So, um, yes, it does bother me that the prior quarterfinal episode was called #1 and we're calling this one UPenn. Thanks for asking.
We start in UMass with Archie from the S#arp Attitude (S#harps) who is meeting up with her best friend Brandon from the Hexachords for lunch. Archie says him now being a member of the Hexachords has been really hard on them. Brandon says having your bestie in a rival group is like having a best friends who is also friends with your worst enemy. They should totally talk to Amanda and Michael from last year about how to deal with this. Brandon brought Archie sushi, which she reminds him he doesn't like, but will eat. And
then she asks about Linnea. Brandon thinks Linnea might not be "vibing" with the group. Archie brings up the song dedication from Acapellooza. Brandon knows Linnea meant well - it was just a bad idea. Archie gets down to what I suspect is the real reason for our gathering today. She is gig manager and the S#arps cannot afford party bus to quarterfinals on their own, but if the Hexachords could pitch in. Brandon is worried it would be awkward for Linnea. Archie suggests might help the groups get to know each other
better. Brandon does not think Sam and Linnea are going to have an easy time together, or they might resolve everything in the two hour ride. Bad or good, he does not think there is much chance of an in between. Brandon says he doesn't know how he will keep this a secret and this is where I get suspicious. So the idea is to surprise both teams with a party bus they don't know they have to share? Are the producers paying for this bus? How do the groups think they are getting there? And look sharing a bus with people you don't love is a thing that happens daily, and is not a big deal. But why not be up front? Why try to mess with your fellow group members heads right before the supposedly biggest performance?
In UPenn, Rohan of Off the Beat (OTB) tells us it's almost quarterfinals, but they've been working so hard they deserve a break. So they have arranged to play
trampoline dodge ball with the University of Maryland (UMD) Faux Paz. Jasmine notes that Faux Paz beat OTB last year in the semifinals but they "won" karaoke recently
and will hopefully win dodge ball. They chant, "Who are we? OTB!"
Mitul from the Faux Paz speaks for those of us who are like, isn't this a singing group? He is, shall we say, less than enthused at this athletic idea of group engagement. David feels OTB has identified him as a threat, and they are aiming most of their balls at him to get him out. Jasmine admits her throwing skills are weak, so she has been handing balls to Rohan. OTB does win and hopes this is an omen for quarterfinals.
At UMass, Sam from S#arp Attitude tells us they have called on the "aca-gods for some aca-help''. They have called in Isaac from the Nor' Easters! Flashbacks to last year Archie reminds us they won ICCA's in 2013, and made it to finals last year. There is squealing.
Isaac tells us the Nor'Easters aren't competing this year (interesting), but the north east still a tough quarterfinal.
They show Isaac their version of "DNA" by Littlemix. Isaac is pleasantly surprised, but offers them tips to tighten it up to make them a little more badass. There is much discussion of vary degrees of ass bending. Isaac expects them to kick ass.
Over with the Hexachords, Craig-starting rehearsal with improv to loosen everyone up. They are riffing about the classroom and it is silly and goofy and fun. Brandon tells group he met with Archie and basically she's super confident and so they should consider that serious.
Craig has an arrangement of Whitney Houston's "So Emotional" that they run through. Brandon offers Linnea a suggestion, and tells the camera he is worried about Linnea's
ability to be the only alto instead of part of large group except. In rehearsal no one seems to be treating this as anything more than a normal rehearsal note, so I hesitate to fall into the trap of letting the show do that to me, but I want to remind Brandon, that while yes smaller groups do have a very different sound and expectations, and sure, it's an adjustment whenever new members join a group, Linnea was the beatboxer for the S#arps, she was not one of many voices, she was the sole percussionist. But like I said, nothing in the clip indicates that Linnea or anyone else sees this as anything more than normal suggestions.
OTB has arrived at Temple University for the quarterfinals. A number of groups cheer when the question is asked how many are first time competitors. Jasmine says pressure is on OTB as last year's winners. She reminds us the top two groups get to go on to semifinals, of the ten teams here today.
They line up to pick their performance order. Rohan is hoping for seven, but especially not one, two, or three He picks three.
And we go back to UMass, where the S#arps have also brought in Shams, formerly of the Nor'Easters to help with their music. (I'm just going to point out that Isaac was also music director for the Nor'Easters, although certainly that didn't stop the Nor'Easters from making use of Shams' suggestions.) The S#arps have competed in the ICCA's three times and never placed. Shams chides them for arriving six minutes late. Archie says all Shams' tips are stressing them out about how much work they have to do.
