Last year, just before Christmas, Jo Stones won the first “Songbird’ competition that Josh Schonewolf produces at Tabu. A dozen+ weeks of elimination challenges later, and he beat Stephanie Brown and Jordan Szenicer in a highly-anticipated finale.

I had a little say in it—Josh asked me to judge, and I obliged. It would be like a localized gay American Idol, I figured, and I would be Simon Cowell. It ended up being kind of true; I ruffled some feathers. A bunch of contestants got regularly upset and snappy at the end of the night, and I’m pretty sure some of em’ still think I’m a dick.

Tuesday night, a new winner was crowned: Larisa Bunch. This time, I came as a patron and spectator looking for a good show. Josh did not disappoint—it was pretty awesome. The end of “Songbird’s” seasons are where it’s at. Everyone knows how to sing into Tabu’s on-the-up sound system, they’ve worked through most of their stage fright, and the stakes are high so they really turn on the showmanship. The main runner-up to Bunch was the extremely talented Kate Faust, who—and I’ll explain why in a minute—maybe should’ve won.

One of the biggest reasons, for me at least, why I thought Stones deserved the ’13 win is that he’s an incredible original artist, as well as a singer capable of destroying pop hits karaoke-style. He sang a few originals during the competition and gigged new material in the city this winter. Every time I saw him sing something of his own, I was taken aback.

Writing songs is hard. No disrespect to Stephanie Brown, but she was cute and young and looked good in a tight dress and sang like Christina Aguilera (with the hand motions and everything). She was great, but not really as capable as I saw Jo in terms of artistic growth. This is all to say that I think this season’s Jo was Kate Faust and last year’s Stephanie was Larisa Bunch.

Don’t get me wrong: Larisa sang the hell out of the famous Dreamgirls ballad “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” It was very impressive. She also blasted through Deborah Cox’s “Nodody’s Supposed To Be Here,” Mariah Carey’s “Anytime You Need A Friend” (which is on ‘93’s Music Box, FYI) and had another Dreamgirls moment with “One Night Only.” The woman can blow.

But Kate Faust was the winner for me last night. She sang two originals, a song completely in French (Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose”), and brought creative costuming and choreography to the stage.

She’s a really well-rounded performer, and I’m kind of kicking myself for not taking advantage of her weekly Tuesday night cabaret-flavored brilliance. Her own songs, “Just Like a Dream” and “21st Century,” were compellingly smart and atypical numbers that screamed of Tori Amos and St. Vincent. But what really brought the house down was her keyboard-seated montage of Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody,” “Feeling Good” (of the Nina Simone variety) and Destiny’s Child’s “So Good.” Feet were stomped. Fists were pumped. Yelps were loud.

I’ll also shout out Lisa Parks (the mother of “Songbird” Season One contestant, Ellie) for an undeniably awesome rendition of Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know.” She finished third. And after Jovan Chaney’s version of Charlie Wilson’s “My Love is All I Have,” I was surprised to see him fall short of the Top 3. His energy was infectious, and his vocals were on point.

Josh also trotted out the cast of his new musical-themed elimination competition, “Summer Kamp: The Search for the Triple Threat of Philly,” an 11-week show hosted by Brittany Lynn and Matt O’Neill that debuts June 24 at Tabu. The man just doesn’t stop, and we keep on showing up. This time, it sounds like contestants will be trying to prove that they can sing, dance and act with proportionate might.

About The Author

Staff writer

Bill's a small town, public school boy that grew up in the Hudson Valley of New York and attended Hamilton College and the University of Oregon. In New York, he interned for Next magazine, Out magazine, and Flavorpill.com. As soon as he got to Philly he sent about a dozen emails to then-music editor Brian McManus, begging for an internship. Six years later he's the Senior A&E writer for PW and the Staff writer for the South Philly Review.

One Response

  1. Danny

    I was there. Kate lost fair and square to Larisa Bunch. I did a little research, and Dan is friends with Kate. FUCK BILL CHENEVERT. Larisa won fair and square, and Kate acted like a cunt when we lost and so did her friends and fans.


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