It was a warm night on August 31st and it was even warmer inside the packed room of Delurk Art Gallery. With a small setup of beers and waters by Hoots Roller Bar & Beer Co. and a vast row of chairs in front of the stage, the 2017 Songwriter Standoff held a cozy atmosphere appropriate for the charming songs that would bless the ears of all who attended.
For those who don’t know, the Songwriter Standoff is a locally held battle of the bands for acoustic, singer/songwriter musicians to get a shot at 50% of the entry revenues. The competition consists of three rounds of one song by each competitor, where five songwriters continue on to the second round with a different song, and then two continue to the final round with a third song.
Each artist that performed was wonderful, either because they had beautiful stories to tell — be it heartbreak, wanderlust, or simply comic relief — or because the combination of tones they produced, combined with the calming melodies and cadences of their voices, simply drifted you away to a meadow of serenity, nestled between the peaks of snow-capped mountains. Every tale left you wanting more from each artist, and from only five were you able to fulfill that desire. Those five were Kendra & Zach Harding, Laura Jane Vincint, Tracy Colletto, Tom Troyer, and Jeff Wall.
Each of these five artists brought their own flavor of songwriting; even when they were of the same genre, each artist was refreshingly unique. The Hardings had a lovely cohesion, uniquely fitted by a couple with many experiences together and a shared love for music. Laura had wonderful presence coupled with traditional folk vibes and topped beautifully with swooning vocals. Tracy Colletto, the far-travelling Pennsylvanian, had the sound and cadences of a theatre production, skillfully throwing spoken word into her phrases, giving each line personality and sincerity. Tom Troyer, of the Greensboro band Farewell Friend, had thick and full folk-rock vocals expertly hushed over the quiet nature of an acoustic guitar. The towering comedian, Jeff Wall, is the last who played of these five. With songs titled “Love Everybody” and “Battery Operated Boyfriend,” Jeff brought an exquisite air of comedy and light-hearted fun throughout the room. Unfortunately, of those five, only two could continue to the final round, and after a hot and sweaty five-minute hiatus, we found out who those two were.
The Pennsylvanian and the swooning traditionalist. Tracy Colletto sang of human experience, of the frustrating day-to-day interactions that a soft-spoken observer would regularly come across, but shrugs off the inconvenience, because everybody has off days. Laura Jane Vincint sang a bluesy tale, one of the country, one that you would hear over the PA after a loud show to close out the night, one that could just lull you while you rest on a hammock enjoying the mountain air. It was a perfect closer, and a strong finish, worthy of making Laura the winner of the 2017 Songwriter Standoff.
Stage equipment was handcrafted and provided by Thomas Williams of Blue Maple Design LLC and sound tech was provided by SoundLizzard Productions. Without their help, the night couldn’t have been so beautiful.