drama even further as the song moves along. Alas, with just 12 minutes to work with, some cuts are necessary. The song finished with members wilting from the outer layers of their cluster to leave just one woman standing alone in the middle of the pack—the lead for the final song.

The group gave the lead for “Shake It Out” worlds of room to operate, and gosh darn it did I love, love, LOVE this lead. When her vocals got big, it was a legitimate moment, and I’m not ashamed to say that this is the closest any a cappella group not named The SoCal VoCals has ever come to making me tear up in the midst of taking notes for an event review. The group formed lines with a lot of shaking motions to quite literally communicate the chorus of the song. I loved the idea of that, though this was the lone point in the set at which the visual presentation looked consciously staged to me. It’s a minor quibble. Clap-stomp break down just to make sure no one forgot this was a power group. Four-part choral lead on the homestretch before the original soloist took it home. To put some icing on this aca-cake, we saw a really nice moment after the girls bowed, as a couple of them were positively bouncing with excitement—well earned. Between set planning, arrangement and execution, this was, without question one of the top ten ICCA sets I’ve ever seen—maybe even top five. That was 12 minutes that make you proud to be a fan of a cappella, period. I can hardly imagine how it must have felt to have performed it.

The second half kicked off with the home group, The Melodores from Vanderbilt University. The audience was humming—make that howling—in anticipation of this group—exploding at any allusion to the guys before the emcees even announced the group itself. The guys wore black and yellow, jeans and white sneakers. Really interesting, oscillating sound on the intro with guys moving from side to side, heads bobbing while the soloist narrated the story of “Feeling Good,” directing the lyrics right at one guy, standing still in the middle. Before long, it became clear he was setting up that guy to take the lead—wonderful sense of building anticipation and drama. The group sound built, and then the bass clicked into place and the group exploded into motion for AWOLNATION’s “Sail.” Sick electric guitar solo, then the bass took over. Such a raw, overwhelming, awesome sound on this. The solo sounded legitimately desperate. Really cool opener.

The next piece opened with a spoken word bit, the group clustered to one side, the new soloist at a front corner of the stage. Soon enough, the group kicked off “Hurt” by Christina Aguilera. Not the song I expected. Beautiful harmonies from the group. The group offered a lot of really interesting, staggered movements, progressing from crouches to standing tall. Very nice solo. I really appreciated the song selection at this juncture. I can all but guarantee you there’s no other all-male group out there singing this song, and the guys wisely chose to play it straight, singing it seriously and emotionally, making it their own rather than winking at the audience and playing the piece for laughs. The group eventually arrived at a groove as the percussion kicked in and the tempo picked up. Haunting high notes from the electric guitar solo guy. Simply pristine sound from the guys as they fell out of the groove and transitioned to pure harmonies. This was a solid middle song, but, with just 12 minutes to prove themselves, I couldn’t help thinking that they could have used this middle piece to make a bit bolder statement. The Melodores are going to cruise through almost any quarterfinal in the country on sheer depth of sound and charisma, but you want a little more from a group with the talent to, justly, be looking ahead to Finals.

