HomeReport: SoundStage at the 2009 Taiwan International A Cappella Competition

Joseph Livesey's picture

Hi! My name is Joseph and I am the newest member of SoundStage, a semi-pro group from Southern California. We’ve already won a few awards around here, including a Plymouth Caravan from “The View” (which, being musicians, we sold for recording/performing gear - DUH) and cash from jingle contests. In October, we went to the 2009 Taiwan International A Cappella competition, where we placed 2nd. Was it AWESOME? Absolutely. Were there things we did right, and things we did wrong? You bet. Am I gonna spill the nitty-gritty here on CASA, about my journey from newbie to full-fledged member and our experience as a group? Here we go!

For me it all starts about 7 months ago, when I was accepted into SoundStage as their newest member. I had just left Fermata Nowhere after our 2009 ICCA win, and was excited to keep pursuing a cappella. Excited but worried. Fermata is all guys, and SoundStage is 4 guys, and 2 of the other kind. Anyone who’s sung in a mixed group can understand – sometimes, mixed groups just don’t gel. I was also the youngest in SoundStage. On top of that, because I’m a tenor I had solos from the get-go. Fast forward several months – I’ve learned the songs. But I’m still wondering, when do I feel the same way with this group that I did with Fermata? Granted, Fermata spent way more time having fun than making money… now, SoundStage is organizing fund-raising gigs, learning new charts, watching DVDs about honing our onstage personas and performances, and cutting a new CD. Taiwan looms ever closer.

The night of our flight: We prepare to be uncomfortable for 14 nonstop hours of China Air out of Los Angeles. Kim tries some weird rice soup and I stick with the American option. And then…

Go, go, go! Our flight began in the middle of the night in L.A. and ended at 6:30 AM in Taiwan! Had we slept? Not at all! Were our hotel rooms ready? What do you think? Our poor guide, Elaine, schlepped us around Taipei for six hours before our rooms opened up. The American Embassy (McDonald’s) took us in for breakfast, but otherwise six very sleepy Americans took to the streets and discovered the effects of sleep deprivation, jet lag and a foreign culture upon a cappella singers. We had just gotten into our rooms and thrown down our bags, when Elaine reminded us about the gig that night. We politely reminded her that she must mean our gig 2 nights away.

She politely reminded us that it was definitely that night.

And that was just the beginning of the craziness. After that gig, we did the competition, and then gigged all around Taiwan, on foot, by bus, taxi, and scooter, living out of our suitcases and making fans everywhere we went. It was definitely a good idea to have recorded a CD before we left, because it sold. A lot. And the better we performed, the more we sold. It was that easy. Sometimes the lighting was not what we’d desired. Sometimes it was the sound, or the stage. All in all, none of that mattered as much as we thought it might. As long as we sold our performance to the audience every night, we sold our image and thereby our merch.

Meanwhile, the days were full of Taiwan. Elaine, and later, Ruru (another guide and competition organizer) fed us, led us to our hotels, interpreted for us, and did everything that we couldn’t – which, in a foreign country, is quite a lot! We never tried the stinky tofu. In fact, we literally ran whenever we smelled it, and we are still unsure whether it’s actually food, or just – nevermind. There was a 15 hour time difference, so talking to anybody back home was tough. We met and saw so many amazing groups! Suade, Stouxingers, Tonalrausch, Vocaldente, Oops, Potenza, Robstar Lobster, and Maytree were only some of the groups that rocked stages with us. For me it was at LEAST equally magnificent to hang out with the singers after the shows and teach them barbershop tags. At LEAST.

And now we’re back! The trip dramatically improved our abilities as solo performers, and our cohesiveness as a group both on and offstage. Giving master classes while we were there proved an eye-opener into the fact that we actually had a lot to teach beginning groups (and a lot of what we learned, we had picked up throughout our trip)! And competing against top-notch groups from all around the world gave us the context against which to compare our show. Now we can more quickly see what gets cut and what stays, what makes the audience go crazy and what simply doesn’t work. There is much more for us to learn, but we are fired up and ready to hit the SoCal scene again, with confidence, new stage tricks and know-how, and more passion than ever before!

About the author:
An original member of UCI's The Nice Guys in 2003 and Haath in 2004, Joseph Livesey's longest a cappella stint was as a member, student director and arranger for Mt. SAC Fermata Nowhere from 2005-2009, with whom he also shares the honor of being 2009 ICCA Champions! Currently he is the newest member of SoundStage, the 2008 LA Harmony Sweepstakes champions and placed 2nd at the 2009 Taiwan International A Cappella Festival. He loves the Southern California a cappella scene, and finding new groups to listen to - and maybe include in CASA articles!

Fermata Nowhere's Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/fermatanowhere
Soundstage's Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/soundstage6