Lip-syncing students battle for autism research

Elano Pizzicarola

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Music was in the air Thursday night when CSUN students lip-synced hits from various genres.

Lip Wars-The Battle of Epic Epicness was organized by the University Student Union and hosted by the Northridge Center. The show featured music from 60s soul to 90s pop.

Turnout was initially sparse but increased steadily.  Colorful neon lights blinked behind the drapes that covered the front base of the stage, flanked by two speakers.  The room was turned into a nightclub for the pre-show.

“This is a battle of epic epicness!” said the announcer, Jonnae Thompson, kicking off the competition.

“Give a warm round of applause for Austin,” Thompson said to the crowd.

The skinny, boyish looking freshman took the stage first in a white button down shirt and black slacks. He first danced wildly, his arms waving about to a hard-rock song.

He then removed his white shirt leaving a grey long sleeved one. He repeated removing layers of his torso clothing after every song before finally, exposing a ripped, black t-shirt.

The first judge, Syndi Ellyse Powell, applauded his creativity, offering compliments.

Then the second judge, Tiffany Sterling, went astray.

“I don’t share those same beliefs,” she said, criticizing the fact that he barley lip-synced.

The third judge, Matt Eickhoff, was more sympathetic. Being a past?lip-syncer, he successfully urged the crowed to applaud out of respect.

The next act consisted of two young ladies in short, tight skirts and on high heels, lip syncing to poppy R&B. They both swayed and waved their bodies, sometimes in unison. They remained center-stage with their backs facing each other, one of the girls facing the audience while the other faced the back of the stage. And they routinely exchanged places at times through the performance.

The next act called itself “Hope Fellowship.” They upped the ante with eight performers. Most were garbed in bright pastels and mimicked the classic, “Rollin’ On the River.” One member impersonated the drummer, and four others were background singers.

They then transitioned into a Michael Jackson tune and lip-synced various late ‘90s boy bands. They concluded their set by forming a circle and dancing in unison to smoother R&B.  They were met with a screaming applause.

The following performers, “The Four Seasons,” brought four dapper-looking young men in full suits and red ties. They danced side by side in unison to hits ranging from “Sherry Baby” to “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”

One of them addressed the crowd.

“I’m ‘Winter.’ I’m cold and cool on the outside. But inside, I got a heart that will warm you up,” he said.

The show concluded with TLC impersonators. The three of them skipped down the stage in baggy jeans, white tank tops rolled up and flannels wrapped around their waist.

The performers took a turn in a more provocative direction when they lost their jeans, exposing baby blue boxers. They each pulled a male spectator onto the stage and directed them to chairs lined up on stage.

They danced above the men to “Red Light Special,” a smoother R&B ballad. One of the performers fell to her knees and played air guitar during the guitar solo.

To conclude, all the performers took the stage to await the results. Spectators walked to the stage to drop autism donations in blue bowls that sat at the stages edge. Each bowl was assigned to a certain act, the group that garnered the most money won the “Peoples Choice Award.”

“The Four Seasons” won “People’s Choice Award” and was presented with microphone-shaped trophies for each of the members. “Hope Fellowship” won the critical award.

Sofie Avila, the mother of ‘Winter’ from “The Four Seasons” performance, said she enjoyed seeing her son, Steven, on stage.

“Oh my God, he did great. It was awesome. I’m very proud of him. He worked hard,” she said, pleased with the audience’s cheer he got in response.

Avila also said she preferred the “People’s Choice” award over the critical one since the “People’s Choice” is driven by a humanitarian mission to fight autism.

Lita Garcia, a PR major who plans to graduate this spring, performed as part of the TLC impersonators.

“Growing up, they were a big part of our childhood, all three of us,” she said.

Garcia noted that her and her group participated to raise funds for autism research. She said that she once worked with autistic individuals.

“That’s why we did it. To help them raise money.”

Shanell Tyus, Manager of University Student Union Events, explained the decision to hold a competition that specifically involved lip-sync.

“It gives people the opportunity to showcase their talent without needing to be up on stage, signing,” she said.

Tyus said the USU plans to hold the event again next year.

“Any successful program … needs time to grow,” she said.  “Next year, we’ll try and make it bigger and better and more appealing to students.”

Group Hope Fellowship performs on stage during the Lip Wars at the USU on March 10. The group won the critics award after putting enormous amounts of energy into their performance. Photo Credit: Armando Ruiz / Senior Photographer