Sound Off! — the EMP’s annual under-21 battle of the bands competition — didn’t present your stereotypical bands this past Saturday night. The first round of the semifinals gave a little taste of everything.
“Y’all rocking with us?” was the question asked during the first performance of the competition as Tommy Cassidy took the stage. And yes, Tommy Cassidy, we were all rocking with you. The group, composed of the frontman and his band, is a diverse bunch with their incorporation of saxophone and trumpet harmonies into hip hop. If you ever wondered what Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” would sound like with a band, Tommy Cassidy is it.
Throughout the hip hop/rap performance the audience responded actively to the soulful lyrics and inspirational messages Cassidy conveyed about dreams and ambition. By the last number, the audience raised their hands as if all at church together rather than at a concert.
After Tommy Cassidy’s performance I spoke with rapper to pose the questions, “What’s your ultimate dream? What’s the end goal?” Looking at me with kind eyes under his Mariners snapback, he responded simply, “[To] feed my three-year-old son.”
If there’s one thing Tommy Cassidy doesn’t lack, it’s drive — not to mention the talent to match. Watch out Macklemore, a new Seattleite is rising.
Taking a drastic turn in style, Sophia Duccini took the stage next, barefoot, with an acoustic guitar and violin. Those familiar with Tumblr would instantly question whether the singer/songwriter and her band had just walked out of a “soft grunge blog” full of girls wearing daisy chains in the middle of a large meadow (Their closing song, “Wildflowers,” even refers explicitly to meadows).
The three girls are a mix between Ingrid Michaelson and Bon Iver. This is the kind of music any teenage girl who has experienced a broken heart can relate to, with clear indications of many breakups. Consisting of slow tempos, it was enjoyable to listen to but dually relaxing to the point of a mid-concert nap being a viable option. I couldn’t determine if it was Sound Off! material or more suited for a coffee house open mic.
Though the first two performances were great, it was the final groups who made me forget I was at Sound Off! to review and not to dance.
Audience interest peaked as the next band set up the stage with chili pepper-shaped twinkling lights. What could posisbly be in store for us? The answer was one that none of us could have predicted. Laser Fox — yes, their name is Laser Fox — took the stage as if we had all traveled miles to see them exclusively. This techno/electronic band has unfathomable stage presence with abstract dance moves (Were they even dance moves? I’m still not quite sure.) and controversial songs titles like “Cosmic Slut” and “Brazilian Models.”
Not even 20 seconds into their first song, girls (including myself) were reaching out to just touch lead singer Nik Moeller’s hand. The audience raved “Laser Fox! Laser Fox!” before the end of their second song.
Speaking with Moeller after his knock out performance, I asked, “Laser Fox? How was that decided upon?” With his sassy personality, Moeller replied, “Well…Laser Bird sounded dumb, and then Laser Fox came up, and yeah.” So if ever asked “What does the fox say?” listen to Laser Fox and the mystery will be no longer.
Last but not least, Dames took the stage with their quirky members and goose. Yes, you read that right, though of course it wasn’t real. Dames was the closest to being the stereotypical “band” of the night. They sounded like an Artic Monkeys meets Vampire Weekend blend. Their music kept the audience dancing and even I, in my uncomfortable heels, couldn’t help but jump up and down during their entire performance. Some audience members (clear fans of Dames) were calling out song requests. Though these boys (mostly originating from Tacoma) are clearly loved, they are also extremely down-to-earth.
I asked them “What does the future hold for you?” One member responded poetically, “I don’t know. The future is foggy, full of shadows and bright lights.” I am not so sure about the shadows part, but Dames future certainly involves bright lights. They are definitely a group to watch out for.
At this point a question that has most likely arisen is, “So who won?!” Well, it was an extremely close call. The audience vote, determined by cheering/screaming for their favorite band, elected but Dames as favorite of the night. But as it came time to announce the winner according to the judges, the unique and undefinable Laser Fox took first, putting Dames in the Wild Card spot for the Sound Off! Finals to be held on March 1.
“How does it feel?” I asked Nik Moeller after the win was announced. He responded honestly, as any excited teenager would, “Good?!” and then proceeded to share he knew it would be a close call between them and Dames.
It must be remembered, though, that a Wild Card selection won the whole competition last year, so Dames should surely not be off anyone’s radar. They did say their future was full of both shadows and bright lights.
Semifinals #2: February 15
Semifinals #3: February 22
Finals: March 1