VoCAL nation 2013 - Philly
For the second time this year, Fermata Town ventured to a CASA festival together, except this time it was over 300 miles away and not in our Boston backyard. We’d been looking forward to VoCALnation for months and the weekend was finally upon us. For those of you that couldn’t make it to Philadelphia, here’s a recap of the Townies trip to the city of brotherly love.
Thursday night: Several Townies set out for Philly, some detouring in NY for the night while others headed straight to the city via the Bolt Bus.
Friday – Everyone made it into the city with scattered arrivals throughout the day. Some of us were able to enjoy some touristy things such as checking out the Liberty Bell, running up the Rocky Steps and making a stop at Pat’s/Geno’s for a Philly cheesesteak!
We checked into the Sheraton where many of the CAL groups were staying and then made our way down Chestnut Street to the First Unitarian Church for the CAL Showcase featuring seven groups from all over the place. We had a great spot in the front right of the church for the showcase and really enjoyed the music despite temperatures in the upper 80’s inside the building. Yes, it was hot, but it was absolutely 100% the CAL groups bringing the heat!
KeyStone, the host group from Philadelphia kicked things off with a few tunes including an awesome version of Brave by Sarah Bareilles. We just wanted to take a second to publicly thank KeyStone for all the work they put in this weekend behind the scenes to make everything run so smoothly! Not to mention, they were some of the nicest aca-people we’ve ever met!
The first half of the show featured three CAL groups from Washington, DC. The Capital Hearings, The District and Euphonism. The Capital Hearings mixed up their set with some classical as well as contemporary music while The District made their CAL debut! Euph closed out the first half with an upbeat and fun set including some reggae.
Restated (formerly The Red States from NYC) opened up the second half of the show with one of the best performances of the weekend before Sunday Afternoon took the stage. SA travelled around 20 hours by car from Iowa to join the weekend festivities and they did not disappoint. Closing out the CAL performances was Vox Pop from DC. Last year’s CAL headliners debuted a bunch of new music that will be featured on their upcoming album that you won’t want to miss!
Following the show we headed back to the hotel to settle in a little and cool down before we headed back out. We didn’t make it to the sponsored after party the first night because we had a long day ahead of us on Saturday but did check out a fun spot close to the hotel called The New Deck Tavern for one round of adult beverages before calling it a day.
Saturday – Big day for the Townies! On top of all the great workshops, we were super excited to be opening up the Professional Showcase for our CAL friends Cognitive Resonance and Groove For Thought from Season 2 of The Sing Off.
Some of us headed out earlier to catch the first workshop of the day with Groove For Thought while others opted to sleep in a little and join the fun at workshop #2.
It was great to sit in on topics that were so relevant to the CAL scene and also awesome to chat with members from other CAL groups to see what else everyone was up to. There’s so much talent in the League and we hope that we have the chance to perform with many more of the groups we interacted with over the weekend!
Following a Townie lunch, we split back up to check out some of the afternoon workshops. Dan was actually teaching one of them, Recording Business Management, which was really cool to see especially after having just recently been through the entire process with our debut album, Hold That Thought. <----- BUY ME!
After the final workshop, we gathered in what seemed like the only air conditioned room in the building, maybe Philadelphia, for a quick warm up before our sound check at 5:30. We headed into the church which seemed a little bit cooler than the night before and were assigned our individual mic numbers. We met Jeremy Jones, the sound engineer from Sonic Audio who was running the sound for the show and checked some levels before diving right into the set.
The church was very boomy and we were having some trouble hearing one another on stage. It took a few songs to get our monitors to a level that we were comfortable with but overall it was a good sound check and we were ready to go!
We hurried back to the hotel to shower and change before returning to the air conditioning at the church waiting for call. Cog Res shared the space with us and it was so fun hanging out with them a bit back stage. I think we both calmed each other’s pre-show nerves a bit which made the performance a lot of fun.
Before we knew it, we were lining up back stage to kick off the show! Amy Engelhardt formerly of the Grammy nominated vocal band The Bobs was an MC for the evening alongside Rene Ruiz from Toxic Audio. As the two introduced us, we put our hands in for a pre-show pep talk and reminded one another that this was the first time in months that we were not competing for something, and to just have fun!
We opened the set and debuted our newest song, Twentysomething. This could very easily become a Fermata Town anthem as it’s lyrics perfectly describe what we’re all about. Tommy crushed the solo and we were off to a high-energy start for the night!
Next up, Alex took the mic and prepped the audience for Lonely Boy, another new tune with a more serious feel. The intention was there and combined with our new choreo, this one appeared to be a major crowd pleaser.
