Live Blog: Rock 4 Hope Auditions

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I attended the 2012 Rock 4 Hope auditions, and from beginning to end and had to judge the bands along with about 40-50 other students. (*Update: I figured that instead of just secluding the acts from everyone who couldn’t judge or attend, that I’d give everyone a chance to find out what happened tonight performance-wise by basically making my judging public).

I will give a run-down of my opinions on the groups that tried out.

3:55 –  Almost Eleven

With a alt-rock/pop-punk feel, Almost Eleven impressed me with their binding energy. The lead vocalist brought a vibe along the lines of old-school Brand New or Say Anything, as his singing performance was brash, yet pretty memorable. The rocky guitars clashed with the vocals, though at times they were a little out of sync as a whole. The band’s last song, “Our Town” saw the band find a nice groove, as the instrumentals shined quite a bit in their closing anthem. Rating: 3 / 5 stars

4:05 – Emeri Eaton

Senior Emeri Eaton, known for her roles in school musicals and plays over the years, just absolutely blew me away with her acoustic solo performance. Starting off with a cover of Relient K’s “At Least We Made It This Far,” her singing voice was spell-binding. Her passionate vocals continued to pour out in waves in her second song, “Girls Just Want To Have Fun.” She ended with a charming rendition of The Wreckers’ “Leave The Pieces.” Not only was her performance full of heart and beauty, but it was also quite a treat for the ears. Record: 4 / 5 stars

4:20 – Organized Mess

The bassist’s Nirvana t-shirt caught my eye at first, and from there I hoped these guys sounded a bit like the 90s grunge legends. However, in their first and only song, “Song A,” I could tell these guys pulled different influences from alternative and rock. But, from the loud bass lines, rampant guitar riffs, and dual vocals, I found little enjoyment out of their performance. It was more messy than it was organized. Rating: 2 / 5 stars

4:35 – Vela

Vela was sick. They blew away the crowd with their punishing guitars riffs, of which the lead vocalist had great knowledge and direction with, blasting through tracks with intense solos and powerful, energetic melodies. Everyone in the band sounded great together, bringing together the likes of genres from classic rock and metal to grunge. Their last song,”Cigarette,” was quite the spectacle, as from the exemplary instrumentals to the grungy vocals to even the piano, Vela brought raw energy, talent, and a great, no-boundaries stage presence. Rating: 5 / 5 stars

4:55 – Kingdom

Followers of the rap scene at Shawnee Mission West probably felt right at home with senior Lorenzo Boyice’s band Kingdom. With an abundance of elements wrapping together the music, from piano to keyboard to bongos, Kingdom never felt too chaotic in their performance; everything sounded wonderful together. Boyice’s raps were nothing short of fantastic, with heartfelt lyrics backing up his great voice, and the band was easily one of the more impressive acts so far. Rating: 4 / 5 stars

5:05 – Sunshine In London

Sunshine In London’s (a band made up of four West students and a Blue Valley student) performance was encompassed by tons of raw, hearty emotions. Senior Anthony Balas’ vocal onslaught proved to be just as passionate as senior Charlie King-Hagen’s fabulous performance behind the piano and senior Grant Harper’s pummeling guitar riffs. As a whole, the group reminded me plenty of passionate acts like Jimmy Eat World and Jack’s Mannequin, and their two-song set, concluding with “A Better Tomorrow” was dependent on their great showcase of emotion – it was a very touching performance. Rating: 4 / 5 stars

5:25 – Eric Ferguson

I went into his performance (a dubstep performance) open-minded, but left it realizing that I had wasted my time and energy trying to enjoy it. Sorry Eric, it wasn’t for me (*Update from earlier: It looks like Eric has a very good chance of making the lineup, as they are possibly reserving a spot for him on the Bridge this year). Rating: 1 / 5 stars

5:40 – Apples For Eve

I heard a fan once say they love Dashboard Confessional because of how mature it sounds with just Chris Carrabba’s voice and an acoustic guitar. Just like Dashboard, Apples For Eve brought a maturity that I haven’t heard in any other act tonight. The beautiful lyrics proved this, the soothing vocals proved this, the meaningful strums of the guitar proved this. Apples For Eve definitely proved their worth tonight, and I loved every single moment of their homely three-song set. Rating: 5 / 5 stars

