‘Straight No Chaser’ at Wolf Trap by Teal Ruland


Bond likes his a cappella shaken, not stirred, Santa likes his cold and with warm cookies, and a few presidents in South Dakota like theirs (and their faces) on the rocks. Me? None of the above. But Straight No Chaser was a wonderful way to take in some amazing a cappella that left me craving for seconds and thirds – encores, that is. The human voice never fails to amaze me with what it can accomplish, and tonight at Wolf Trap, the ten dashing men of Straight No Chaser (SNC) amazed yet again.

SNC originally formed as 10 friends who got together to sing a cappella at Indiana University in 1996. About half remain from the original group, and as any a cappella aficionado/former a cappella group member knows, personality is just as important as a member’s vocal chops. These guys have talent AND personality to boot – this isn’t your stereotypical Glee “Warblers-style” a cappella. SNC is fresh and fun, and the gentlemen don’t wear khaki pants and blue jackets…think light pink tees, dark jeans, and white blazers. They generally had high energy—some of the regular soloists didn’t smile quite as much as some other members—and they had some fun and appropriate light “choralography.” They were on their feet most of the time, only sometimes sitting on stools or standing on raised platforms to change up their levels.

Straight No Chaser. Photo by Andrew Zaeh | ZAEH, LLC.

It’s amazing to me how the men reunited a number of years after graduating, but SNC has a massive fan base, with more than 20 million views on YouTube and numerous national TV appearances. SNC is living every college a cappella kid’s dream, and luckily the foreboding Hurricane Isaac rain held off for the fantastic live show. The lighting was exciting and interesting, and the sound was top notch. I always love watching people do what they love to do, and as all the best a cappella groups are, SNC was charmingly awkward, full of great jokes, and totally played off of each other and the screaming fan girls.

SNC has released extremely successful and popular holiday records (and even encored with their brilliant “12 Days of Christmas,” complete with green and red lighting), and With a Twist is their most recent album, released in 2010. Last night, SNC started with “In the Jungle,” moving on to a not-quite-as-exciting version as I expected of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.” But then it was a spectacular “Let’s Get it On” with their “token black guy” who won over my heart, and a selection of other popular numbers, including songs by Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Jason Mraz. I particularly loved their movie theme song medley, incorporating their own silly words to the themes from Home Alone, Jurassic Park, Titanic, Indiana Jones, E.T., Star Wars, and others.

It was a wonderful show that I thoroughly enjoyed, and I’m sorry to say that they were only at Wolf Trap for one night. Best of luck to them on future shows, and to their sound guy, Blake, who will be leaving them – they explained to the audience that he’ll be a new father any day now, and encouraged us to give him advice as we left the theater. They’re pretty down to earth dudes with some serious harmonies, and I can’t wait to buy their Christmas albums soon!

Straight No Chaser played at Wolf Trap on Monday, August 26, 2012 at The Filene Center – 1551 Trap Road, in Vienna, VA. To view upcoming events at Wolf Trap, check out their calendar.

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