The stars were out on the evening of Feb. 12, lining the stage of UCI’s annual Soulstice competition. Held in front of a full, roaring crowd at the Bren Events Center, the talent competition boasted 15 different acts in the categories of A Capella, Band, Dance, Fusion and Solo/Duet.
Now in its fourth year, Soulstice is a night in which UCI boasts its best and brightest performers in a competition for the $500 first prize. The event, however, was far more than just a mere competition — it was a broad showcase and celebration of the talent housed at UCI.
The night kicked off with third-year Keiran Moriah, a contestant in the Solo/Duet category. She performed a soulful medley backed only by piano that began with Beyoncé’s “Mine” and ended with an emotional cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” The solid performance was an indication of the quality of talent for the rest of the night.
Competing along Moriah in Solo/Duet was the duo Tailored Hearts and fourth-year Adrienne Del Rosario, who stunned the crowd with her performance of Lea Salonga’s “Two Words.” Del Rosario’s goosebump-raising rendition helped her grab first place in the category, along with the People’s Choice award.
Though the Fusion category had only two contestants, their unique qualities made them both great standouts of the show. Guai Guai (乖乖), the stage name for fourth-year Dennis Han, gave an eclectic, passionate rap performance that mixed both Mandarin and English lyrics.
Jodaiko, the winner in the category, delivered a beautifully composed and impressively synchronized taiko performance that left the audience hushed in awe.
As expected, UCI’s famed dance groups all gave fantastic performances in the Dance category, with last years’ Soulstice Dance and Overall winner, 50 Shades of Shade, taking first in the category once again. Giving them a great run for their money was Peaches and Rings, who incorporated beautiful ballet and contemporary moves within their set.
The winners of A Capella, Uniting Voices, gave a brilliant mash-up of “Uptown Funk,” “Crazy in Love” and “Senorita.” Circle of Fifths, though lacking slightly in their vocals, gave an endearing mash-up set composed of main songs from the “Guardians of the Galaxy” mixtape.
This year was definitely the year for Bands, whose contestants surely made it difficult for the judges to decide on a winner. The Timothy John Band won the category with a soulful, indie original composition, but the race was neck-to-neck, especially with the Double Takes and Deliverance.
Deliverance did a rock instrumental set that demonstrated a great amount of musical talent, led by guitarist Brandon Ialenti. The group melded with each other perfectly and presented a wonderfully executed set that worked in great harmony, without any instrument being overwhelming or overbearing.
The Double Takes shone brightly in their own way, incorporating both a saxophone and flute solo in their medley mash-up, which included “P.Y.T.” and “Put a Little Lovin’ in Your Heart.” Their mind-blowingly energetic set catapulted the band to win the coveted $500 Overall Alpha first-prize.
In between acts, Soulstice League’s high-quality skits and videos kept the crowd’s energy up. Lampooning on subjects well-known to a UCI crowd, like parking, the library, the no-smoking policy and a satirical video harping on the campus becoming a private school, there was never a dull moment waiting in between acts.
The announcements for the winners were probably the least important part of the show — Soulstice’s composition encompassed so much more than mere rankings. Instead, it was more of a love letter both to the budding talent of the school and the student body, as seen in the final act of the night when League and all the performers joined onstage to sing “(I’ve Had) the Time of my Life.”
And naturally, the crowd of UCI students roared back their reciprocation.