AcaVids 4-15-14: BOSS 2014

This past weekend was the Boston Sings (BOSS) 2014 festival, and I was very disappointed to be missing it for the first time. Luckily, a few attendees were able to snag some video highlights for those of us who were unable to attend.

The primary honoree for the weekend, recipient of the CASA Lifetime Achievement Award, was the very deserving Rockapella. I’ve seen them at least 15 times (though not in recent years), and my group even opened for them when they came up to Potsdam, NY back in 2000. We met them in a special event that weekend and backstage (only Scott and Jeff remain from that iteration of the group), and they were kind, gracious, and supportive. They are legends, and this video is worth a few minutes of your time.

Next up, two performers from the Friday night competition who were making waves on Twitter.

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AcaVids 4-6-14: Harmony Sweeps 2014

Though it doesn’t get nearly as much recognition as the ICCAs and ICHSAs, there is another competition for a cappella groups around the country each year which features a far broader spectrum of styles, demographics, and personalities. It has been around for nearly 30 years, and included legendary groups like  The Coats, m-pact, Naturally Seven, Toxic Audio, The Idea of North, and many others. I’m talking, of course, about the Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival.

In previous years, I tried to sniff out some of the top lesser-known groups before each regional round, but things just didn’t work out this year.  Instead, I’m just gonna give you a taste from each of the regional winners. You can also check out the Harmony Sweeps YouTube channel right here.


Starting with winners of my local New York regional (hometown bias!), here are the amazing youngsters from Georgia (not the American kind!), The Quintessential Five

Recent LA champs, FOURTY4B

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AcaVids You Oughta Know: a.squared

We live in a privileged time with tech galore: virtual reality headsets and magical glass, tons of wearable technology so that you can stay connected and be updated within milliseconds. Did you see that video of the patient cat dealing with those two adorable persistent pups?

…you just went to YouTube and searched for the video and watched it, didn’t you?

That’s what I’m talking about. Everything is instant.

Well, surprisingly enough, I grew up in a time when things weren’t so immediate. I remember waking up early on Saturday mornings and flipping on VH1 so I could watch the top music videos from that past week, waiting eagerly to see Britney Spears in that crazy red pleather one-piece singing on Mars. However, one of my favorite features to this day is the You Oughta Know segment of the show, where VH1 would show a video of an up-and-coming artist who hadn’t quite hit the mainstream radio yet.

Lucky you, this is the Acatribe version of that, groups that YOU should be aware of, groups who use innovation and push boundaries.

Now we all know/love/adore the artist formerly known as SONOS, ARORA. They captured our attention not only because of their inventive arrangements and crazy incredible vocals, but because they were using pedals and all kinds of technological magic. The a cappella community watched in amazement (and the purists in disgust) as SONOS/ARORA popularized the use of loop pedals and octavizers both in recorded and live performance.

For absolute beginners, here’s Sonos’ cover of Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.” Haunting and groovy in all the right ways:

After that, the a cappella scene began to really toy with the idea of, well, using tech toys. Post-collegiate groups began to spring up who focused on using electronics in performances, groups like The Executive Board:

Which FINALLY leads us to the main topic of discussion, Yale’s newest a cappella group, a.squared. That’s right; collegiate groups are starting to catch onto the tech trend. This sextet performs with six individual mics and a screen, and uses music sequencer/DAW Ableton Live during performance. Yeah. Impressive. It definitely takes a lot of practice to be able to edit yourself live, and a different kind of prep has to happen in order for

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What is SingStrong? SingStrong is a full weekend event featuring, FIVE concerts, TWO competitions, TWO days of workshops and coachings, ALL a cappella, AND all for charity. Everything an a cappella fan could want AND proceeds benefit the Alzheimer’s Association.

Acafriend Michael Marcus recently wrote an excellent summary of The 14 Best Things About Sing Strong 2014. (I strongly encourage you to click the link and read his post-it highlights all of the wonderful parts of #SingStrongDC2014.)

I could spend pages sharing my thoughts about how wonderful I think this festival is, how incredible the volunteer teams are, how well organized this event is, and how I am proud to have become a part of this family, but…this is AcaVids, so let’s get to some NEVER SEEN VIDEOS! (Okay, so some of the videos have been seen, but NOT from my vantage point, or with my stellar (read: not-so-stellar) videography skills!)

Crowd favorite, of The Sing-Off Season 4, TEN took the stage with a few adjustments to their line-up.


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AcaVids for March 9, 2014

Hey All! So as we all know (or should know) ICCA’s and ICHSA’s are in full swing, and if you haven’t heard… The Sing Off Tour has been highly successful, playing to sold out crowds across the US! Big props to Home Free for releasing their latest album (which is fantastic by the way), The Filharmonic for releasing their video for the Pharrell Williams hit, “Happy”, and one of my favorite up and coming groups, ReVoiced (with my good friend Chris Rossi) pulling off a successful tour in Arizona and Wisconsin! Congratulations are in order for Blue Jupiter for hosting another successful SingStrong DC event (which also featured American Idol runner up, Blake Lewis, and Season 4 Sing Off runner up, Ten).

Now on to some videos!


Say Something (A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera Cover)- Pentatonix

Ok, so I know this isn’t fully a cappella, with Kevin playing cello and all, but the structure of this arrangement is one of the reasons why Pentatonix is so popular.  The fact they can take a song, keep the artistic integrity intact and STILL manage to make it better than the original is one of the reasons I fell in love with them during The Sing-Off.  The inclusion of Kevin’s drums and deciding to let Kirstie take the solo (with a little help from Avi) gives the song new life in my eyes.  They should start playing this one on the radio!


We Found Love- UChicago Voices in Your Head

I have to admit something here… I do not care for Rihanna’s music at all.  But hearing Chris Rishel’s take on “We Found Love” left me chills, so much so that I bought the arrangement myself.  The ability to take a simple pop song and create a hauntingly beautiful choral arrangement takes skill, and Chris has it… If you haven’t heard his other arrangements, I suggest you head to and start.  In this video, you can see how Voices in Your Head turns the song into an actual story (what is equally impressive is how they managed to create a solid ICCA set with We Found Love, Titanium and Little Lion Man about a relationship going from beginning to end, all in 12 minutes.)

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