Tuesday, September 24

Local musicians shine at Acoustic Live


Seventh game of the World Series: six words that meant
absolutely nothing to Acoustic Live organizers, fans and
performers.

The last and most important baseball game of the season played
second fiddle to the Acoustic Live Finals at the Westwood Brewing
Company Sunday night.

“What happened?” finalist Carlos Calvo asked the
audience. “Angels just score?”

Sorry, Carlos, no one knows. Despite a television perched atop
the bar, all audience members had their backs turned to the game
and eyes focused on the stage, where Calvo and six other finalists
vied for first place in an eight-week, 42-band acoustic
tournament.

The leadoff batter, Calvo, started the inning with an
invigorating performance that fired up the crowd. His refreshingly
earthy voice and laid-back songs made him the epitome of a local
artist.

Anaheim Angels centerfielder Darin Erstad stretched out for an
amazing catch around the time guitarist/singer John Digrazia
stretched out his high-pitched voice for an amazing song. To his
left sat cellist Monica Rancher, who supplied a dark and brooding
resonance that contrasted perfectly with Digrazia’s high
notes.

By the time Beth Thornley stepped up to bat, the cozy confines
above the Westwood Brew Co. officially became a fire hazard as
audience members had to sit on the floor like kindergartners.
Thornley continued the show’s trend of incredible voices,
belting out irresistible and earnest pop numbers.

The Beth Band’s guitar-keyboards-accordion pop attack
played opposite to Holly Figueroa’s solo guitar act. Figueroa
smiled, chatted, and joked with the audience more than anyone, but
her songs of personal tragedy sung with powerful, throaty vocals
rendered many tear ducts to start flowing.

Of all the great voices in the competition, Sara
Bareilles’s pipes were undeniably the best. Norah Jones comes
to mind, but Bareilles has a livelier and more emotional tone. A
fifth-year communications studies student at UCLA, keyboardist
Bareilles, along with guitarist Budi Iskamdar and drummer Michael
Bove, delivered head-bobbing, finger-snapping tunes that jazzed the
crowd.

With a scraggly frontman, Scared of Girls had the best rock band
image. The unconventional trio had the rock ‘n’ roll
swagger to boot. Unfortunately, the irritating voice and
indecipherable pronunciations of lead singer Toggo made the band
the clear odd man out.

Last, but definitely not least, was Jared Burton, a sixth-year
UCLA student. Burton may be studying linguistic anthropology, but
his politically charged songs made him seem like a political
science student. The crowd listened in dead silence to the
unexpected power of his music. A Neil Young in baggy clothes,
Burton fit the “street singer with a cause” archetype
to a tee.

The pressure was on the industry judges to identify the winner
from a lineup of outstanding artists. The crowd hardly influenced
the voting since the volume remained high throughout the show. When
the dust settled, Figueroa placed third and Bruins Burton and
Bareilles captured second and first, respectively. While Burton and
Bareilles busy themselves with recording offers, Figueroa, the
self-professed “fat chick,” is set to be a guest
speaker in UCLA professor Robert Walser’s music class.

The Angels won the World Series, by the way.

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