Straight No Chaser at Wolf Trap by Jessica Vaughan

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Straight No Chaser, the 10-man a cappella phenomenon, put on a great show of top forty hits, enduring classics and crowd favorites on a steamy night at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap.

They rose to fame a few years ago when a YouTube video went viral and that unique relationship with their fans continues to this day. The audience was clapping along on the first song and screaming in joy to the pitch pipe before the first note. They pleaded with the audience to please take pictures and videos and post them everywhere.

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

They began the night with one of their specialty medleys. This one was of Fun. songs “Some Nights” and “We Are Young,” which have never sounded so good. The group is known for the magical way they improve on originals, as well as their medleys, and a sneaky sense of humor. All were on display.

The second song was cut short when soloist Jerome Collins fainted in the heat, which was scary for a moment but he was back onstage for the next number and cracked jokes the rest of the night about it. He got some serious ribbing from his band mates as well as they told everyone to especially post that moment online if they were recording and “fainted” themselves at every opportunity. Fortunately, he was fine or this wouldn’t have been so funny, but it made for a great running gag as Collins said at the end, “I am never going to live this down.”

For all the stardom they now enjoy, it’s clear they’re still a bunch of regular Joes who enjoy each other’s company and love singing together. The group began at Indiana University in 1996, but reunited and turned professional when their insane “12 Days of Christmas” went viral. The evening ended in a downpour, so they couldn’t do a signing line and maybe because of that or because, as they repeatedly said, they love Wolf Trap so much they did the song for the encore. They mentioned this was probably the first and last time on this summer tour they would do it.

The current members include Walter Chase, Jerome Collins, Seggie Isho, Michael Luginbill, Charlie Mechling, Steve Morgan, Don Nottingham, Dave Roberts, Randy Stine, and Tyler Trepp. They are generous with solos, trios and duets as most members were featured throughout the night.

Four of the original members sang a song from their college days, “Hi De Ho” by Blood Sweat & Tears. It sounded great and it was interesting to see how their arrangements have evolved over the years.

They dressed in black with sports coats, which couldn’t have helped with the heat but looked great and put in some low-key choreography on each number. A dynamic lighting design provided a visual accent, changing into a rainbow Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” or filling the stadium with light for the powerful “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele.

They slowed things down on the heartfelt “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz and a touching new song “Lego House” by Ed Sheeran, both featuring Michael Luginbill. They also covered the phenomenal “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen off their new album Under the Influence that came out this year.

They returned to old favorites as well like “Africa” by Toto and “The Lions Sleeps Tonight.” Walter Chase – one of the original members who emceed most of the evening – introduced the soloist Steve Morgan who can sing impossibly high by saying, “Steve is not actually a girl.”

They got serious in the second act with  Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” in a great adaptation with quick harmonies and a driving bass line by Charlie Mechling. Jerome Collins was recovered enough to take on “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” Luginbill and Tyler Trepp soloed on the addictive “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye.

One highlights of the night was the movie medley where they sang silly lyrics to famous soundtracks like Stars Wars and it’s too many sequels and Chariots of Fire”and how no one has actually seen the movie. It was plain hilarious. Their final song was another medley of club hits like “Moves Like Jagger” and “Call Me Maybe” with some classic “Gangam Style” choreography.

In the brave new world of Autotune and synthesizers, even going to a live concert sometimes feels like watching YouTube, but with Straight No Chaser you get nothing but gorgeous singing, great harmony, live and unfiltered. They put on a heck of a good show that’s all the better because it really is just 10 guys and a few mikes and the best songs I’ve heard in a long time.

Running Time: Two Hours with one 15-minute intermission.

Straight No Chaser played for one night only on June 30, 2013 at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap – 1645 Trap Road, in Vienna, VA. For future performances and Information: Call (877) 965-3872, or check their calendar of events.