When Matt Michienzie, A&S ’17, stepped in front of the mic in a green dinosaur onesie, McGuinn 121 transformed from an everyday lecture hall into a makeshift stage. Flanked by his other group members, Michienzie was eventually joined by Olivia Lynch, A&S ’17, Lauren Devito, A&S ’15, and Megan Gladden, A&S ’15, in a skillfully-executed rendition of St. Paul & The Broken Bones’ “Call Me.” The first set established the varied tone for The Acoustics’ “Jurassic Parkapella” spring show—a combination of SNL-like comedy skits, humorous Jurassic Park-themed costumes, and a showcase of the unique vocal abilities of the group’s soloists.
In a debut song for the Acoustics, Alex Cavanaugh, CSOM ’17, stepped onto the stage to cover [Foo Fighters’ “Best Of You.” Evoking the raspy vocals of front man Dave Grohl, Cavanaugh’s performance was notable for doing justice to Grohl’s growl-like rasp while still showcasing his unique vocal talents. Featuring beat-boxing accompaniment from the other members, the Acoustics’ spring show was at its best when it brought the individual vocal abilities of its soloists to the forefront.
Clad in an appropriately-themed Barney costume, Taylor Macleod, A&S ’15, carried the group into the next set with a performance of James Morrison’s “The Pieces Don’t Fit Anymore.” Macleod performed a faithful rendition of the English songwriter’s song, a fan-favorite staple in the Acoustics set, while adding his own soulful touch to the performance.
The Spring Cafe featured two interludes—SNL-like comedy skits that played off the show’s Jurassic Park theme and popular culture references to film, reality television, and celebrities. The first skit involved casting for the role of John Hammond and was led by director Steven Spielberg (Garrett Little, A&S ’15), while making notable references to Kim Kardashian and a crazed Spielberg fan. The second skit fused elements of Newlyweds and Bridezilla’s reality television, interviewing cross-species couples that featured humans and dinosaurs. The skits, in addition to serving as intermission to the musical arrangements, set a light-hearted and humorous tone uncharacteristic of traditional a cappella performances.
Organized around the vocal talents of the Acoustics’ soloists, the next arrangement featured a mash-up of rapper Kanye West’s most notable songs. The set opened with a mellow rendition of West’s “Lost in the World,” performed by Ben Seo, LSOE ’16. Without the Autotune usually employed by West, Seo performed a more stripped-down rendition of the song that was both emotionally evocative and faithful to its source material. One might even argue that Seo’s performance, without being bogged down by synthesizer effects, was a more emotionally powerful rendition than West’s original.
The mash-up then moved onto covers of some of West’s most iconic songs—“Gold Digger,” performed by Alex Rougeau and Josh Behrens, both A&S ’18, “Good Morning,” performed by Garrett Little, A&S ’15, “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” performed by Matt Michienzie, A&S ’17, “Power,” performed by Alex Cavanaugh, CSOM ’17, and “N—gas in Paris” performed by Zubair Panjwani, A&S ’15. In a cover that served as the climax to the mash-up, Little and Macleod climbed on top of a mountain bike in a true-to-form rendition of “Bound 2,” as the famous music video played in the backdrop.
Seo then returned to the stage for a cover of Radiohead’s “Creep.” Accompanied by the group’s emulation of guitar riffs, Seo took on the difficult high notes and Thom Yorke’s characteristic falsetto and wide vocal range with relative ease. Without musical instruments and strong guitar riffs, Seo conveyed the raw emotional expressiveness in York’s sustained high notes.
In another song debut, Megan Gladden sang a well-executed rendition of Labrinth’s “Let It Be.” Gladden, in her upbeat performance of the electronic-inspired song, stayed true to Labrinth’s blend of gospel and soul influences. Without the added synthesizers to the song, however, Gladden showcased her impressive vocal ability, evoking a soulful timbre in her performance.
Audrey Huelsbeck, LSOE ’16, took to the stage in a cover of Sara Bareilles’ “Hercules.” Huelsbeck, in her performance of the singer’s pop-rock ballad, conveyed a faithful rendition to Bareille’s emotional vulnerability characteristic of many of her songs. Huelsbeck added her own jazzy and soulful elements to the song—crafting a cover that was true to the original while bringing her unique vocal abilities to light.
Michenzie then returned to the stage for an arrangement of The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” and “Baba O’Riley.” While doing justice to Roger Daltrey’s unparalleled vocal strength is a difficult feat, Michenzie was certainly up for the task. In his modern cover of “Baba O’Riley”—backed by the vocals of the group—Michenzie added a contemporary twist to two of classic rock’s most iconic songs, showcasing the strength of his vocal abilities.
In a fan-favorite choice, the Acoustics closed their set with Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk,” much to the elation of the crowd. Alex Rougeau, A&S ’18, and Olivia Lynch, A&S ’17, led with the first verses of the song, and were eventually joined by Alex Cavanaugh and Ben Seo. While incorporating funk and R&B influences, Garrett Little closed off the song with Ronson’s distinctive bridge. Ending the Spring Cafe on a strong note, the Acoustics’ repertoire features a wide breadth of genres—spanning from current chart-toppers, classic rock hits, and alternative rock songs. At its best, the group put a twist on the traditional a capella show—conveying light-hearted humor through comedy skits and Jurassic Park themes—all while highlighting the impressive vocals of its soloists.
Featured Image By Clare Kim / Heights Staff