For our third song we slowed it down a bit with our original tune, Starting Line. Katya did her thang on the lead and showed everyone exactly why the song was awarded Best Original Song at the 2013 National Harmony Sweepstakes finals. Dave Longo of Sled Dog Studios/The Vocal Company tweeted “The thing about @FermatTown’s “Starting Line” is that it should be on top of the @iTunes and @Loudr #jazz charts. Because, awesome.” Thanks, Dave! Let’s just say it’s on our to-do list to lay down those tracks!
After a sincere thank you from Dan, we took our places for our final song of the set, Circus. The song has received lots of attention since the album release in December and has become our go-to closer at almost every show. I think we delivered because as Chris held on to the final note, the crowd broke out with a standing ovation to send us off stage.
Absolutely amazing. We were incredibly honored for this performance opportunity and can’t thank the community enough for inspiring us to step up our game and sound. We were awed by the amount of talent over the weekend and were truly grateful for this chance. Thank you to everyone who was in attendance on Saturday night for making us feel like we belong in this community!
After some hugs and high-fives backstage, we scooted around to the back of the church to catch Cog Res put on an equally amazing performance that also brought the house to their feet! This was the first time many of us had heard them live and they are the real deal! Great arrangements, intense on-stage chemistry and effective choreo made this another unforgettable performance. Well done, ya’ll!
During the intermission we got to say hello to family and friends that made the trip out to see us as well as continue some conversations with fellow CAL members from earlier in the day. This was the first time that much of the CAL community was able to see FTown perform live so it was very humbling to hear their reactions to our set. We had worked very hard to get everything performance ready so hearing everyone’s kind words made everything more than worth it.
Act 2… Groove For Thought… WOW. There’s not much else that can be said because they were that good. Obviously the majority of fans in attendance had heard some of their stuff from Season 2 of The Sing Off but TV audio doesn’t do them justice. If you have the chance to go see them live, DO IT! Tightest jazz harmonies you’ll probably ever hear in the a cappella world. And they do it so effortlessly. AND they were sooo nice! A third standing ovation would wrap up an amazing showcase that we were so happy to be a part of.
We headed over to the after party at McGillin’s for some well-deserved drinks and continued to network with some of the community. Townie alum, Cayla, was able to join us from NYC for the night which was super fun since we miss her dearly.
The gang headed back to the Sheraton after lots of celebrating and closed the night with some late-night pizza and of course a hotel sing-a-long at 4 a.m. Our neighbors didn’t complain so we must have been somewhat in key...
Sunday – We were up and checked out of the hotel by 11:30 am. It was back to the church for our masterclass with CASA president Tom Anderson at noon. Tom is one of the most creative and respected arrangers in the world so this was really a treat to spend an hour with him.
He made it very clear before we started that if we gave him a crappy performance at anything less than 100% effort that the session wasn’t going to be as beneficial to us as it could be. Give me your best and I’ll make you better he said, so that’s what we did!
We ran the whole set from the night before and Tom was really impressed with our sound and unique arrangements. Most of his comments were “nit-picky” which he said was a testament to the work we had put in. He wasn’t always crazy about some of the choreo we had which we could totally relate to. Until very recently, we didn’t have any choreography so we’re new in that game as well and it will continue to be a work in progress.
Probably the coolest part of the workshop was towards the end when we were just shooting the breeze with him and he said, “Musically, you guys are better than most professional a cappella groups.” Best. Compliment. EVER!
Thanks, Tom for an awesome masterclass! If you ever want to arrange something for us, we’ll gladly sing it!!
After that, we headed to the nearest piano to practice. Yep, no joke, we still held rehearsal this weekend but it was a little different than usual. We were rehearsing to learn our parts for the VoCALnation Collaborative Recording track in which we’d be singing parts of Radio Song by Esperanza Spalding. This track is going to feature Groove For Thought, Fermata Town and all the VCN2013 VIP’s.
After about 90 minutes of rehearsal, we started to record the song in parts. Altos went first and the recording team was impressed on how well they knew the piece! Sopranos were next, followed by the basses and finally the tenors closed things out. The final tracks were recorded around 5:30 PM and after a big group hug we were off on our separate ways to journey back to Boston. Peter flew home (1 hour, 10 minute flight) while everyone else drove (8 hours). Peter, you win.
In summation, this weekend is the perfect example of why we continue to do what we do. It’s not about the money, or fame or recognition but simply about connecting with a community who loves a cappella music and performing it as much as we do. We return to Boston feeling completely inspired and full of love thanks to the wonderful CAL community.
Thank you to the VCN2013 Production team for putting together an absolutely amazing festival. The CASA crew continues to outdo itself time after time!
Until next time friends!!
<3 Fermata Town