Musicians from all over the world gathered at the Temecula Valley Film Festival for MusicFest and Kat Ellis (my photographer) and I were sitting in the front row anxiously waiting to hear the sounds of the upcoming contestants. I was psyching myself up for a wide variety of genres to critique and many I knew were not exactly what I prefer to listen to especially with a booming speaker only a few feet away.
While the stage was being prepared for the upcoming attractions, we skipped on over to the theatre where Connie Stevens was viewing her film that she wrote and directed called Saving Grace B. Jones. Starring Tatum O’Neil as a woman with severe mental problems and an A-list of other cast members, this terrifying thriller is set in 1950’s Missouri. Growing up in the 60’s I remember Connie Stevens in such TV series as 77 Sunset Strip and in bit parts on The Love Boat. In her 70’s now I was amazed at how gracefully she has aged. After the viewing she submitted to a question and answer session. After a plethora of media inundated the place and deluged her with the flash of their cameras, we all moved on to the next event.
By this time the stage was set and a small pretty little gal by the name of Brooke Rose stepped up barefooted and sung her first song. She appeared somewhat nervous in spite of impressive credentials. She has won awards for outstanding Pop Performer, Singer/Songwriter and is up for Female Vocalist of the Year. She’s only 16 years old and began her career singing the National Anthem at Southern California Stadiums. A local Corona girl she shows a lot of passion in her vocals and I’m sure we’ll see more of this up and coming pop star.
Next up was an alternative folk singer named Joseph Pfeifer from San Diego. Pfeifer has been involved in the local music scene for over 10 years. Immersed in music at an early age with a father who is a classical pianist, he began playing acoustical guitar at 13. He traveled as a teenager to Eastern Europe and sang at an orphanage. It was at that point that he knew music was what he was born to do. He began writing his own material soon after and cites Bob Dylan and Coldplay as inspiring him the most. Early in 2010 he released his debut album “Good Company” after years of play in churches, camps, and other venues.
The Worsties was the band that I had heard most about and I wasn’t sure just exactly how I’d feel about their form of music. A female-fronted indie pop band they immediately exploded onto the stage with a vast amount of energy. Based in Nashville they are one of the top ten most requested rock bands on the radio. The Worsties are: Anna Worstell on vocals, Jesse Worstell on guitar, Jairo Ruiz on Bass, Nathan Shelton on drums. My kind of music or not, I thought to myself, “These guys are good, really good.” Opening for Kid Rock and Bon Jovi they have toured consistently since 2008 and have had various TV placements. The Worsties were not the “worst” band there. In fact they were quite good.
Described on the schedule as a band that plays rock, Wires in the Wall was more eclectic in their style and reminded me of a hybrid blend of hardcore and punk with a hint of new wave. Based in Los Angeles this five-piece band has members from all corners of the country and consists of singer-guitarist Warren Sroka (NYC), bassist Nick Tracz (Upstate NY), guitarist Dave Irelan (Oregon), drummer Bryan King (Virginia) and multi-instrumentalist Dave Sicher (Illinois). This band is known for their storytelling, but this is not an anemic folksy band. This band is powerful and quite interesting.
Next on the bill was a gorgeous tall blonde from Russia with an amazing powerful voice. Alina Smith has been a soloist since she was nine years old. She moved to the United States in her teens and has won a number of awards for songwriting and performances since then. A pop singer with folk and country undercurrents, her voice has a very distinctive tonal quality to it. Michael Jackson was her first artist idol and she has recorded his song “You Are Not Alone” for a compilation CD in Japan and nimbly played the keyboards and sang it for us.
Sixteen musicians made the finals to play at MusicFest and we were able to observe and listen to five. The audience voted on each contestant on six categories with a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the best: Vocals, Musicianship, Image, Songs, X-Factor and Presentation.
We left the stage area and headed towards our car when a limousine pulled up. We did what any good journalists would do and poised ourselves with cameras in hand to try and catch a glimpse of who was being ushered inside the main theatre. A surprise special feature presentation of At Long Last Love was being viewed late that night starring Cybill Shepherd and written and directed by Peter Bogdanovich and they were the guests that were being carefully attended to. Youngsters probably are clueless as to who these two movie greats are. Cybill Shepherd was a former beauty queen and model and I remember her best in the late 1980’s TV series “Moonlighting” with Bruce Willis. She’s also appeared in the recent TV series “Psych” and began her movie career with The Last Picture Show in 1971 which Bogdanovich directed. He also directed Texasville, What’s Up Doc? Paper Moon, and Mask. At Long Last Love was a musical comedy that starred both Burt Reynolds and Cybill Shepherd with music and lyrics by Cole Porter. A homage to 1930’s musicals that was released in 1975 the reviews were scathing and it was a box office flop. Recently the movie was re-edited and that version was shown with a question and answer period that followed. Bogdanovich took the stage and kept the audience enthralled with his levity and admission to the boondoggle he made in At Long Last Love. Shepherd carried herself with the beauty and poise of a former model and still has the air of a “star.”
The event was finally over and musicians, celebrities, crew and even the media finally filed out. Five days of films and two days of music and the top 2011 TVIFF MusicFest winner was announced. The audience choice award went to The Worsties. It appeared that ultimately The Worsties, were The Besties according to the results of the judging.
To experience more watch our Video by Neil Semard.
Photos by Kat Ellis.