Alas, no awards for us this year.
Yesterday, Northern Harmony 2004 took place at the Eva O. Howard Theatre. Along with four other a cappella groups from around Alberta, Kow vied for the crown of Best Group.
First of all, before telling my thoughts of the other group, I'm going to pretty much go for my thoughts on our performance:
When we were introduced to the audience as the second group to compete, there was a pretty noticeable cheer for us. Hey, it looks like we've got a pretty big fanbase, which is nice. Maybe we'll nab the Audience Favourite award this year.
We came out to the big cheers, trying our best not to acknowledge the audience, since we get timed from our first second performing, whether it be a note, a look at the audience, anything that starts the show.
We opened with Mighty Mouse, and if there's one thing that Kow did to a 't' last night, it was channel every bit of energy we got from the crowd, and shove it right back out at them.
The air was electric with energy. It was amazing, and it has not too hard to throw a big smile on my face for the most part. Stan did a good job with the solo, and the audience seemed to enjoy the old theme song, as well as our added Grease riff at the end. (That was my idea, during a rehearsal. What can I say? I'm a jackass that likes making the others crack up.)
After the applause, I introduced us.
"Wow. What was that?"
Dev: "I love Olivia Newton-John"
Me: "Okay, then. Hi, we are Apocalypse Kow! That means our initials are A.K., which, if you're a bad speller like Joel here, also stands for Audience Participation."
It was a subtler joke, one that took a few seconds to sink in with the crowd.
At which point we sang Hey Ya. What can I say? We were on. I got the proper timing for the Beyonce bit. The crowd was into it, clapping at all the right parts. And they just died laughing when all five of us broke into the Kingston dance during the "shake it like a Polaroid picture" part.
Granted, there is something inherently funny with five guys dancing like spazzes, and it is a running joke within quite a few of our friends who were in the audience. Seriously, it's hard to describe the dance my old buddy Kingston does (or at least, did), but it's akin to taking out your knee and elbow joints before hitting the dance floor.
After Hey Ya, we premiered our "mystery song," the song that Kow made sure not to tell people about lest it ruins the surprise. Astro had arranged the Mario themes, everything from the main theme, to the water levels, underground, the star bit, the flag sting, and, of course, the dirge of Mario's death.
It went over quite well, but them, so did our entire set. We had most of the audience eating our of our palms.
We then finished off with a rocking Fat Bottomed Girls by Queen. Dev lost a bit on the high notes, but it was nothing major.
We did a very good job. We were playing with the crowd, we were solid, we didn't make many technical mistakes. I know for me, that even though I was channeling the audience's energy through me and throwing it back at them tenfold in everything I did, I was also very focused on what we were doing, not letting the music go to autopilot.
The things we were trying to fix minutes before the show were fine. Everyone was ON. It was a great show by Kow. We rocked, no, I'm sorry, we RAWKED the house.
We thanked the audience and ran offstage. We thought we went over the time limit by a few seconds, which by NoHarm rules would drop us a place in the standings regardless of how we did. We wouldn't be getting first place, no matter how much ass we kicked.
Dev thought he killed our chances by cracking on FBG's highest note. Which wouldn't have been the case regardless (losing because of one cracked note, that is...).
All I knew is that no matter which awards we didn't get, this was one set where I was really proud with what we accomplished. And nothing could take that away from me.
Ka (my old friend and producer of the show) came to me after the intermission, and asked how I was doing. I told her, quite honestly, that I was exhausted. Apparently, some people were asking her, "Jess, what's the deal with Kow?"
Jess: "What do you mean?"
Other people: "I can't believe that's the same group from a few years ago."
Other people were saying the same thing. Quintessential was telling me backstage that they loved our set, and they thought we had improved so much in the last year.
Vince, the group's tenor, said he was laughing so much from our set (in a good way) that he wasn't sure if he was going to be able to sing properly during their set.
Now, my opinion of the other groups:
Rhythm Speaks did a great job. Especially with their version of BoyzIIMen/Mariah Carey's "One Sweet Day." You can definitely tell these guys have practiced, and since they had a member change a month before the show, and they became a mixed group, it was pretty darn good.
Rhapsody was a tight Sweet Ads (female barbershop) group. Alas, I wasn't listening to them so much, as they went on after us, and that was when I had little energy to do anything except for reviewing our set in my head.
Quintessential was tight, as always, and their version of Glass Tiger's "Don't Forget Me When I'm Gone" was amazing. What I want to do this year is perform a joint concert with the group, and give them one of our arrangements in exchange for one of theirs. See how it'd sound with a different take.
