I had few criticisms at The Acoustic LIVE Challenge this week, as almost every performer’s sound was all their own and remarkably alluring. The three month-long event features five new performers every Thursday at The Ugly Monkey. The rules are simple: acoustic music only (no drums or electric instruments), original music only (no cover songs), and no more than three people on-stage per performer (supporting musicians are allowed, but that number is limited).
As someone who frequents The Mousetrap and local music festivals often, it was a refreshingly pleasant change for me to hear the traditionally jam-banding Max Allen (and MAB bassist, Dace Robie, on upright bass) in an acoustic setting. The stripped down sound put equal emphasis on Max’s vocals and guitar skills. Robie was fairly reserved until the end when he awed the audience with innovative plucks, rubs, strikes, and strums on nearly every region of his instrument’s body.
Mauck, another Evansville contestant in the Acoustic LIVE Challenge, reminisced with the audience of his dreadful trip to The Challenge last year when his car lost its transmission en route to the show. He had better luck this year, performing a set wherein the judges agreed he’s “doing nothing wrong”, but suggested he incorporate a modernized sound to help make his music more noticeable and catchy.
Emily Poe Project
The Emily Poe Project (consisting of the satirical Emily Hoffman and timid Austin Matthew Scholl) is by no means lively or energetic, two qualities I almost always demand of the music I enjoy listening to. Instead, the pair captivates their audience with swift (but delicate) guitar fingerings and dainty (but mesmerizing) harmonies. Hoffman’s sass is curiously charming, but requires refinement. With a stronger and confident stage presence, the duo will be unstoppable.
Mills and his two accomplices, The Upright Willies (consisting of Grover Parido on cello and William Rood on upright bass), exemplified true competence with a flawless set. Mills, a previous Acoustic LIVE Challenge champion, sang with a strong, amiable voice and played with a naturally enthusiastic energy. Together, the three seasoned musicians performed one of the best and most-accessible alt-country rock sets yet.
The second Evansville contestant of the night, Chaddock came to life on stage with unrivalled humor and an unexpectedly charismatic presence. Her vocals were squeaky clean and idiosyncratic, laid atop changing guitar harmonies that never bored. Adding to her randomosity were frequent Lil’ John references, an analogy that compared her set time to baking cookies, and a mention of her album called “Some Shit I Do”.
The top two winners advance to the semifinals on May 19th.
1. Chad Mills
2. Max Allen
3. Lacey Chaddock
4. Emily Poe Project
5. Aaron Mauck
Danielle covers local music for NUVO.net and IndyMojo.com.