review by RJ Cubarrubia
photos by Katy McCourt-Basham
Experience Music Project’s Sound Off! Final Round is serious stuff; previous participants, like Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head, New Faces, and The Nextdoor Neighbors, have gone on to do some pretty cool things. This year’s highly anticipated (and sold out) March 2nd Final Round featured the three winners of the previous Semifinal Rounds, Dyno Jamz, Makeup Monsters, and Sol, and the fan voted wildcard band, Dearboy, taken from the runners-up of the previous Semifinals. Since we missed the first Semifinal (again, we’re sorry!), we had yet to see Dyno Jamz or Dearboy and both brought new unique sounds to the EMP Sound Church.
The first Semifinal winner, Dyno Jamz, started off the show with a touch of class of sophistication rarely seen in intelligent hip hop. With an arsenal of horns, a keyboardist, bassist, laid back drummer, and suspender-ed frontman, the Seattle group brought a funky jazzy groove to lyrically conscious hip hop. The horn section, with two trombones and two trumpets, and keyboardist were especially impressive; their classically trained jazz chops created tasty delicious grooves smoother than a baby’s butt. Their talents didn’t end there, as one of the trombonists displayed a beatboxing showboat, including banging his beat while playing harmonica. Unfortunately, although the MC could spit fast, he often seemed strained and at times failed to enunciate, which created sometimes incoherent lines over the nastiest funk slam dunks that I’ve heard jammed in a very long time. “Come Out and Play” particularly highlighted the bands skill, with a funky vibe and intelligent lyrics. Dyno Jamz is an especially talented group of musicians with a distinct and unique brand of sophisticated hip hop.
Seattle MC and the third Semifinal winner Sol brought his brand of intelligent heady hip hop and brought it even harder than his Semifinal set. Although lacking the hilariously wasted female fans and the guest appearance by Scribes seen in his previous performance, Sol brought his swagger, charm, and fresh flow with even more variety and more energy, even rhyming over beats with a quieter, smoother, acoustic feel while still bringing his consistent and agile flow. “Road is Rough” was especially hot this time around, with an aggressive beat and insightful and autobiographical lyrics. Sol is an extremely talented and versatile MC who can rhyme well over almost any beat.
Tacoma’s indie-pop duo and second Semifinal winner Makeup Monsters took to the stage next, but noticeably gone was their overwhelming legion of young female fans. The endearing and quirky duo played with tons of energy, producing beautiful, fun, smart, and well written pop songs served in a nice three minute packages. Unfortunately, the band’s DIY bedroom pop sound wasn’t geared for the headache inducing bright neon lights and Windows Media Player Visualizer backgrounds of the EMP Sound Church, and their charm, quirks, and thoughtfully written pop songs were lost on some of the audience. Fan favorite “Calamine” captured Makeup Monsters’ song writing prowess; these youngsters are going places.
Closing the night was the Wildcard winner, Seattle all-girl quartet Dearboy; with a unique combination of mandolin, synth, drums, and upright bass, the band created an anthropological blend of indie rock and Eastern European folk world music. The singer/mandolin player and drummer were both striking in appearance and skill, playing their instruments well with great presence. “You Live in Your Head” brought a haunting, intense sound with foot tapping beats that hit hard enough to tear down the Iron Curtain. The band created beautiful sounds but at times sounded sloppy on stage; still, these young women played a memorable set combining their gypsy folk with fun and engaging drum beats.
After the votes were tallied, the results were announced, with Makeup Monsters taking fourth, Dearboy snagging third, Sol claiming second, and Dyno Jamz winning first place and a set at this year’s Bumbershoot (among many other things). Congratulations to all the bands and we’re sure we’ll see a lot from each of these young and talented artists in the very near future.