Think American Idol finalist Blake Lewis can beat-box? Then you should have been at Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Va. this past May 15 to see how it’s really done. Two great local vocal groups took center stage in a fun night that featured classic songs, tremendous vocal arrangements, and dynamic “vocal percussion” performances.
dcVocals is an a cappella ensemble that has been operating in and around D.C. for a decade. Eleven members strong, they are a diverse and talented group of vocalists who focus on giving the audience an entertaining show while keeping the mood light. They performed a mix of well-known pop standards, and lesser-known fare.
Beat-boxer Ray Chang was terrific and fun to watch and also gave a nice lead vocal on The Beatles’ classic “Lady Madonna.” Other high points were band newcomer Kelsey Flora on Sheryl Crow’s “Steve McQueen” and Tracy Kellum on a beautiful rendition of “Get Out the Map.”
The group effectively used small props to get a few laughs between songs and to keep things entertaining between and during songs. Although it was a little tight onstage for 11 members, they seemed comfortable, and for the most part everybody looked to be having a good time. They started out the evening with a solid performance and are definitely worth checking out. For more information about dcVocals, visit their website at www.dcvocals.com.
After dcVocals concluded, the audience was ready for more vocal acrobatics, and Cartoon Johnny, the second act of the night, delivered an energetic and exciting set of covers and originals. The six-member a cappella group sang their hearts out for nearly an hour, and by the end they left the audience wanting more. Their highly original arrangements kept even the most familiar songs fresh and exciting.
Soprano Darcy Romano was terrific on the Cartoon Johnny original number “More Like You”, and a creative arrangement of the apost 80s standard “Walking on Sunshine,” which incorporated bits and pieces of other songs. Kieran Daly sang with real fervor and energy on a terrific rendition of Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” and especially The Outfield’s “Your Love”, which was one of the high points of the evening.
Daly clearly gave his all onstage and electrified the audience with his performance. Tenor vocalist Malcolm Lee, in his first appearance with Cartoon Johnny, was amazing and soulful on a show-stopping rendition of “Higher and Higher” and another group original, the lovely and poignant “Love Will Decide.” Baritone vocalist Mike Henrickson, sporting a cool Pac Man t-shirt, was outstanding as well, his rich voice dripping with feeling on “Walked Away” and the gorgeous “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight.”
Beat-boxer Ben Feeney was absolutely incredible -- he and bass vocalist Kevin Dixon were perfectly in sync all night. If you closed your eyes and listened, you would imagine a percussionist and bassist on stage -- they were that tight. Feeney’s incredible solo segment during “Any Way You Want It” was a clinic on the art of vocal percussion, and Dixon -- who sang baritone in the past -- made a seamless transition to singing bass. His vocals gave great depth to the arrangements, particularly on “Your Love” and “Higher and Higher,” both of which were stellar.
Cartoon Johnny was enthusiastic and clearly had a blast onstage. They carried the audience along with their excitement, and songs like “Stacy’s Mom,” the opening number “Careless Whisper,” “Drive My Car” and the rousing show-closer “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” were all exciting and crisply executed. It was great to see such tremendous local talent on display.
If you have a chance to see Cartoon Johnny give a performance, please don’t miss it. For more information, and to join the mailing list, visit www.cartoonjohnny.com.
Photo of Cartoon Johnny courtesy of Brendan Grey.