Pride and ‘Soul’ at UCI

If it was ever a question whether or not UC Irvine had any soul, the question could finally be answered with a resounding “Yes.” After seeing UCI’s Second Annual Talent Competition “Soulstice” this past Friday at the Bren Events Center, I was truly amazed at the array of talents that not only auditioned to get in, but also were passionate about their art as hobbies rather than possible career choices.

“Soulstice” consisted of 15 student acts broken up into four general categories: band, a cappella, solo/duet and dance. At the end, a winner was selected in each category, and eventually an overall winner was chosen to receive a prize of $400.

Those who judged the competition were also of considerable notoriety, including a talent agent, YouTube star AJ Raphael and last year’s “Soulstice” winner Tim Ketenjian.

To add comedic relief, each talent act was followed by a comedic skit performed by “The League,” a group of auditioned students who acted as emcees for the show to provide transitions.

“We began meeting in August to start brainstorming and planning skits for the show,” third-year “League” member Jabari McDonald said. “Generally, we’d write a skit, pitch it to the group, and then vote on ones we like the best. So the show is made up of skits by everyone. Some of the best skits are ones that people collaborated on or were the products of several people.”

Skits included a parody of “Les Misérables’” “I Dreamed a Dream,” versions of move trailers adapted to punny titles and the best skit of the night, a dance parody, as well as melody, of R. Kelly’s music.

For the most part, the skits were great, bringing a smile to my face since “The League” chose to keep material relevant to Anteaters, poking fun at the late-night inebriated Jack-in-the-Box frequenters, as well as hall partiers who often suffer the repercussions of the Resident Advisor Duty Team.

In terms of the “Soulstice” performers themselves, the group overall was extremely talented. There were a few standout performances, especially by the band “The Codex,” whose lead singer had wonderful vocal strength, the a cappella group “Uniting Voices,” who sang a moving version of “I Believe I Can Fly” and the dance group “The Heist,” who creatively themed their performance to a robbery.

The show was a close call, with many performances deserving of the win; however, the final category winners were, for the most part, in line with my votes: the instrumental group “D-Lights,” who played a rendition of Alicia Keys songs on saxophones, drums and percussion for Band; “Circle of Fifths” performing “Feel Again” by One Republic winning for a cappella; the duet “Jin & Gray” for their original music in the Solo/Duet category; and the “David Lee Project” for Dance.

Although the overall winner came down to a single vote, the “D-Lights” were announced the winners of the Second Annual “Soulstice” Talent Competition. The saxophonists’ shocked faces were truly wonderful to see as they received their $400 check as well as trophy on stage in front of a screaming crowd of over a thousand students, who loved the “D-Lights” for walking the audience down a nostalgic and musical memory lane.

“The goal of Soulstice was to unite UCI for one night of passion in soul,” Executive Director Colbie Milliken said, “and overall I think it went pretty well.”

The show was a wonderful realization as a graduating UCI student. It is a time when one can view artistic Anteaters in their natural habitats, and it was truly an inspirational sight.

Overall, “Soulstice” was a surprisingly wonderful show that, despite a few rough moments, encompassed more soul than I even thought possible. Well done, Anteaters, well done.

Editor’s Note: Check out photography from the event in the gallery below! All photos, unless otherwise marked, by Phuc Pham | New University.