OCMA Showcase, Night 2 - The District - January 14, 2014
Last night, the OC Music Award's showcase series came to its annual Folk/Americana chapter on the breezy outdoor stage of the District in Tustin. Historically one of the more mellow shows in the series, it would've been easy to prep for a low key night of sipping coffee, and watching stool-sitting singer songwriters while trying to avoid freezing your butt off. Thankfully, not only were most of the acts plenty fired up, the weather wasn't even cold at all!
The lineup for Tuesdays showcase included The Hicks Canyon Band, David and Olivia, Annie McQueen, Live Oak Revue, and Me and the City.
[Full disclosure: I'm one of the judges for the showcases that will select a winner to move on to the OCMA Live Showase finals, so this is more of a recap than a critical review]
The Hicks Canyon Band struck the first chords of the evening, fronted by bearded singer/guitarist Spencer Hannemann, who led a four-piece band to flesh out some acoustic-based, bare bones folk. Exuding an intimate vibe from the guitars, drums, bass and piano, HCB drew a decent crowd of people who tuned in early for the showcase. Since the band grew out of Hannemann's solo work, the inclusion of drummer Alex Tuebert and bassist/producer extraordinaire Jon O'Brien--offered a more outdoor-friendly performance. It was also paired with some of Hannemann's dry, witty banter to match the windy conditions outside. "A lot of hot air blowing around here, kinda like my ex-wife...Thanks," Hannemann said before launching midway into his set. Of course, one of their greatest achievements was an homage to '90s alt rock with a cover of Marcy Playground's "Sex and Candy."
Things got a lot more old school for the next act, duo David and Olivia, who whirled onto the stage with a sound that bordered on swing, soul and Americana. Their four-piece backing band included a lap steel guitar player wearing a mysterious black cowboy hat. Their chemistry and complimentary voices were the main focus, though each took their turns crooning solo for the crowd who ate up many of their slow songs, of which there weren't many.
Though third act Annie McQueen is often known for her balladry, she came out fully charged. She was also the only one to bust out some stage props--a block letter sculpture with her initials lit up and a bubble machine! And lest we forget the support of her backing band which included members of her pals Robert Jon and the Wreck and Jeramiah Red. The crowd really started to fill out as she sang the opening lines of her catchy boot stomper "Boots and Fur." She balanced the set out with a few sturdy ballads of course, "War" and "Burned," before she said goodnight.
Live Oak Revue followed up with their rowdy set of jams perfected on many a South County promenade. Starting with the chugging, melodic "When the Dawn Breaks," the band tuned into the energy of their crowd pretty quickly, which consisted of a good number of ladies ready to dance, frontman Zak Salazar and "the Ireland brothers"--Matt Derek and Brian--unleashed some rollicking pastoral party tunes inspired by bands like the Felice Brothers or even Mumford and Sons.
Night 2 ended with a performance from Me and the City who beckoned the die hard crowd members at the end of the show toward the front of the stage for their indie-inspired take on the Americana theme of the night. Frontman guitarist David Matus presented some soulful and well crafted songs backed by a three piece band that stayed pretty upbeat till the end with the show's closing number, "American Heart."
The Crowd: Lots of flannel, boots and beards.
Overheard: Hey, can you guys move out of the way? We're filming this for posterity.
Random Notebook Dump: It was interesting to see some music videos that blared overhead on the giant mall monitor in the wall behind the bands--most of which had nothing to do with folk, whatsoever.