Revenge Of The Stix: Sparring With Sabers And Song

The automatic chalkboard in McGuinn 121, bedecked in Christmas lights and Star Wars decorations, rose dramatically into the view of the audience as the “Imperial March” played over loudspeakers. A screen to the right of the stage cycled through tweets featuring “#TheRevengeOfTheStix,” creating a live news feed between audience members. The members of The Acoustics filed in. Above their heads, a sign emblazoned “Aca-Wars” reached the height of the board and signified the start of the show.

After a short introduction from their general manager, the Stix kicked off the night with a rendition of “Our Own House” by MisterWives—a debut performance of the cover. Olivia Lynch, MCAS ’17, soloed, singing the entire song with full enthusiasm in a Darth Vader onesie. Immediately after , Dominique Alba, CSOM ’17, stepped up to the mic to continue the show with “Ain’t No Other Man” by vocalist powerhouse Christina Aguilera.

The next song was the first of many “baby projects” to be showcased over the course of the night. Jeffrey “Gage” Powell, CSON ’18, stepped to the mic with a limited accompaniment to serenade the crowd with Michael Buble’s “Feeling Good.” After Powell sang his final note, all members of the Stix charged the stage to pull him into a huge group hug.

Next up was Dan Paulos, CSOM ’19, with a rendition of Adele’s “Hello.” While he stood out as the only male on stage, performing with an all-female accompaniment, Paulos’ exceptional vocals throughout the pop anthem were what really set him apart—especially considering that as a “baby project,” the performance was his first full solo.

The performance took a turn for the raunchier when the Stix took a break from songs to perform their first skit of the night. Alex Rougeau and Josh Behrens, both MCAS ’18, took to the stage dressed as Darth Vader and a Jedi, and engaged in a lightsaber battle—only, Rougeau couldn’t activate his weapon.

“Am I not diabolical enough for you?” Behrens taunted when his counterpart couldn’t “get it up,” even when encouraged with an evil speech. His problem was revealed, though, when a fellow Jedi, Alex Cavanaugh, CSOM ’17, jumped on stage and Rougeau’s lightsaber miraculously extended.

The show continued with its comedic tone with the “Boys’ Project,” which  acting emcee Audrey Huelsbeck, LSOE ’16, called “one of the most memorable parts of the performance.” Josh Behrens started the skit by comforting Matt Michienzie, MCAS ’17, reminding him of “just the tip” advice  he had given him the other day, before he and all the male Stix launched into a rendition of “Enormous Penis” by Da Vinci’s Notebook.

After Michienzie and Rougeau finished their doo-wop scat battle that served as the song’s bridge, the boys created a chorus line for their big finale. The sheer boldness and goofy attitude of the project had the audience in stitches, although many had yet to recover from the laughter caused by the first skit.

The Stix returned to their more conventional performances with a solo from Liz McGovern, MCAS ’18. After her flawless execution of Lady Gaga’s “Speechless,” Julia Rourke, MCAS ’19,  stepped to the mic. Accompanied by Huelsbeck’s harmonies, Rourke performed Ella Henderson’s “All Again,” and had the audience contemplating the meaning of heartbreak within just a few minutes.

Ben Seo, MCAS ’16, refused to let the audience recover from this emotional performance, continuing the show with a rendition of “I Hope This Makes You Love Me” by TANK. His exceptional falsetto was complemented by harmonies from Liz McGovern, making the piece the perfect closing performance before the Stix took a short break.

The Acoustics returned to the stage with another debut arrangement—a mash-up between Willy Moon’s “Railroad Tracks” and Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks.” Alex Rougeau took on the intimidating task of rapping an a cappella Kanye arrangement, and certainly stepped up to the role. Following Rougeau was Kayley Okst, MCAS ’19, who came forward to the mic to perform her “baby project.” Serenading the crowd with “Ex’s and Oh’s” by Elle King, Okst seemed older and much more experienced than her age would suggest.

Alex Cavanaugh, CSOM ’17, then returned to the spotlight in order to perform “The Best of You” by Foo Fighters—again, a song from a genre not typically associated with a cappella covers. Yet the Stix still excelled, proving that they are well qualified to take on the more challenging arrangements that they so love to perform. Following Cavanaugh’s solo, Kerri DiBattista, MCAS ’17, took to the microphone to perform an inspirational classic—Celine Dion’s “Taking Chances. With Dominique Alba accompanying on the other mic, the performance was surely the inspiration that all audience members needed to get through the upcoming weeks of exams.

After that stirring performance, Audrey Huelsbeck and Josh Behrens took to the stage to kick off the final skit. Much to Josh’s, and the rest of the Acoustics’, surprise and disgust, Audrey claimed that she had never seen Star Wars—then made the mistake of calling it “just a movie.” The Stix then became a vigilante mob, seeking an explanation for Audrey’s mistakes.

Said her parents: “We’re not mad, we’re just disappointed.” Said President Barack Obama: “Unfortunately, I have no other choice but to declare war on Russia and Sith Lord Vladmir Putin.” Said Pope Francis and his many translators: “Kill her!” Fortunately, Audrey made it out of the lion’s den alive by agreeing to watch the films—although her reputation may never recover from calling Star Wars “just a movie.”

The next performance was a project from beat-boxer Tyler Cook, CSOM ’18. Using a recording loop to create his own percussion, Cook sang Ed Sheeran’s “The City,” featuring impressive beat box freestyles. The show then returned to its more scandalous vein with the “Girls’ Project.” The female Stix shed their Star Wars costumes in favor of basketball shorts and flatbrims , preparing for a Lonely Island medley. Audrey Huelsbeck, LSOE ’16, dressed a little more extravagantly for the performance, instead choosing to play one of the more—ahem—phallic characters from the famous “Dick in a Box” SNL skit.

Once the audience recovered from the outrageous performance, freshman Sophia Moreno, MCAS ’19, stepped up to the mic for the final “baby project” of the night. Performing Rihanna’s “Cold Case Love,” Moreno excelled in her first solo and even solicited a marriage proposal shouted from the audience.

To close the main portion of the show, Josh Behrens and his harmonica took to the microphone for a debut rendition of “Piano Man” by Billy Joel. Clearly a crowd favorite, the Stix nearly had to keep everyone from singing along the whole time.

The event closed with Audrey Huelsbeck inviting all present Stix alumni to join the current members on stage to sing their eternal group song: “Climb On” by Shawn Colvin. The sheer number  of alumni present proved one thing to be true: The Acoustics are not simply an a cappella group, but a true family.

Between the group hugs after every “baby project” and the finale performance by decades of members, it’s clear that the community bond is incredibly strong, and every audience member felt lucky to witness the love between the Stix that night. Amazing vocals and arrangements aside, the show was incredible to watch, simply because of the fun the Stix  clearly had while performing. Oh, and the dick jokes were funny, too.

Featured Images By Amelie Trieu / Heights Staff