Butler students pursue rock star dreams

We may not have Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, Cee-Lo or Blake Shelton, but Butler University is searching for its new voice.

Java Jams started last Wednesday with seven eager participants, although only five of them will continue to perform again on Feb. 29 during the second round. Only three of those performers will make it to the final round on March 8.

“We’re pretty excited about how it turned out,” said Elissa Chapin, co-chair of Coffeehouse, which sponsors the event. “We wish we could have had more try-out, but all the acts definitely proved their talent on Wednesday.”

Tamara Bodnar started the night off by singing lively versions of “Taylor the Latte Boy,” made famous by Kristin Chenoweth, and “City,” a ballad from Sara Bareilles.

Next up was Brendon Holl, who performed some original tunes, giving off an alternative rocker vibe. He was followed by Kelly Baumgartner and Sora Lyu, who performed the Old Crow Medicine Show song “Wagon Wheel” and then did an about-face with a slowed-down version of Drake’s “Headlines.”

Then, the Matthew Ferris Band was up, the only act with a full band. The band also performed original songs, giving off a Guster vibe with a more heavy rock feel.

Gabrielle Tartara performed her own original songs as well. She performed alone and brought back memories of ‘90s women singer-songwriters.

Bob Barrick performed after her, sounding a bit like an acoustic Jack White on his own original songs.

Finishing the round was Taylor Nieta, performing “Go North” by Missy Higgins and “Big White Room” by Jessie J, sounding like a mix between Kate Nash and Ingrid Michaelson.

Holl and Tartara were the two participants eliminated in the first round. Although Tartara said she wished she could have made the second round, she has no regrets about participating.

“I love to perform,” Tartara said. “Just a chance to play for a crowd was fulfilling. It was definitely worth it.”

Tartara said that she thought all the performances were great, but she really enjoyed how unique Barrick’s performance was and thinks he could have a great shot at winning.

Neita advanced to the second round, competing for the second year in a row.

“Nothing beats the rush of performing for your peers,” she said. “Opportunities like this are what make me a better musician.”

Barrick also is an alum from last year. He said that the crowd seemed more sparse than last year, but they were extremely supportive of all the acts.

He said that he enjoyed Tartara’s performance because her voice reminded him of Joni Mitchell’s.

Chapin said audiences can only expect more surprises for the next two rounds. Last year, the final-round contestants had to perform a Michael Jackson number as a surprise challenge. Although Chapin couldn’t release what this year’s challenge is, she said she thinks everyone will really like it.

Also, some guest judges should be expected. Dodge from My Old Kentucky Blog is expected to make an appearance, and Ashley Plummer, new media coordinator for Butler by day and guitar player for local band Neon Love Life by night, will help out at both of the next rounds.

The next round will be held in Starbucks on Feb. 29. The third and final round will be held in the Reilly Room on March 8.

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