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Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - Page updated at 12:30 p.m.

The Deep Wake takes first round of EMP's 'Sound Off!' competition

By Celina Kareiva
Seattle Times staff reporter

Concert Review |

By the time the winner of the first round of EMP's Sound Off! competition ascended the stage Saturday, much of the crowd — perhaps 300 at the start — had thinned out.

Too bad. The folks who left missed one of the most polished performances of the night.

Bainbridge Island's The Deep Wake — which progresses to the finals March 3 — stood out for its folksy, sometimes twangy acoustics and soft melodies, as singers Adam Foley and Laura Jean Anderson laced their harmonies with guitar, fiddle and banjo.

Sound Off!, now in its 11th year, is an annual 21-and-under battle-of-the-bands showcasing local talent from every wavelength of the musical spectrum. Saturday's show jolted the crowd with raw energy.

Seattle's The Unibroz, more of a comedy act than a hip-hop group, opened the show with a lively set. For its last song, the band projected a photograph of a saxophone-shaped chicken tender onto the stage, the inspiration for a single called "Crispy Chicken Saxophone."

Dungeon Science, from Tacoma, followed with a deeply soulful rock set with bluesy undertones.

Jazzy rap crew Sam Lachow, with natural instrumentals and stunning vocals, was a crowd favorite, working the audience like a well-oiled machine.

"'Sound Off!' has become so much more diverse and eclectic in its selection of acts," commented Jonah Bergman of Schoolyard Heroes, a former contestant and a judge at this year's show.

The evening serves as a launchpad for artists new to the industry, said Jessi Reed, public programming coordinator for EMP and producer of this year's event.

"Already we've gotten so many names and contacts, it's awesome," said Adam Foley of The Deep Wake.

The singer-songwriter also said last night's show was a departure from the band's usual setting, having mostly played in living rooms and among close friends.

The camaraderie among Saturday's Sound Off! contestants was evident from their lively enthusiasm for each new act. Bands cheered on their competitors from the front row and even free-styled raps around the other artists.

Second place went to Sam Lachow, which will be added to a pool of wild-card contestants who compete with the winners of each semifinal round. The overall winner will be awarded a performance at Bumbershoot, studio time and industry consultation, among other prizes.

Sound Off! continues Saturday with four more bands.

Celina Kareiva: 206-384-8904 or ckareiva@seattletimes.com

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