Among the many Berklee alumni performing at the Heavy Rotation Records 6th Annual Epic Event, held at the Berklee Performance Center on Wednesday, hip-hop was the dominant presence. Others shared a certain Berklee-stamped sensibility and had a jazzy undertow to their music. But all eight groups had one link in common: inclusion on the ''Dorm Room Sessions Vol. III" CD released through Berklee's student-run Heavy Rotation Records.
All of the performers seem to have reached a certain level of success. Some have played in support of national acts; others have full-length CDs for sale. (Only one artist on the disc, folk-pop cellist Lindsay Mac, was absent from the show.) Indeed, the two-hour performance of short two-song sets displayed as much mainstream marketability as it did talent.
One of the strongest performances came from the hip-hop troupe Project Move, a trio of MCs rhyming over a DJ's pert beats and samples. The raps were passionate, socio-political chants: anti-bling, anti-sexist, and anti-violence. ''I don't wear rings, 'cause I got bills," went one line.
Other hip-hop artists included Raydar Ellis, Anjuli Stars, and John-John, the latter a South Carolina native who opened impressively, performing with a live band and two slick dancers.
On the rock side, A Hero Next Door mixed growly hardcore with pop punk. And singer and pianist Will Champlin, whose father sang with rock veterans Chicago, performed with his band, focusing on classic soulful rock. Both acts, however, explored familiar (read: uninspiring) ground.
Mississippi native, singer, and guitarist Charlie Worsham and his band revealed more hooks and more personality. His cheeky demeanor was engaging, and his playing was adept. His songwriting, however, simply added to the already overloaded blues-rock canon.
Aided by a jazzy-funk four-man band, the self-assured Elizabeth & the Catapult proved what a sultry-voiced Greenwich Village habitue with a Norah Jones jones should do: Just let it flow.