Windham County's Got Talent: Teen band wows the crowd
BRATTLEBORO — Tightrope walkers, glow-in-the-dark baton twirling, an aerialist, opera singers and a math magician were among the 12 acts that proved Windham County has a whole lot of talent.
In the end, top prize went to Moxie, a local indie band made up of four teenagers no older than 16.
"You guys are not just great for your age, you're great," said Peter Elwell, town manager and one of five local judges for Windham County's Got Talent at the Latchis Theatre Thursday night.
The event was modeled after the NBC show "America's Got Talent." It was hosted by New England Newspapers Inc., the parent company of the Brattleboro Reformer. Whetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery was the main sponsor and provided alcoholic beverages for those over 21. Brattleboro Subaru and Cocoplum Appliances were cornerstone sponsors.
Elwell and the other judges, David Hiler, the owner of Whetstone; Josh Unruh, advertising sales manager at the Reformer and chairman of the Vernon Select Board; John Sciacca, general manager of Brattleboro Subaru; and Sciacca's 8-year-old son Sabin were tasked with choosing a winner to award a $1,000 check. The judges had narrowed it down to two contestants and waited to see who the audience preferred before announcing Moxie as the winner.
The band performed two original songs for the show. Before they started playing, the band's singer, 14-year-old Rei Kimura, took a moment to thank everyone and compliment the talent of the other contestants.
John Sciacca said their introduction showcased their maturity. "That's very, very mature for a 14-year-old," he said.
But it wasn't just the teenagers' attitudes that people found impressive.
Warren Dews, chief consumer sales/event officer at NENI and the show's emcee, was wowed at 15-year-old David Cohen's bass playing skills.
"Did you hear that bass line?" he asked the audience. "That's 50-year-old bass."
What was especially remarkable to judges was Kimura's deep voice.
"Your voice, at 14 years old, way older," Unruh said. "Soulful of soul."
Both songs performed Thursday expressed heartbreak, which isn't something everyone would expect a 14-year to have much experience with. Kimura said she originally got the tone of adult songs through imitation. Now that she's 14, she said, she can relate more to some of the grown-up themes.
Hiler, who regularly works with talent booked at Whetstone, had a piece of advice that he thought the teens' parents might disapprove of: "You guys should just seriously drop out of school right now and get going," he said.
Morris Kimura, Rei Kimura's dad, said he didn't think his daughter would be dropping out of school anytime soon.
"I always tell Rei, it's a hobby," he said. "School comes first. All the kids know that ... She could be the doctor who plays music or the journalist who plays music."
He was excited to see his daughter on stage though.
"She always sang, ever since she was a little kid," he said. Both Kimura's parents sing, so Kimura was never far from music growing up.
Jess Weitz, lead guitarist Leander Holzapfel's mom, also enjoyed watching the band. "This is the biggest place they've ever played," she said of the Latchis, which had more than 500 seats filled for the event. "They have so much comfort and stage presence now."
The band echoed those sentiments.
"I felt a lot less anxious than at smaller venues," said Daniel Snyder, the drummer.
Despite their newfound confidence, all four teenagers admitted they hadn't expected to win.
Morris said the band joined the contest to get their name out there. The band writes their music together. Kimura will come to the rest of the band with lyrics and then together they'll figure out what sounds good.
The group said the $1,000 first prize check will go back to promoting their music and might even be used for a small tour around New England. When asked if their parents will accompany them on the tour, the group laughed. "They'll have to," Kimura said, "none of us has our license yet."
Harmony Birch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @Birchharmony on Twitter and 802-254-2311, Ext. 153.
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