The Melodores finished up “Hurt” in a V-formation, which set up the beginning of their next song. The electric guitar guy split the middle and entered with a soaring soprano line. Last year, The Melodores set set evolved really smartly, featuring this same soloist in very different settings before letting him take over on their closer. It was a similar idea here with a more subtle lead-in on the first two songs and more over-the-top performance from him on the finale. As much as it was still entertaining, and still wise to build the anticipation and aura around this star player, I have to say I found the proportions of last year’s build more effective. Nonetheless, the soloist delivered on both showmanship and insanely high parts, flashing smile full of swagger before he hit the first lyrics of Justin Timberlake’s ”Sexyback”, which then transitioned to Beyonce’s ”Naughty Girl.” I liked what they did in the early going, continuing to play the piece “straight,” despite the obvious potential for comedy. The crowd was positively on fire for some of the song’s transitions, which, unfortunately, I think created an illusion that the performance itself was more sterling than it actually was. Don’t get me wrong—it was very good, but a rabid hometown crowd can make a very good performance seem like it’s great, even when it’s not. Sadly, late in the song, the group did succumb to the comedy trap as they mashed the pieces together and went for a cheap pop with feminine hip sways. Last year, this group walked a tight rope between the personas of serious and innovative musicians and a group made up of entertainers first, musicians second. I thought they landed on the right side of that line last year and that they absolutely deserved to place at last year’s ICCA Finals. This year, I couldn’t help getting the sense the crew was playing for laughs and hometown cheers rather than straight up earning the adulation of the crowd more organically through the merits of their set. That’s fine for an average group, but I think a group the caliber of The Melodores should strive for a little more. For a group that’s still in its infancy, hopefully this year will provide some valuable experience to help shape creative decisions in the years ahead. It’s not going to surprise me one bit to see The Melodores in New York again in the near future.

Next up was Salisbury University Squawkappella. Gold and black duds on this co-ed group. Rich, soulful, bass-driven lead-in to The Civil Wars’ ”Barton Hollow”. Nice bass sound. I loved the duel leads on this one, who harmonized together beautifully. Really nice perc, too, and excellent high harmonies on the bridge. Very country, downhome sound that played nicely to the Nashville crowd. As much as I appreciated the chemistry between the two leads, I couldn’t help feeling they sang to one another a little too much and should have opened up a bit more to sing to the audience, or that the group at least should have spaced the two of them out a bit more to open things up to the crowd. Pretty minor complaint. Haunting finish with the two leads operating almost unaccompanied, save for the perc guy and a really neat bird chirping audio effect. Excellent opener.

The group followed up with Leona Lewis’s “Homeless” Really nice soloist here who demonstrated excellent range, starting soft and hitting some big notes late in the game. Nice soft, understated opening. Ripping bass sound. A male lead joined the soloist for some nice dramatic interplay in the homestretch. Part of what you notice about a song like this at semifinals that isn’t as evident on a quarterfinal stage is that the choreography was a tad excessive, with rises and falls of arms, and reaches scattered throughout. Slow, sad music doesn’t need much, if any of this, and it runs the risk of making the piece feel less organic, and reminding the audience it’s watching a performance instead of drinking in the moment. Anyway, the song ended well with the male lead taking the mic from the first soloist to set up the next song.

A series of claps from the back row of the group led things off as the group launched in the familiar vocals and rhythm of Kanye West’s ”Power” only to fake the audience out and slid into Maroon 5’s ”Harder to Breathe.” Nice, precise fallouts on the choruses. At quarterfinals, I criticized the group for the Kanye fake out because it didn’t seem to have much purpose if they weren’t ever going to explore that theme. Fortunately, this time around the group did incorporate it with a trio of women busting into the “Power” lyrics en route to the group earnestly mashing the two together. I’m not sure if this is legitimately new material since quarters or if this was the original arrangement and they clipped it for time or artistic reasons the first time around, but regardless, the whole piece felt considerably more coherent for the addition. Kudos to Squawkappella for putting in the conscious effort to adapt and improve between quarterfinals and semis—I dig it. Good, measured percussion from the drummer, and nice breath percussion from many of the group members on the close. Cool set. As an aside, I should note for those paying close attention to The ACB that I regret not having ranked this crew in the power rankings a week back. No, they weren’t going to win this semifinal, but they put forth a strong account for themselves in each competition this year and deserved more recognition than I initially gave them.