Sam is worried about her voice cracking on the solo so has been sliding up to the note and Shams points out that the slide just tells the judges that she doesn't knowif she can hit it. She's crushed, but he's very confident she can get there. Sam reminds us she was a dancer in high school, only became a singer in college. Shams suggests may want to
put "DNA" last, because its their strongest and the the judges - who tend to save the numeric portion of the scoresheet for last might give them higher numbers.
Sam is concerned as this also requires an overhaul to the choreography, but agrees to do it for the group.
Back with OTB, they are doing their vocal warm ups backstage. Jasmine compares vocal warm ups to stretching muscles before exercising, and is nervous that Rohan is not
warming up properly. He feels he's at one hundred percent confidence.
And look, David, Shanto, and Josh from the Faux Paz are here in the audience. Jasmine reminds OTB, don't get too hyped and start going too fast. "Chill your tits." Do it like it's a fancy rehearsal. Haneol leads them through a visualization of OTB winning. They cheer, "Off the Beat!''
We don't get to see all ten other teams (sadness), but we do see or hear about the following groups:
Westchester University's Under Arrest
The Drexel University-Treblemakers (which seems like it's getting to be a popular group name for some reason) sing Zedd's "Clarity".
The UPenn Pennchants do a fascinating choral rendition of the Backstreet Boys' "Larger Than Life".
Bryn Mawr and Haverford College's Counterpoint A Cappella sing Keri Hilson's "Pretty Girl Rock".
And we will later learn that Lehigh University's Melismatics are also in attendance.
Now, unlike the way that the Faux Paz quarterfinals was shown, we do not get one uninterrupted song, we get parts of two of their songs interspersed with much commentary.
First up is Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine". Eleanor has the solo on this and it is a dark, earthy rendition. Rohan tells us when she made the octave jump, he knew
they were in it. Jasmine is relieved. We next see Jon Belon's "Simple and Sweet". I am assuming there was a song in between that went fine, since this appears to be the end of their set.Rohan has the solo on this, and the choreography is a little more complex than what we saw for for the first, since they have picked up the tempo on this. Rohan is strutting across the stage and hits that high note with a crack. I don't want to spend a ton of time reminding everyone about last year, but you might recall this happened to one of the groups last year in the quarterfinals. In case you missed it, they show the Faux Paz whispering in the audience that he missed a note. And Jasmine asks the camera if that just happened.
So, armchair judge here. I recognize that on TV you lose some of the energy of the live performance. But to me, the crack is not the biggest problem here. I believed what I saw of Eleanor's performance. I believed she was heartbroken. Rohan does not seem as confident singing this song as we have seen him be, It might just be an off day, it happens to everyone. OTB is doing this song fine, but I am not being carried away. It is just not quite there.
Backstage, Eleanor says they didn't do as great as they have in some rehearsals but whatever happens happens and it was great. Rohan has gone off to the bathroom where the producer asks him to talk about what's going on. He thinks he is the only error in the set, so if they don't make it to semifinals, it's on him. When he rejoins the group, it's clear they can all tell he's taking it very hard. Brian tried to cheer him up saying the soloist is only ten points.
Back in UMass, there is a graffiti wall and the Hexachords show up to make their mark. In a not at all staged moment, the S#arps show up after with their spray cans and spray over the Hexachords markings.
Back at quarterfinals, the three members of the Faux Paz come backstage, so not attempting to be sneaky at all. OTB asks what they thought and they very kindly say that it was a fun set. Josh tells the camera that honestly it was anti-climactic, and David says they may advance but he's not really worried about them as a threat. I think while OTB may have asked for brutal honestly, the Faux Paz aren't seeing any point in saying it wasn't great when they are still waiting to hear from the judges. Brian is hoping they at least get second.
And, the judges are back, and they start with the special awards. Outstanding soloist goes to Eleanor of OTB! We do not see if any other awards are given.
And the top three groups:
2nd-Off the Beat
They are relieved to be going to semifinals, but Jasmine is worried as they got first last year, so while they get to move on, they need to make some tough choices.
And so far, both groups we are following have taken second in the quarterfinals, so the final quarterfinal we'll see with two groups going head to head will be interesting.