And we're back! The opener shows clips of old and new participants as they remind us- high stakes, best friends, all here to win, and various other things. I confess I may have missed it, but I don't think they explain a cappella to us, so on the off chance you are unaware - it's voices only, no instruments, and the teams will compete for the ICCA championship.
We briefly meet the Hexachord from UMass (aka University of Massachusetts at Amherst), who, as their name implies have 6 members, S#arp Attitude (who do in fact spell their name like that) is the only all female group at UMass, the Faux Paz (who also spell their name like that) from the University of Maryland, and Off the Beat from UPenn (aka University of Pennsylvania). So, same number of locations, but only four groups this year, and this year we are staying firmly on the East Coast. As will be noted later, two of these groups are going to be in the same regional quarter-final, so we'll see how that goes.
So we meet Sam, choreographer and stylist for S#arp Attitude. She's a senior and declares that she is ready to meet the "aca-bitches" who came for auditions. She tells us she wasn't a singer before but joined S#arp Attitude and now she's a featured soloist. She talks about the transformative power of the group and how they are all about female empowerment.
Archie is their gig manager. She tells us that through music they have found sisterhood, and that they have been to the ICCA's twice but never placed. (This is where I mention that it's really hard to google whether they just mean quarterfinals or what without spoiling the show, so we are just going to take them at their word here.)
Sam says they have four slots to fill. Archie says they need girls that vibe. And they mention that they just lost their beatboxer to the Hexachords and need to replace that too.
The women coming in have been asked to prepare "Grenade" as their audition piece, we see an audition montage, complete with reaction faces. They also ask everyone to beatbox. It looked like they perhaps had not gotten specific auditions for the beatboxing role, and were just asking each person who auditioned if they could beatbox. The editing may have made the separation in audition less clear. They do not seem please with their beatboxing options.
I don't think this came up a lot last year, but the beatboxer in a cappella provides all the percussion sounds. It is possible to have a group without a beatboxer, but it's a challenge, and given that all female groups are perceived to already be at a disadvantage, since they theoretically don't have lower register sound to balance things out, it's a reasonable concern.
Now we go to Linnea who explains that some a cappella groups have up to 18 members, but the Hexachords only have 6, and, as a member of the Hexachords she will get to sing not just beatbox. And hang out with her boyfriend.
The Hexachords are all performance majors, put together by Craig, who is their music director and beatboxer. He says that each member is "very unique" and that the group has made it to the semifinals twice.
This year they are bring in the first every new members, since it's a very new group, and as a welcome, they have blindfolded Linnea and Brandon and taken them to a parking lot where they have placed Linnea's highly decorated car. Her car is covered in neon post-its that are meticulously placed in stripes and it looks like a parade float now. Linnea is a little concerned that they stole and decorated her car, and is not super enthused that her reward is that she and Brandon get to clean it off. It is an interesting welcome ritual, although they point out to Linnea they could have made her do a three hour audition. Xander is their bass and business manager. Brandon mentions to the camera that he hated the Hexachords when he first saw them for being so good. Luckily the car clean up process seems pretty painless.
And now we are in Maryland, and I will try to maintain my objectivity but I love the Faux Paz and have high hopes for them. They were UMD's first coed group, founded in 1993. They made it to the finals (you may recall we saw a snippet of them) last year but did not win. They tell us they are known for their big, impactful sound. Last year they had 17 members, right now they have seven including one female - Lynique. John is their music director. Lynique tells us that they are a "faux-mily" and that last year her mother died of cancer and the support from the group got her through that. Mitul didn't get in his first time. And David, their president, was belting out songs in his dorm room post-breakup and a neighbor suggested he audition for a group. (Which may be the nicest way to say let me give you an outlet for this energy that is not right here I can think of. So, assuming this was presented as nicely as it seems, go neighbor!)
They begin their auditions, given the current gender imbalance, they are only auditioning females. The first female audtioning indicates that she is mostly auditioning for David, wink, wink, nudge, nudge. The group tells the camera there is a no "faux-cest" rule. They are using "Raise Your Glass" as the audition song, in keeping with the strong, belter vibe they are seeking. Most of the audition clips we are seeing are pretty soft, sweet, and not very much like you might expect for a Pink song. They get some that are better. And then David brings from the hallway a dude! (Dun, dun, dun.)
Shout out to Testudo the turtle who shows up in one of the interstitial shots. So, Brad has always dreamed of being in the Faux Paz. Brad is aware the audition is female only but thought that he would show up and see if they would be nice. They do not seem super into it, but arrive at he can audition if he auditions singing the song in the original key. He does, and manages to sing most of the high notes with much more confidence than he had so far demonstrated and now the Faux Paz are a little impressed.
They make their you made it calls at 1 am. Brad is in, along with Joanie, Cat, and Amrita. So they will have a 7:4 gender balance.
In Pennsylvania we join Off the Beat. They have won 29 Contemporary A Cappella awards, which they tell us are the Oscars of a cappella. Rohan is their co-president and a senior. Jasmine is their music director and a senior. She says Off the Beat is a rock group.
The group only recently starting competing in the ICCA's, came in thirs at the semifinals which wasn't bad for their first time. (At the semifinals, you may recall, only the top team goes through.)
Much is made of the fact that Rohan is all charm and fun, and Jasmine is very serious. But both are results driven. Off The Beat held their new member auditions last semester, so only need to finalize one last solo today. Alex, Brian (who is the business manager), and Rohan are auditioning for the solo in "Simple and Sweet". Rohan talks a lot of trash to the camera about how Alex and Brian are okay, but he can do better. Brian notes that Rohan tends to get cocky and doesn't always learn the music. This seems likely as Rohan has to get the pitch multiple times, and forgets the words until another member sings the first phrase to him. But once he gets going co-president Emily thinks it's clear Rohan was the best. (They did kick out the potential soloists to discuss them.) Jasmine feels that Brian was the best, and is clearly gritting her teeth, trying to nudge the group in that direction. She mentions that Rohan is more bass than tenor and the song goes pretty high, but everyone is firmly team Rohan, so he gets the solo. (I feel like this is going to come up again later.)
And not OTB (as they call themselves, and now I will too) are having a totally not staged by the producers karaoke battle with the Faux Paz in what looks like a very tiny local bar somewhere between the two universities. (They say it's in Pennsylvania, but in my humble opinion, this bar says state line, not Philadelphia.) David of the Faux Pas notes that Rohan looks very ivy league in his blazer. Rohan starts them off singing "I'll Make Love to You" and it wasn't clear if there were actual karaoke lyrics being provided, but Rohan is not prepared for how high the song gets and also doesn't seem to know the words.
Mikul from the Faux Paz does a rendition of "Creep" that goes over well with the crowd. Jasmine of OTB is pissed that the Faux Paz are making good use of their strengths. There is mention that it is "aca on" now.
David, Josh, and a third member who's name I have not yet learned get up and perform "Bye, Bye, Bye" which also gets a lot of audience participation. At least from the other a cappella folks.
Jasmine does "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and Rohan expresses surprise at her ability to make it fun.
A bar employee comes out to ask the crowd (who has mostly seemed amused by the goings on) to vote. OTB is declared the winner. Both groups think this sneak peak of their fellow Mid-Atlantic region group was fun and useful. We get some clips of the upcoming season and that's it for now.