It was also the first time I've ever heard a medley of Weird Al polka medleys. Yes, they actually combined a load of medleys and still made it pretty slick.
Vince was telling me they were having troubles with some of the risque songs that are in Weird Al's songs, so they added some from others, just so they don't alienate the audience. He then told me how much he liked Canton's slapping of Dev during Hey Ya's "Just wanna make you come-a" line as a way around potentially risque lyrics.
Last was No Assembly Required. They, as always, are very tight. Unfortunately, to ME, they're VERY whitebread. Not that it hurts them any when it comes to their audience. Their audience just isn't my audience is all. Different strokes...
Still, I can't say that they didn't sound good, because they sounded excellent. Joel, the tenor, has a great voice (and he won Best Soloist to boot), my old high school friend Spanks was a good addition as their high tenor. They did a few standards, a fast rollicking Newfoundland shanty. Good stuff.
No Assembly Required won the Audience Favourite award again this year. Good for them. Also, whichever fans of ours thought that trying to rig the voting so we'd win would be a good idea?
Please, we thank you for your devotion, but it's not necessary, especially when the producers can figure out that a ticket ripped in half is NOT two tickets.
Apparently, it happened in a bunch of voting boxes, but it was most prevalent in ours. Eight times.
Last year, thanks, but no thanks. Seriously, the only way we're going to win Audience Favourite is if we keep getting more people to come out to NH, not to have our friends try to cheat on our behalf.
The fact is, No Assembly Required is a safe group. And when it comes to NH, the audience is made up of (after friends and families of the groups) a lot of older folks who like the barbershop and traditional a cappella groups.
And No Assembly Required is definitely a traditional group. Good for them!
Kow's biggest weakness (and biggest strength, for that matter) is we ARE an edgy group. We don't always make our audience comfortable.
I mean, sure, we have fun performing (otherwise we wouldn't do what we do, obviously) and we have a lot of people who are fans of us. In fact, in the past two years, I can definitely say that not only have we improved in leaps and bounds, we've become known, as much as a cappella groups can be known, really.
But our musical tastes and tastes in most things, collectively, are not ones that are universal.
I mean, I can see us going back to NoHarm, because it is one of our favourite things to do, although it IS a competition, and sometimes we seem to be masochists in that respect.
And some people were thinking that the voting for Audience Favourite was rigged, since we seemed to have the most crowd support.
To which I say, quite emphatically, bullshit. We were not the most popular group there. I mean, sure, it might have been VERY close (and I'm sure it was), but the reason we keep on having good crowd support is, due in part, to the fact that we have VERY vocal fans. I'm sure that there were a lot of people who enjoyed us. I also know that when it came to the intermission, when I was selling shirts, there were a few people who wouldn't look me in the eye.
And, since NAR is a traditional, safe group, a lot of people felt a lot more comfortable voting for them. As well they should. We just have to get more of our friends' butts in seats next time. Same as it ever was...
(As it was, when we thought we went over in our time limit? We didn't. Out of 12 minutes allotted, we took up 11:55. So we were happy about that.)
Second place went to NAR as well. First place went to Quintessential. They took time for one last song, because Vince arranged with the producers beforehand to propose to his girlfriend onstage during their rendition of Good Lovin'.
The Chickadivas hosted the show, and did a good job with it. Although I DID have a sinking feeling in my stomach before they went on. Since I asked one of them:
"How many songs are you singing?"
Diva: "Oh, we've got 30-40 minutes."
Me, thinking: Do they know that it's already something like 10:00? Do they know they're not there to perform an entire concert?
As it was, Mike and Ka were almost killing themselves jumping up and down on the wings trying to get them to notice that they should stop after about 25 minutes.
* * *
So that's pretty much everything I remember about last night. I wouldn't change a thing about our performance, I'm proud of everyone in Kow for being so energetic, yet focused. Unfortunately, we fell a little short. Just gives us more of an impetus for next year.
* * *
In other Kow news, I've put our bootleg into my iMesh shared folder, so people are able to find Kow songs online in a file-sharing way now...
* * *
I finished Minister Faust's book The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad recently. Such a good book, I might use it as my book club's selection come my turn to host.
It was sort of sci-fi-ish, I guess. More like an urban fantasy with sci-fi elements that was brought to life and grounded it in reality due to Faust using Edmonton as the setting, as well as Faust knowing his characters' voices very well. I could actually see where these things took place, due to my familiarity with the city. It made it more real for me.
I heartily recommend picking this book up at the library or at your nearest bookstore.