OCMA Showcase Night 1 Yost Theater 1/7/14 In Orange County, the New Year represents more than making resolutions, it represents the arrival of free live music. The OC Music Awards Showcase Series kicked off last night at The Yost Theater, giving artists an opportunity to compete for the title of Best Live Band and fans an excuse to get out of the house on Tuesday nights. The Showcase Series has blossomed into a cornerstone for much of the local music community, where both seasoned acts and lively newcomers get the chance to earn a slot in the Showcase Series finals and a prize package that includes Warped Tour Dates, four days in the Redbull Recording Studios, and more. The first night of eight-week series brought together a mixed bag of sounds that encompassed Orange County's diverse rock scene.
There's a certain amount appreciation that should be dealt to drummers who double as lead vocalists, and newbie Olen Kittleson of indie act Breach The Summit is no exception. The front man's joy onstage was contagious, and his solo falsettos are sweet enough to melt hearts across the county. The group's youth made their set even more impressive and while--as with any young band--there's room to grow, Breach The Summit had many moments of maturity that developed into musical bliss. They created a solid song progression for their 25-minute set, closing with an all-group percussion jam.
The second performance of the night came from 80's tinged, leather clad rock outfit Ceasefire. The group's sound pays homage to bands like U2 and the Killers, and the theatrics of front man Ray Alexander kept their performance visually engaging. Next up on the bill were OC favorites, The Devious Means. The Devious Means were tapped last year to join the showcase series, and after taking home the 2013 People's Choice Award (earned through fan vote) the quintet took the Yost stage for another chance at the title of Best Live Band. Armed with a red guitar, singer/guitarist Christopher Faris tore through a lively set alongside animated keyboardist/vocalist Rachel Anderson. This high-energy group pushed their sound into edgy waters that crowd happily embraced.
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The most solid performance of the night came from stomp rockers Jeramiah Red. The group has been no stranger to OCMA nominations and after coming up just shy of the Best Live Band honors last year, joined the showcase again for the 2014 run. Last year's performances from the band were charged and memorable, but this year's performance stood out for a different reason. While the 2013 shows were rowdy and electric, they were also a bit overconfident. This year Jeramiah Red took the stage as a unified, seasoned force that achieved a naturalness on par with any veteran rock act to grace a festival or arena stage. Their cohesiveness and seamless performance showed that if a band can stay together, they can develop into an awe-inspiring group that delivers a performance that stays with a crowd for days.
The Field Trip closed out the night, lead by local musical fixture Dustin Apodoca. The group's music bordered between rootsy and psychedelic, with a full sound that's supported by two keyboard players--one being Apodoca--and solid rhythm section. Apodoca is one of those musicians who captivate a crowd through an inherent magnetism, with the oddly fitting expectation that the curly haired rocker will at any moment shout out "testify!" His commanding vocals are backed by a sound that weaves in and out surf, rock, and jam, and the only disappointing point of the performance was that their set was entirely too short.