The Hype: The 2010 OC Music Awards Showcase Series marked its halfway point Tuesday at the Gypsy Den in downtown Santa Ana, where local acts competed in the Best Live Acoustic category. On the previous Tuesday, the OCMAs had its largest showcase turnout to date, with a reported 682 people coming through the Continental Room in Fullerton.
Click for slideshow.
The Show: Vacuum Bell, aka Will Morrison, stood on the small stage that rose mere inches above the wooden floor and charmed the packed room of around 200 people with cheery love songs that rarely allowed cliches to replace details--even ones that an artist might deem too random or revealing. The lanky singer/songwriter played the role of modern day troubadour with boyish in between song banter and an outfit of horn-rimmed glasses, a nifty sportcoat, grey jeans and leather shoes. Regardless if the clothing was second hand or thrift store chic, Morrison's music smacked of sincerity.
"She's the best girl that I've ever known," he sang, "I want to tell her but she's always on her own." It's a number he introduced as "Jordan" a wonderfully quirky valentine to a neo-hippie girl the artist once knew for a passing moment, knows well or is simply an ideal. Either way, "Jordan" is a fascinating character who I could see "catnapping on the Carolina dunes" as the singer described her daily routine. Morrison whistled where coffeehouse performers used to play harmonica--and it worked, adding even a greater sense of intimacy to his tender tales.
As a vocalist, Morrison doesn't have amazing range. He's not exactly sonorous. But Morrison is a skilled stylist, dabbling in the upper register to great effect, even if he occasionally reaches for notes he can't properly hit. But that's OK. The emotional impact comes across and that's what allowed him to hold most of the crowd pretty much spellbound despite having to compete with the serving of glasses of wine, cups of coffee, bowls of soup, sandwiches, and other distraction such as walls covered in oil paintings and throw rugs plus at least five people snapping pictures throughout his brief, but highly memorable, performance.
Critic's Suggestion: Drop the silly "Vacuum Bell" moniker and stick to your given name.
Click for Will Morrison interview in this week's Locals Only column.
Click for past OCMA coverage.