5:55 – Freedom Clutch

I could tell straight from the beginning drum hits of their first song that they were covering the Foo Fighters’ “My Hero,” and my respect plummeted upward. But the overall rendition was weakly done, and so was the following cover of “Aren’t You Gonna Be My Girl.” Many guitar notes were missed, the melodies were out of sync and often too quiet, and the vocals were decent at best, though they weren’t as grating in the latter. Rating: 3 / 5 stars

 6:10-6:40 – Dinner Break

6:45 – The Amusement

The Amusement was a prime example of a restrained band. Though their performance was decent, it suffered from a lack of vocal range, was downplayed by cheesy electronics, and lacked original riffage, switching between uncreative rock and metal melodies. They do have potential though, and this was their first big performance, so there’s no reason to lose faith in these guys. It’s just not their time yet. Rating: 2 / 5 stars

7:00 – The Irrelephants

What lead vocalist Michael Tahmasian describes as “psychedelic folk rock with a post-jazz dance influence” is a little something called The Irrelephants. Backed by Tahmasian’s professional spoken word poetic delivery and his unexpected wisecracks, the band had a thick wall of sound in their three songs, complete with acoustic and electric guitar riffs, bongos, and often, singing from guitarist Brandon Upson. If there was anything as fresh and engaging as the set of calming tunes and jam sessions that The Irrelephants provided for the audience tonight, I’d love to hear it. Rating: 5 / 5 stars

7:20 – Striking Minors

Because the band couldn’t make it tonight, we had to listen to Striking Minors’ MP3s instead of hearing them live. I couldn’t find any redeeming qualities in their music; it sounded bulky, boring, and gross. But at least I’ll have the line “shock and awe” stuck in my head for days. Rating: 1 / 5 stars

7:25 – Maps For Travelers

This band also couldn’t make it tonight, but after listening to a few clips of them, I was thoroughly impressed. Their music sounded very professional, giving hints of alternative, rock, punk, and even alt-metal. Rating: 4 / 5 stars

7:30 – I Am Nation

I Am Nation so far was the most entertaining act of the night. Bringing a sound highly reminiscent of Paramore and reminding me greatly of the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World band The Sex Bob-Ombs, they were fun, energetic, and catchy. They sounded like a group of seasoned musicians who know what they’re doing, and through smooth technicality and solid execution, they proved that they’re definitely worthy of a spot in the Rock 4 Hope lineup. Rating: 5 / 5 stars

7:55 – Jai Lindsey

Another rapper from West, junior Jai Lindsey performed for a crowd that was growing restless. Though his lines were fantastically written, I felt that his raps sounded a bit forced. He didn’t seem to be as much in-tune with what he was saying, and as he skipped through his resume of songs, I couldn’t feel the full passion of his music. Though he has an arsenal of talent and great potential, I don’t feel he was able to match up with Boyice’s performance with Kingdom earlier in the night. Rating: 3 / 5 stars

8:10 – Local Talk

A crowd pleaser last year, Local Talk, made up of Shawnee Mission East students, returned again with even more melodies to flood our eardrums. Armed with sweet, succulant melodies (especially their groovy bass beats) and a dreamy smothering of vocals, Local Talk easily became one of the most popular groups of the night. Their cover of The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done” was equally lustrous as it was ecstatic. Rating: 4 / 5 stars

8:30 – Collaborative Effort

Combining stringy guitar riffs with jazzy ones, Collaborative Effort fused together a great mold of alt-rock in their set. Though it’s hard to find where they fit in compared to I Am Nation and Local Talk, they still sounded pretty good as a “collaborative effort,” even if the dual vocals weren’t the most spot-on and the bass was nonexistent in creating fun beats like Local Talk did. Rating: 3 / 5 stars

8:45 – Frozen Bananas

These Shawnee Mission North dudes played four cover songs in their set: The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop,” The Foo Fighters’ “All My Life” and “Alone & Easy Target,” and Foghat’s “Slow Ride.” My main complaint with these guys’ Foo Fighters covers is the fact that they only have one guitarist, and the Foo Fighters arrange layers upon layers of guitar in their music. The band’s lead singer struggled with his vocals throughout the set; he doesn’t have the greatest pipes in the world. Frozen Bananas didn’t put on a poor performance, they just weren’t as captivating as those that went before them tonight. Rating: 2 / 5 stars

Tonight was a  pretty competitive auditions night. Lots of talented and exciting bands tried out, and hopefully some of my picks get in.

Here are my picks:

Mainstage

  • I Am Nation
  • Vela
  • Sunshine In London
  • Kingdom

Lounge

  • The Irrelephants
  • Apples For Eve
  • Emeri Eaton

Bridge

  • Eric Ferguson