OCMA Showcase Night 5 Coach House 2/4/14 The OC Music Awards Showcase Series traveled down to San Juan Capistrano's Coach House last night, where five bands battled for an appearance at the Showcase Series Finals and the title of Orange County's Best Live Band. Hosted by KROQ's on-air personality Beer Mug--sporting one helluva' mustache--the fifth installment of the event offered up an eclectic mix of live acts that spanned a handful of genres. The Coach House buzzed with an upbeat energy, and the close proximity of the seating served as a great excuse to meet someone new while taking in a patchwork of local artists.
Up first in the showcase series was newcomer Zach Churchhill. The Laguna Beach local opened with an acoustic mash up of Bill Wither's "Ain't No Sunshine" and James Brown's "It's A Man's Man's World." The rendition quickly got the crowd's attention, and the band followed up with original material that showcased Churchill's ease with lyrics and his upper register. The band nabbed originality points for their lack of one traditional drummer, opting instead for a two-drummer approach that featured one on a cajon and the other on a conga.
Twang-pop songstress Alice Wallace and her band were next up on the bill. The performance served as a precursor to her upcoming Florida tour and aired out material from the group's latest album, A Thousand Miles From Home. Alice was full of sass, style, and country flair, singing "I'm sick of sayin' I'm sorry and I just don't care anymore." Her charm and emotion were the highlights of the performance, exposing her habit of entertaining the crowd between songs before hooking them with heartfelt music. A dash of accordion kept things interesting, and the set concluded with a vocally acrobatic "how-to" tune about yodeling.
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In between sets, local music fans milled up and down the narrow aisles of The Coach House, and as Foley took the stage the crowd of beer drinkers settled into their chairs. The six-piece was a refreshing change of pace, lead by wild haired keyboardist/vocalist Connor Foley Shambrook. In one of the night's most tender moments, Shambrook shared that the song "Nostalgia" dealt with the loss of a loved one and then proceeded to leave his heart on the stage. The youthful group of indie-popsters closed with an upbeat tune called "Los Angles" that compelled Shambrook to seize a rockstar opportunity and climb atop his keyboard. While the entertainment had been good up to this point, the fourth band of the night brought the evening to a new level. Nilu took the stage and hypnotized the audience from the first note. Her compelling songwriting alongside the band's thoughtful arrangements made them the standout performers of the evening. They put harmonies in all the right places and allowed each song enough time to fully materialize. Supported by a charismatic string section and anchored by a solid drummer, Nilu's energy was palpable throughout the night. Their maturity and grace onstage convey their dedication, and chances are it won't be long before Nilu breaks into the mainstream.
Rounding out the evening were island-inspired mellow rockers Monroe. The trio offered up smooth tunes laden with indie sensibility, and the lead singer/guitarist showcased a slack key influence for the majority of their set. As people filtered towards the door and the evening drew to a close, Monroe piqued interest with a great cover of The Whitest Boy Alive's "Burning." In short, they refused to shy away from an opportunity to have a great time onstage and kept things interesting until the end of the night.