The final competitors were The University of Georgia Accidentals. The guys wore black and red zip-up hoodies over black t-shirts and jeans. Hoods up on the intro to Justin Beiber’s ”Never Say Never”. Really smooth solo on this one, and slick, powerful percussion and bass. The hoods came off as the guys slipped into a sick dance, and then clap-stomp routine. That interlude probably should have gone a shave longer to really let the audience drink it in, but that’s a minor quibble. This was ridiculously well choreographed. That comment might sound odd to some readers after I criticized Squawkappella’s excessive movement—given that Squawkappella actually choreographed less. The difference is all in the song selection and execution. This song was perfect for a visual show, and the guys looked phenomenal, selling every movement full-tilt. From there, they transitioned into a sick rap, and then dropped into the dubstep—oh my goodness. There are times when throwing too much into one song really fouls a group up, but this execution was darn near flawless. Exceptional first song.

The final competitors were The University of Georgia Accidentals. The guys wore black and red zip-up hoodies over black t-shirts and jeans. Hoods up on the intro to Justin Beiber’s ”Never Say Never”. Really smooth solo on this one, and slick, powerful percussion and bass. The hoods came off as the guys slipped into a sick dance, and then clap-stomp routine. That interlude probably should have gone a shave longer to really let the audience drink it in, but that’s a minor quibble. This was ridiculously well choreographed. That comment might sound odd to some readers after I criticized Squawkappella’s excessive movement—given that Squawkappella actually choreographed less. The difference is all in the song selection and execution. This song was perfect for a visual show, and the guys looked phenomenal, selling every movement full-tilt. From there, they transitioned into a sick rap, and then dropped into the dubstep—oh my goodness. There are times when throwing too much into one song really fouls a group up, but this execution was darn near flawless. Exceptional first song.

The guys froze on the transition to Simon & Garfunkel’s ”Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” When I first heard the group used this song at quarterfinals, I was pretty skeptical—in 2012 how on earth do you make “Bridge” relevant on the competition stage? That’ll teach me to doubt The Accidentals. Simply beautiful, clean blend from the guys, backing a wonderfully rich solo. When I say the lead was rich, I mean that on a number of levels—not just his sound, but his body language and even his facials were perfect, including a tired smile of simple hope that he revisited over the course of the song. The guys demonstrated remarkable patience with this piece. On the second verse, they spiced up the sound with something as simple as just one guy snapping his fingers to push the tempo a tiny bit as the soloist took the mic off the stand. This song was all about subtle understatement—such a remarkable contrast to the first song that showed off the sheer versatility of this group. The percussion grooved on in on the “sail on silver girl” lyric, and soon enough the guys’ sound exploded, building from a pounding bass en route to a power finish. So many groups aspire to tell a story over the course of a three song set; The Accidentals delivered an incredibly intricate, moving, and diverse narrative in a shave over three minutes. Sublime middle piece.

The guys finished on Parachute’s ”Something to Believe In.” Part of what was most interesting about this closer as that the guys certainly sounded different from The Octopodes, but I don’t think either group had a clear cut advantage over the other. The Accidentals’ sound was a little more evolved; but I preferred how The ‘Podes handled the chorus. While I would just barely give the JHU soloist the advantage on his best day, for this night, I think they were pretty even. I would ever-so-slightly pick The Accidentals’ percussionist over that of The Octopodes’. I don’t mean to linger so long on comparisons, but in my mind, these two groups were very much duking it out for their spot in the upper tier of the night’s ranking; the fact that they had the same closer begs some comparison. Putting all of that aside, the boys from Georgia choreographed this one out the wazoo, and while it wasn’t all polished, it was very fun. I loved the doubling up on the solo late in the song, and the four part breakdown on the lead toward the end was really well done. Nice use of movement to emulate the sound as the guys rose and dropped with the dynamic changes. Wall of sound to back the solo toward the close as the group went for the clap along with the crowd. Clean cut off to put the finishing touch on a really strong closing song for an excellent set.

During deliberations, The Nashville Singers entertained the crowd. The 12-man chorus’s set included “Tonight, Tonight,” “Happy Together,” “Life Goes On,” “Danny Boy,” “Man in the Mirror,” “Bad Day,” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” Afterward, Shane shared some tweets about the shows. Nice choice for the guys to announce the hash tag at the start of the evening to promote this communal participation in the show (#iccasouth, for those interested in reading up retroactively).

