HomeConcert Review: Acapocalypse, 6.16.10

Amy Malkoff's picture

Acapocolypse 2010
Weston High School
Weston, MA
June 16, 2010

Ambitious?  Absolutely.  Did they pull it off? That's a big yes, too. On June 16, The Weston Town Criers (who competed in this years' ICHSA finals) put together an amazing lineup of a cappella ferocity. And when I mean The Town Criers put it together, I mean THEY put it together. Not parents or teachers. Not the school (though there may have been some help along the way). An ambitious and impressive undertaking. The show was hosted by (Town Criers members) Josh Chopak and Ben Heath, both humbled and charming, and featured local and national acts, not a weak spot to be found. Marisa Debowsky and I (http://www.casa.org/boardmembers) took copious notes and photos, and here are (some of) our thoughts. Sound was provided by Liquid 5th, who were in town recording the TC's. Let's get to it, shall we?

Weston Town Criers --

The production values are super high for a HS a cappella group: there are lights, there is staging, there is a MEGAPHONE.

Amy: The megaphone was a nice touch

Not much visual variety: black buttondowns + jeans (this is common and it's not necessarily bad.  But it means you'll need to provide visual interest in other ways.)

Amy: True.

Marisa: Their second song ("Too Late To Apologize"?) has better tuning and a better soloist, although still pitchy, like song one. 

Amy: Yeah, there were tuning issues all around. Not sure if this is comfort or nerves, but I've seen them be much more accurate. My suggestion: don't let being on your home turf let you get lazy.

Marisa: "Sound Of Silence" is the song in which they made the boldest arrangement choices.  Those choices in the intro were really lovely: big, big chords, and a great dude singing a falsetto intro.  And then... it feels like the rhythm section is really pushing the tempo.  And they're speeding up!  And they keep speeding up!  And... oh.  It was intentional.  Wow.  Ouch.  Weird call, guys.  Not so much in the spirit of Simon & Garfunkel.  But at least they're making choices: it was NOT boring, which is the kiss of death for so many groups. 

Amy: That's what I love about these guys. They do commit, and they have the musicality to back it up.

The last song ("Now That The Love Is Gone"?) was engaging: nice intro, visually compelling chorus, good soloist.  Sounds better than the previous songs.  Rap FAIL.  Nice staging in the bridge.  anyway, they look and sound engaged.

Amy: This is where they bring out their inner rock star.  And I disagree about the rap. I think it works. I don't think rap has to be presented by everyone as if they're trying to be inner-city badasses (which this guy clearly isn't). I say: rap as you are! Josh lets us know that his group is "at the bottom of the food chain in this show". The respect for the other acts is endearing.

Mister Tim --

Marisa: Very theatrical, in an understated way; SUPER smooth transitions

Amy: Yeah, it's very clear almost immediately that he is not improv-ing here, at least not for the most part. These are compositions, charted and tight, that he performs this way (or close to it) each time.

Marisa: He shows incredible range:  he does a pop song ("Billy Jean"), dirty bass ("I've seen zombies in the street..."), buzzed bass and more macabre lyrics (with Indian-sounding B section?), bouncy-but-creepy disco with whisper ("cupcakes can kill you if they're made of death / fear the cupcakes, the cupcakes are coming..."), story-song ("make my cornflakes taste like sadness..."), and back to pop mashup ("Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This")

Amy: I wrote the word "macabre" too. I suspect Tim will take that as the compliment it's meant to be! I think Tim is one of the best lyricists in the a cappella world today. He's definitely taking chances. I can't wait to see how he progresses as a solo act.

Marisa: Overall, uber-impressive as an act - polished, and dark, and fun

Duwende --

Marisa: They sound so professional!

Amy: But of course!

Marisa: They look like they can all dance, but they're not dancing: they're moving, gracefully and coolly, around the stage. They're not all identically dressed, but they coalesce. And, individually, they are vocal powerhouses; together, they rock.

Amy: Yeah, it's long been my contention that they've got the best a cappella rhythm section out there. Ari and Ed!

Marisa: They're doing lots of covers: "Got To Be Starting Something", "Kiss" (Geoff is a cartoon character incarnate and he does a really good Prince), "A Change Is Gonna Come" (oh, wow -- that new Aaron guy is a baller soloist, and these jazzy chords are pretty sweet)

Amy: Their version of "Kiss" is so in the pocket it's astounding. And new guy Aaron Boykin is pretty much flawless.  Their decision to do covers is interesting, since they have SO many good originals.

Marisa: "Pomper, c'est super cool" -- always a hit.  Theatrical, hilarious.  There is rap.  In French.

Amy: It's legendary for a reason. Zut alors!

[During the intermission, Mr. Tim (A Cappella Originals podcast) and Chad Bergeron (Acapodcast) meet for the first time, and I, Amy, am witness to it. Of course I suggest a bloody a cappella podcast cage fight. The guys don't love the idea as much as I do...]

More Town Criers tunes --

Marisa: Standard pop arrangement, standard choreography, more zombie allusions, more pitchy soloists.  I do like the lyrics to the rap.

