In the past, the OPUS Band Competition always brings out the diversity of music in Manhattan. This
year was no exception. Performances ranged from Christian folk crooners The Clearing to
Moonshine fueled powerhouse Joshua Jay and the Nighthawks. All of the
performances had their strengths, but the winning outcome was predictable to those in
First up, Vineyard has the potential to become something amazing. They’re full of promise, but are still at the beginning of their journey. Vineyard only formed over the summer and their progression in sound and stage performance has improved with every show. Last night, the group debuted a new song written by Tanner Bott, guitar and vocals.
“I’ve seen more tragedy in the last few years than anytime in my life,” Bott said. “It’s not just my problems; it relates to anyone. Life sucks sometimes and other times it’s great. The song is the transition from the bad days to the good days.”
The song was powerful, just like the entire performance, as their strength lies in their passion. Nerves still creep up on stage, however, especially with new material. With the right amount of confidence, they will continue to impress. Vineyard took second place in the competition.
Hard Way contributed professional jazz and blues to the evening. They’re clearly experienced musicians, and their power lied in their technique. Proper form and elements of classic jazz and blues made their show stand out in terms of style of music, but ultimately left no memorable impression.
The Clearing ended up placing third, which was no surprise to those in attendance. The three person ensemble had clear Christian roots, but empowered their songs with mandolin and keys. They had an original folk take on a style of music that falls prey to stereotypes all too often. An original, refreshingly modern take on Christian music fused with powerful vocals from all members made the audience think twice about their preconceived notions. They showed that a melodic sound can still compete with booming competitors.
Joshua Jay and the Nighthawks are a force that can’t be stopped. Jay has depth, soul and wails out tunes while his Nighthawks rock out on stage with him in a way that’s reminiscent of a family band. Tony Scalora shreds on a mandolin like a genius. The sound is whiskey-soaked country but, in a way, no one but this group can pull off. Jay makes his own rules and at the core is all about the music.
Carney Encore was the clear winner by the end of their first song. Their performance was so strong, and
each member is powerful in their own right. As a unit they command the
stage; there’s no ignoring a band like this. When you’re in the audience you
have no choice but to get entranced in their sound. Kyle Myers, lead vocals and graduate student in counseling and student development, empowers the lyrics and works the stage. That is such a crucial element for a
winning band. They have the big time show of a band that’s been together for
years and played huge venues, which is certainly in their future if they keep their stride.