There are some nights when I resent the judges because I don’t agree with their calls. On this night, I really felt bad for the adjudicators because, no matter what, at least one borderline Finals-level group wasn’t even going to place, besides which two great groups were going to be left with only a Wild Card spot to aspire to. At the end of the night, I felt The AcaBelles had to go to Finals. Their set was not only coherent and profound, but legitimately felt like groundbreaking movement. To go on a brief tangent, I’m staunchly in the camp that says The Social Network should have won the Best Picture Oscar over The King’s Speech in 2011, not necessarily because it’s a runaway better film (although I think it was better) but because it represented and perfectly encapsulated a unique time, generation, and feeling. As good as it was, in 2030, I don’t think many of us will remember The King’s Speech aside from the awards it garnered, but I do quite legitimately think that David Fincher’s film will stand out as an iconic piece.

So what am I getting at? I saw Noteworthy’s 2006 championship set live. I’ve heard The AcaBelles at Finals twice. To be fair, I didn’t hear Divisi’s 2005 ICCA set, but putting that one aside, I feel comfortable saying that The ‘Belles of 2012 put forth the greatest all-female ICCA set of all time. This was the set that most objective observers are going to remember best, and I felt that was the set that should have advanced directly to Finals.

With all of that said, I don’t mean to give The Accidentals or The Octopodes short shrift. I felt they both delivered solidly Finals-level performances as well, and that either would stand a fair chance at placing in New York--conceivably even winning, depending on who they ended up competing against and how that particular night went for all parties involved. With that said, it was a two-horse race between those two groups in my mind for second place. The Octopodes were a touch more creative, The Accidentals were a touch more cerebral and complex. In the end, I did give The Accidentals the nod for second, placed The ‘Podes at third, and had The Melodores, Reverb, and Faux Paz nipping at their heels.

No huge surprises during the announcement of awards and placement, though it was pretty disappointing to see The Octopodes and Melodores go home without any recognition. I thought The ‘Podes would at least get an outstanding soloist nod for “Skyscraper,” but it just wasn’t meant to be on this night. The Accidentals took home the duke, and while I favored The ‘Belles, I can’t really knock the guys from Georgia moving on to New York. They put forth a heck of a rich set, and are going to be a legit threat on the Final stage. Here’s hoping The AcaBelles can find their way north via the Wild Card. The Accidentals closed out the night with a rousing rendition of Stevie Wonder’s ”Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” Congrats to the guys for claiming the first spot in the 2012 ICCA Finals.

Mike Chin’s Picks for the Night

Overall Placement:
1. The AcaBelles
2. The Accidentals
3. The Octopodes
4. The Melodores
5. TIE: Reverb and Faux Paz

Best Soloist:
1. The AcaBelles for “Dirty Diana”
2. The Octopodes for "Skyscraper"
3. The Accidentals for "Bridge Over Troubled Waters"
4. Acappology for "Paris (Ooh La La)
5. The AcaBelles for "Stay"

Best Visual Presentation:
1. The Accidentals for “Never Say Never”
2. The AcaBelles for the full set
3. Faux Paz for “Son of a Gun”
4. The Octopodes for "Skyscraper”
5. Acappology for "Paris (Ooh La La)"

Best Arrangement:
1. The Accidentals for “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”
2. The AcaBelles for the full set

Best Vocal Percussion:
1. The Accidentals for the full set
2. The Octopodes for “Something to Believe In”
3. Acappology for "Paris (Ooh La La)"

ICCA Official Results

Overall Placement:
1. The Accidentals
2. The AcaBelles
3. Faux Paz

Outstanding Soloist: The AcaBelles for “Stay” and Acappology for “Paris (ooh La La)”

Outstanding Arrangement: The AcaBelles for the full set

Outstanding Choreography: The AcaBelles for the full set

Outstanding Vocal Percussion: The Accidentals for the full set