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January 20, 2005

M-Pact delivers at ICCA

Daily Trojan (CA):

Ever wonder where all the good bands are? Ever been bothered that major headliners show up at the Staples Center or (gasp) UCLA instead of filling the Coliseum or at least Bovard Auditorium? Well, one incredible music act just hit campus on Saturday - and didn't get paid for it. Professional jazz-pop sensation m-pact donated their show-stopping vocal chords to the cause of collegiate a cappella, serving notice that Billboard's Best Unsigned Band of 1999 is now based in Los Angeles. Only the sound of these six men's voices can adequately praise them, as the 1,000 folks who crammed into Bovard Auditorium Saturday night can attest to.

While m-pact was the highlight, the purpose was to see which of seven collegiate groups would move on to the regional competitions for the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella. Huh? What's a cappella? "It's a band without instruments," said Kevin Simpson, music director of USC's Reverse Osmosis. "We take songs off of the radio, arrange them for voice and sing them. It's like choral music, but different." A lot different. No choir ever rolls out a Snoop Dogg riff or rocks out on Maroon 5, but a cappella groups do.

Concert hosts Reverse Osmosis were clearly the hometown favorite Saturday night, netting a standing ovation after a set highlighted by excellent choreography and the best tuning of the competition. Opening with a raucous and tight "I Need a Hero," Reverse Osmosis quickly proved that their three-year-old group has grown up fast. If only all collegiate bands could be this good. Fluid movement between songs earned the USC group best choreography and contributed to their second place finish, but it wasn't enough to top the powerhouse that is Mt. San Antonio College's Fermata Nowhere, returning champs from 2004.

Fermata Nowhere blew everyone away with a rockin', hip-hoppin' performance in bright blue jumpsuits and unstoppable dance moves. Following an intense rendering of Michael Jackson's "Stop Pressuring Me," they went on to prove their chops with a soulful duet ballad that deservedly won best soloists honors. The crowd at Bovard screamed with laughter at this year's parody of "Obsession," "Drop It Like It's Hot" and other hot hip-hop and R&B tunes. As the tough-looking men of Fermata Nowhere formed a cheerleader's triple pyramid, the audience exploded into a thunderous standing ovation. USC's Reverse Osmosis is a truly excellent group, but Fermata Nowhere simply takes collegiate a cappella to the next level.

Elsewhere in the competition, Mt. Antonio's all-women group, Nothing But Treble, delivered a sensual punch to the ear and eye, strutting on stage in pinstripes and bustiers. While their soloists needed more oomph, Nothing But Treble gave a lesson to all-women's a cappella groups on how to be sexy. The USC Siren managed fourth place with great musicality, but their tunes, especially their signature "Heartbreaker," were once again almost laughable in their feeble sweetness. Both the Sirens and Nothing But Treble could learn from one another - let's hope they do.

USC's diSCord took home a surprising "best arrangement" for an uninspiring version of "Under Pressure." The University of California at San Diego's Tritones earned third place for a musically energetic performance. And Caltech's Fluid Dynamics, who showed absolutely killer blend earlier, fumbled on stage with goofy choreography and shaky musicality. As the judges deliberated, m-pact gave a lengthy, divine set, cranking up the volume and energy for nearly another hour of the best that a cappella can deliver. Perhaps that's why it was such a disappointment that winners Fermata Nowhere ended the night with an encore of their "Obsession" medley. Surprised or not, Fermata Nowhere made it clear they'd indeed taken collegiate a cappella to the next level ... but only for three songs.

Posted by acapnews at January 20, 2005 12:07 AM