Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Very Civil War: U of O A Cappella Group Takes on OSU

It wasn’t a Civil War for the ages, but tell that to the crowd at the sold out McDonald Theatre on Saturday night.  Friends, family, and fans from all over the Willamette Valley gathered for the light hearted sing-off between the University of Oregon’s On the Rocks a cappella group and Oregon State University’s Outspoken.  The night was broken up into four sets, with On the Rocks starting and ending the show. 

Both groups started with a casually attired set and ended with a more formal one, each, of course, sporting their respective university colors and logos.  While a majority of those in attendance were most likely OTR fans (due to the show’s Eugene location) Outspoken received just as much applause after each song.  The crowd, who perhaps expected Outspoken to be blown out of the water by The Sing Off contestants, was pleasantly surprised.  Outspoken certainly brought their A-game.

The night for On the Rocks fluctuated dramatically, performing a shaky “Eye to Eye” from A Goofy Movie followed by an incredible “Señorita” by Justin Timberlake.  Their remix of “Demons” by Guster was less exhilarating than their usual cover that brings me tears every time I hear it.  But I guess that’s to be expected; On the Rocks has been singing that song for more than five years now.  OTR selections included “Bad Romance/Poker Face,”  “Lullabye,” and “Live Your Life.”  Against my expectations “Call Me a Duck,” their “All the Above” U of O remix, was not performed.  But original songs from their latest album, A Fifth, were.  It’s OTR’s fifth recorded album, produced by founding member Peter Hollens.  OTR sang a couple other songs that I wasn’t familiar with, which made me think that a cappella is more enjoyable when you hear covers of your favorite songs, and more impressive when the group writes their own. The guys were their usual quirky selves, each one 20% actor and 80% vocal artist.  They’ve really refined their onstage presence; their antics are never overwhelming but have the right amount of comedic timing.  They seemed more comfortable with the audience than Outspoken did, often times exchanging a couple one liners with louder audience members.

Outspoken’s shyer demeanor may have attributed to the show being located on OTR’s turf.  Many of their songs started quiet and timid, but the guys generally got into their groove somewhere around 30 seconds into each song and ended them on a strong note.  They performed some classics like “Change the World,” “Macho Man” which included a slight striptease, and “Go the Distance.”  “Ghostbusters” seemed a little generic until they appropriately remixed it with Michael Jackson’s “Bad” which was as seamless as their surprising mix of “Would You Go with Me” by Josh Turner and “Africa” by Toto.  “Zoot Suit Riot” was a mildly funny choice to me since the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies hail from Eugene, but at this point Outspoken had won the crowd over and no one seemed to care about the irony.  Not surprising since Outspoken placed third in this year’s International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella.  “Hurt” – the Johnny Cash version, and *NSYNC’s “I Thought She Knew” were outstanding performances as well, and Outspoken livened their stage performance up with “Breakeven” by The Script.

Considering both groups’ recent successes it would be pretty tough to pick a winner, which wasn’t done at the Civil War show.  Unlike UO/OSU athletic rivalries, OTR and Outspoken were amicably promoting the talent of a cappella groups in both schools, rather than furthering the rift between them.  On a side note, if I had to pick a winner, I would say that Outspoken’s song choice was better than OTR’s, but OTR’s stage performance was stronger…which isn’t really choosing a winner, but they’re both winners in my ears.