Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Ca Challenge - A Cappella Contest in DC

Last weekend, I went to see the "A Ca Challenge" at the Lincoln Theatre in DC. I went because I love a cappella, and one of my friends was singing for one of the groups. I thought the tickets were a little steep (without a Groupon deal the cheapest ticket was $30 with online fees), but I wanted to support her, so I went.

I was very surprised by the long line outside the theater once I arrived. For one, I thought the venue would have done a better job of getting people inside and to their seats. But for another, selling tickets on Groupon usually means your show isn't selling well; so how did all these people show up? Once I made it to my seat, I was very disappointed: I was in the upper balcony in row P (row V is the last row up there). I noticed that the back of the upper balcony was packed, but the front part was empty. The Lincoln Theatre had sold us all the crappy seats! So as soon as the lights dimmed, we ALL moved forward to the front of the balcony. For what we all paid, we deserved to actually be able to see the show!

Then the show began. The host, Jonathan Minkoff, is an a capella singer himself, so that made sense. But his jokes were NOT funny; he should stick to being a singer and not try his luck at comedy. Every time he got on stage I groaned, wondering what he was going to say next that would make me cringe or roll my eyes. He also asked the judges questions every once in a while, which I thought was unnecessary. What do we care what they do, what awards they've won, etc.? The majority of people in that audience knew someone in one of the groups, and we all just wanted to hear them sing. Period. Enough with the chit-chat filler, please!

My friend has the white pants on!
Anyhoo...onto the music. The District, my friend's group, went first. I thought this all-girl group did a very good job. I had heard them perform before, but I still enjoyed the show (even though they only got to sing two songs while everyone else performed three...). Of course I am biased! And they were very well dressed, wearing white and black, and most of them in high heels. Great outfits make for great stage presence!

Sloppy! Messy!
The second group, Tomorrow's Harmony, is from George Mason University. It sounds like this is actually a sub-group of a larger a cappella group at the school. So, maybe they weren't used to singing just with each other, but...they were AWFUL. First of all, these boys looked like slobs, as if they didn't realize they were going to be performing in front of hundreds of people that night! They did a medley of Maroon 5's "Animals" which can only be described as cacophonous. Their version of "Love Me Like You Do" was just as bad, with very little harmony (ironically). And I LOVE *NSYNC's "Tearin' Up My Heart" and "Bye Bye Bye," but they killed these songs (and not in a good way; they actually missed a line in the chorus!). They mixed too many songs together in their medleys, so it was hard to keep up and tell where one song ended and the next began. Their beat-boxer/rapper was okay, but there is little to say that is positive about this group. Their only saving grace was their deepest bass, who has the type of deep voice that makes panties drop. But he was too little, too late.

Next were the Allnighters from Johns Hopkins University. These guys at least attempted to dress up, wearing ties and vests (though not in the same color scheme...). They were a little more old school than I like, but I still enjoyed their performance, especially their charismatic lead singers!

Sparkles! Glitter! Lookin' good and singin' well!
Then there was another all-girls group called the Sil'hooettes from the University of Virginia (someone, please explain to me the spelling of this group's name...). They all looked beautiful and wore sparkly shirts, which are perfect for the stage! They knew how to rock it, and they were the crowd's favorite. I thought some of the singers could have enunciated better, but there were definitely some strong singers in the group.

Fashion disaster. But I guess they're singers, not models...
The GW Vibes was the first co-ed group to perform; I usually prefer hearing men and women sing together, since you get a larger range. At first I was taken aback by their appearances. None of the girls were wearing high heels, which baffled me; just as the camera adds ten pounds, the stage makes you lose six inches in height. So it looked like a bunch of stubby girls with no feet (since their black shoes faded into the black floor of the stage) whose pasty legs made them look like they were wearing opaque tights (Ladies: before you get your summer tan back, do NOT show your bare legs! Black tights are everything!). But getting past their lack of fashion knowledge...I especially enjoyed their performance of "Uptown Funk." The choreography was so much fun, and they all had great energy the whole time!

Vox Pop came next, and this is another group that I had seen before. They were wearing black and purple (again...), and they too had girls there who insisted on wearing ballet flats (Ew); at least they were all in pants, which are flattering on everyone. But onto the music. I am always impressed when I hear them sing. Anna Lee, their female lead, has an AMAZING voice and was probably the most talented singer of the entire night. Though I didn't love their song choices (one was too somber for a Saturday night, and "Runaway Baby" just isn't my taste), I could still appreciate their performance.

After the intermission, we got to hear from the Alexandria Harmonizers, which was the a cappella group that hosted this event but did not compete in it. This group is VERY big, with more than 50 people performing! I will say that a group this size always ends up sounding more like a choir to me, which, unless I'm in church, I'm not really interested in. But their version of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" was spot-on, with dancing and fake fog, too! They also sang "Sweet Caroline" and made it a sing-along, which the whole crowd loved.

The group Word of Mouth was the last to perform; they were last year's winner. I really liked their take on Meghan Trainor's "Lips Are Moving," but then they followed it was a slow, sad song, which killed the mood.
Meh, I still think The District got gypped because they only got to sing two songs. Image here: http://voxpopdc.com/

In the end, Vox Pop won the compeition. Of course I wanted my friend's group to win, but I didn't really care about the contest. I just wanted to hear good a capella music! I was left wanting. From the exorbitant price of the ticket to my bad seat to the stupid host, I was destined to have a bad time. Too bad. And to top it all off, the woman sitting next to me had the brightest cell phone ever, and she would not put it away! It was so distracting, and definitely took away what little enjoyment I was getting from the show.

Jill, I love you. But I'm not sure if I'm going to see your next show...

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