HomeBlogsgriffon4's blogSan Diego Fair and A Cappella Competition

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So I attended the San Diego A Cappella Competition this Father's Day, held at the San Diego Fair.  And after two previous "reviews" I have decided that I might not be cut out for judging; when someone gets up there and sings with all their heart, I have a hard time stomping on that heart and crushing their (potentially fragile) egos.  That's not to say that I like everything I hear, but I just have a hard time offending people.

So here goes anyway.

As far as the talent goes at the fair we're (obviously?) taking a step down from the Harmony Sweeps here.  While some of those same groups are participating here, there are others who are a little more out of the CAP loop.  This begged an interesting question for me; is the difference in talent reflective of the venue, i.e. a general public Fair, vs. a specialty niche Competition, or the fact that the prize was cold, hard cash and not just A Cappella Kudos?

Not knowing who was performing or what to expect when I scheduled the date, I was delighted to find out in advance that this year's LA Regional winner "Evolution" was going to be competing there.  The guys of Evolution had a strong LA showing only to struggle at the Finals unexpectedly.  It gave me someone to root for going in.

The 10 competing groups ran the gamut from Barbershop to Vocal Jazz to little kids choirs to Hip Hop...most of it good, some great, some very shakey.  The winners were:

  • 3rd place - Some little girls group whose name I can't recall (maybe I should take notes if I'm going to do this regularly)
  • 2nd place - Evolution
  • 1st place - Down 4 The Count

Down 4 The Count is another Harmony Sweeps alum, having taken 3rd place at the 2008 LA Regional and a best arrangement.  I wasn't familiar with them before the show but am glad to add myself to their fan list.

Personally I thought Evolution should have taken 1st .  Their set was strong and the audience responded well.  They were loose (having cast off their principal Finals demon), energetic, and fun.  D4TC had a great sound and great arrangements but didn't have as much energy, I thought.  To each their own...I'm sure I'm biased here.

Another interesting group that I suspect didn't give their best showing was "Singcronicity" (sp?).  This was a seven or eight person group who had an OK sound (the live mixing did them NO favors) and a personality, but they sang "Happy Birthday" as a set choice.  Can I submit, if it's not already agreed, that singing "Happy Birthday" is a bad idea as a show piece?  If it's someone's birthday and you have a long show, by all means fill time...but not at Competition.

OK, now about the venue.  I applaud the San Diego Fair making time to do this Competition at all since they were awash with other musical acts throughout the fair and really had no reason to do it other than that someone advocated for it.  Kudos to them.  And kudos to the sound engineer who was live-mixing up a storm to try to balance a stage that went from 4 person barbershop to 12-15 person kid groups with only 6 mics.  The stage was being used right up to the time of the Competition so if there were sound checks they were done at some other time/day.  My suspicion is that the engineer only knew the group names and number of singers prior to them mounting the stage and he had to guess from there.  Balance was, for the most part, "OK" considering; not horrible, but left a little wanting at times.  The stage location itself was questionable.  The fair has multiple stages reserved for different acts throughout the day and the A Cappella competition was stuck at the "Plaza De Mexico" or some name like that.  The time-slot was sandwiched between some local Mexican traditional dance and a Mexican headliner that night.  I have nothing against a good traditional Mexican folk dance.  I guess what I'm saying is that it had the feel of being "crammed into whatever space they could find".  The seating was 9 portable benches which held 4 around "normal" adults each and then whatever wall or standing room you could find besides.  Considering the competition was 90 minutes long with 10 groups, it would have been a long time to shuffle your feet.  But what was really heinous was that at the last 30 minutes of groups had to contend with another local stage pushing a whole lot of bass in all directions, including ours.  Not loud enough to really distract the groups or make it so the audience couldn't hear, but loud enough to seep into your consciousness and distract your attention.

(I should point out here that I HATE HATE HATE noise pollution and find almost any offense of my ears to be egregious; car thumping, modified exhaust, leaf blowers, choppers, etc.  The two-stroke motor should be illegal IMHO.)

Last gripes; lack of any sort of a program or list of performers left me scratching my head today trying to recall names.  At the very least a place to collect group paraphernalia would have been appreciated for people who wanted to find out more about the groups they saw.  Also--minor nit as I understand that money goes to places that income comes in from and I'm guessing that I was one of only a handful of fair tickets sold exclusively to see the Competition--the fact that the fair was running a Soloist and Band contest where the top prize was $25,000 made the $1,000 they were handing out to the 1st place winner of our contest look like they didn't really care.  And they probably didn't.

So venue aside, overall a good competition and a good time.  I encourage anyone with the means to compete in one if one is available to you, advocate and start it if your local fair isn't doing one, or just go and watch one, even on Father's Day.

(Incidentally if this had been Mother's Day instead I would not have had the occassion to write a review as I would have been laughed at openly--first at jest, then with scorn--for suggesting it.)


go for the big bucks!

If I had a group and knew that both contests were going on, I'd just do the non-a cappella one. There, you can use the novelty factor to your advantage. Also, I wish that calling any event "_____apalooza" would be outlawed.

Amy Malkoff http://www.amymalkoff.com/harmony CASA (Contemporary A Cappella Society) Program Manager + Director of Web Content - http://www.casa.org Judge - ICCA, ICHSA, Harmony Sweepstakes, etc.

They're Stellar

The High School (or at least in that age range) group that got third place was called Stellar.

And you're dead on the money, no sound checks were allowed. It was get there, be announced and Boom! you're singing. Since Evolution was up first, we made sure each of us talked in the mic, just to make sure they were on to begin with.
All in all, it was just a fun experience. And anytime when no one ends up in the hospital during a performance, it's a good show. Though... after the gig is over, well now that's a different story.

And PS... when was this other $25K competition?? Dude, that woulda been awesome!

PPS, Amy--- shall we then be calling it a "ban-apalooza"?

J. Paisley
Slapdash Graduate '05-'07
Nantucket Cobbletones '04-'05
Ithacappella '98-'03

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