Amy: Yep, the tuning issues are still pretty front and center, but I also like the rap.

Overboard --

[Amy and Marisa award these guys our official "Best Dressed Group" award! Ok, it's completely unofficial, but we're giving it anyways]

Marisa: In their first song, "Hey, Soul Sister" (Train), Nick sounds like he's working pretty hard, but in the closer, "Crazy" (Gnarls Barkley), he kicks the sh*t out of that solo. It's a baller arrangement, too: intro as fat whole notes and bell chords, first verse as a slow ballad, and then the second verse as up-tempo pop.  Super creative.

Amy: Agreed. Nick is pretty powerful, and his arrangements always impress. They stand out as being the most chordally...structured group of the night, which is why they get that wall of sound effect.

Marisa: Second song is full of adorably frantic teenage energy, appropriate for a high school setting. They do a stunt in which the VP "directs" the rest of the group as a 4-part choir in the bridge (it's cute staging). They're appealingly goofy.

Amy: The banter was also off the cuff but really funny. I think it was Scott who made some joke about Best Buy that I thought was really funny and now can't remember. I hope I'm getting that right.

Marisa: Third song has a beautiful intro ("Falling To Pieces"?) and Nick demonstrates his cheesy pop singer side (who knew?).  Goofy lyrics, but really pretty arrangement and they sound good singing it.  Ends on a fabulous chord. ("Best chord of the night." --Amy)

Marisa: Fourth song is "Sister Goldenhair", which they deliver to a slightly embarrassed girl in the audience.  Theatrical but in a fun way.  Audience seems to dig it.  Girl being serenaded is a good sport.

Five O'Clock Shadow (FOCS) --

Marisa: Visually they appear unscripted, but secretly are detail-oriented performers.

Amy: They are masters of blocking. Everything is planned but looks unplanned. It's pretty genius.

Marisa: Two guys looking sporty (in Red Sox gear?) and three looking more professional.

Amy: Ug, Red Sox paraphernalia for a gig? Boys, just...no.

The audience sings along to "Wonders of the World" ("the title track off of our most recent CD"... yeah, it's an old joke). The CD came out in 2000.

Amy: Still a great song.

Marisa: You should think of this group as four guys, plus Stack, plus engineering, and then it's really impressive

Amy: Yes, I know they used to travel with a sound guy who knew and executed all their sound cues (they use a lot of effects) and now they themselves do it from the stage, moving from affected mic to another. It's like a ballet. And it's beautiful.

Marisa: Caleb's ballad on "Long Train Runnin'" is really adorable

Amy: And he does a really good vocal harmonica

Amy: "I'm  Right" will stick in my head for a long time after this show. Damn you, Paul Pampinella!

Marisa: Impressively, they're mostly using Stack + the soloist, freeing up the other guys to provide big chords sometimes and small colorful accents at other times.
Marisa: A Jimmy Eat World cover ("The Middle")? interesting.  And I like their staging choices.

Amy: Here we get to hear Dan Lennon on lead. Underutilized in this set, as he has an incredibly beautiful and agile voice, one of my absolute favorites.
Marisa: They require the audience to stand and shout the count off for the last song. The last song which I really like, by the way: it has pretty first verse background parts -- high, staccato, singing "don't know why... we are..." on 2 and 4.  Solid, solid lead. These guys are a cult hit here: they have fans singing to every word of some FOCS originals

Amy: I think this is an original called "We Are". [Update: It's a Vertical Horizon tune - thanks Doug Friedman!] Oren Malka on lead. This group is tight as a (vocal) drum, but they've been doing the same songs for at least 10 years. I could actually do without the big Stack showpiece, which does accomplish what it sets out to do, but is a little tired for me. I want to hear new stuff! New stuff! They're so good, I want to hear what they can do on songs I haven't already heard so many times.


[photo: Duwende at Acapocalypse, by Amy Malkoff]


I heard your comments in my

I heard your comments in my head, Amy. Great job to the both of you...love the communicative style of this review (And I think I'm in love with Marisa). Especially during the FOCS set, I heard each song as you mentioned it (especially the "We Are" even before you corrected the title).

Interesting duwende call out.

[=#8040BF]http://www.rarb.org/people/thomas-king.html http://www.deltacappella.com CASA Dir. of Ambassador Program SoJam Producer & Concert Mgr Sing Producer CAL jd All Things A Cappella FOTS #1 ICCA Producer Emeritus "the

I'm in your head!

Glad you enjoyed. And Marisa is awesome. I (heart) you both.

Amy Malkoff http://www.amymalkoff.com/harmony CASA (Contemporary A Cappella Society) Program Manager + Director of Web Content - http://www.casa.org Judge - ICCA, ICHSA, Harmony Sweepstakes, etc.

Interesting review style-

Interesting review style- thanks! I feel like I was there :)

Christopher M. Diaz | ICCA & CARA Judge | FSU ANY '08 | Mouth Off! co-founder/host

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