Straight No Chaser leaves audience drunk on a capella, modern music

A capella group Straight No Chaser performs at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts in Storrs, Connecticut on Saturday, April 2, 2016. (Rebecca Newman/The Daily Campus)

Without instruments and without background tracks – armed only with their voices – the 10-man a capella group Straight No Chaser lit up the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts Saturday.

The group, originally formed by a group of friends at Indiana University in 1996, impressed the crowd with a capella versions of popular songs.

“We want to assure you that everything you hear is coming out of one of these guys, out of the speakers to you,” said Walter Chase, a founding member of the group. 

Straight No Chaser’s musical style and success is unique, as the group performed a capella versions of songs like Meghan Trainor’s “All About that Bass,” Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” As one of the group’s members explained, Straight No Chaser became popular after a viral video of the group singing “The 12 Days of Christmas” became an Internet sensation.

“We got our start because of a video that went viral,” group member Don Nottingham said. “Why am I telling you this? Because if you want to take photos or video, you go right ahead.” 

The group markets itself on both its musical ability and its humor. The performance was full of humor and jokes from the introductory video – which parodied shows like “Shark Tank” and “Naked and Afraid” – to rewritten lyrics. And those jokes frequently came at each other’s expense.

The talent of each group member was on display as each member took the lead in singing a different song, with the rest either singing the tune of the song, backing up the main singer or, in one member’s case, beatboxing.

“Just think back to the fall,” group member Tyler Trepp said. “Back then, Donald Trump was saying inflammatory things that divided the country, and Hillary Clinton was embroiled in an email scandal. Think of how far we’ve come.” 

The group performed songs like Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Walk the Moon’s “Shut up and Dance” and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk.” The group lamented the fact that the theme songs for most movies do not have lyrics, and so sung several movie theme songs with lyrics written by the group.

“Sylvester Stallone was a nobody, until he wrote this great story,” the group sang, imitating the tune to the “Rocky” theme song. 

“There are dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. Oh no, they got out,” they continued, singing to the theme of “Jurassic Park.” 

The group went on to perform a mixture of “12 Days of Christmas,” blended with Toto’s “Africa,” “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”

“We’ve always done things a little differently from other bands,” Nottingham said.

The group’s encore was unlike any of the other songs that had been performed in the show up to that point, however. The group performed their original viral hit “The 12 Days of Christmas,” without any microphones, they let the audience know what was it like for the group to work together “when they first started up.”

The audience was dead silent for the rendition, which became one of the most memorable moments of the performance.

“Thank you so much,” Nottingham concluded. “We’ll come back next year and the year after that and the year after that.”


Edward Pankowski is life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at edward.pankowski@uconn.edu.