Soulstice Annual Showcase Spotlights Student Stars

Soulstice took over the Bren Events Center for its 6th annual show last Thursday, March 2, and it was better than ever. The student-run show, which highlights talent at UCI, featured 13 acts competing under four categories: Solo/Duet, Band, A Cappella and Dance. The winner of each category was based upon the average of judges’ scores and an audience vote for the  People’s Choice Award.

Each year, Soulstice brings in celebrity guest judges, and for students who grew up in the Golden Age of Disney Channel, this year’s  judges were notable  stars. These included Adrian R’Mante, who played Esteban Julio Ricardo Montoya de la Rosa Ramírez from Disney’s “Suite Life of Zack and Cody” (also a living meme) and Anneliese Van Der Pol, who played Chelsea in “That’s So Raven.”

In between the acts, Soulstice League, a group of 16 students, provided live performances and taped skits that arguably stole the show. Blending pop culture references and UCI culture, like the “Hamilton” spoof of $2 boba on Ring Road, League made what seems ordinary to UCI students hilarious and unique. They brilliantly picked up on the stereotypes  of student  life, like the different personalities each major tends to have in a clever and light-hearted way. Taking home the award for Best League Skit was “Anteater Cypher,” an incredibly well written rap and guide to UCI.

“League gets our best ideas from the things we observe and what we are familiar with. If we love K-Pop or memes or ‘Hamilton,’ that’s what we end up gravitating towards,” said Misha Ponnuraju, writer and director of  “Soulstice Things” skit that parodied the “Stranger Things” Netflix show. “We all have different backgrounds, personalities, experiences, and fields of interest, so it’s really easy to build off that. What I love most about working with League is how creative and different we all are, so everyone brings in different types of humor and stories. We also just love memes.”

After a handful of pre-show exhibition acts,  the dance group Square One Project kicked off the competition with their routine, followed by swoon-worthy soloist Khoa Pham, and the band The Alley Crabs. One of the more unique acts of the night was fusion a capella group Andaaz, which performed a mix of melodies and beats from classical Indian music with contemporary Western music. The first half wrapped up with Project Team Dance Crew Modern, duo act Will & Imon, and last year’s Best A Capella Group,  Vermillion Vocalists

Bizarrely, none of the acts from the first half took home any awards and it was instead the acts in the second half of the show that won the best of each category.

Beginning the second half, and taking home the Best Band award was T.M.C. (The Millennial Club) who performed an original song. Their angsty/indie vibe mixed with a modern pop greatly contrasted  the slower songs from the soloists and the uptempo dance crews.

“It was so fun getting the song ready for Soulstice, and playing it for the first time on a stage like that was a very exciting experience,” said T.M.C. drummer Tyler Kamei.

Following T.M.C. was soloist Harmonie Carr who received the People’s Choice Award as well as the only standing ovation of the night after her rendition of Beyoncé’s  “Listen” from the “Dreamgirls” soundtrack. Powerful, emotional, and nearly flawless, the performance stunned audience members, and her win was no surprise.

“I had so much fun participating in the show. Winning the People’s Choice Award meant a lot to me, knowing that the Bren was holding about 2,500 people that night and the audience intended for me to win.” said Carr.

The night’s overall winner as well as the Best Dance winner was Down in the D.M., taking home a $1000 cash prize. While they started off a bit slow, their choreography and energy became impressive and the crowd went wild. The judges were visibly entranced by their routine, and the precision of the performance showcased their clear talent. Founded only a year ago, the group consists of members from different teams in the Irvine dance community.

Uniting Voices took home Best A Capella Group and the Hustle Award (given to the group that sells the most tickets) after a beautiful performance that proved that a capella isn’t only fun when it’s in Pitch Perfect.

While the next band, Anon J, unfortunately didn’t take home any awards, their Japanese punk rock-inspired music was full of energy. Audience members weren’t really sure how to respond to the loud and at times strange vocals, but it was definitely memorable.

Last, but certainly not least, was Best Solo/Duo winner Andrea Leonor who performed her original song “All of My Heart,” a sweet and heartfelt love song. With only a guitar accompanying her, Leonor’s voice shined and the audience was quickly sucked into the intimate performance. It was a wonderful way to end the night.

“I never expected to win Best Solo Act. Everyone out there were really talented. It was such an honor to perform,” said Leonor after reflecting on Thursday night’s win.