REVIEW: Help! I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Turn Up!

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Last Saturday night in the MLB Auditorium 3, I knew I was in for a treat when I noticed the marathon of “Infomercials” playing on the wall. The Dicks and Janes, one of the 15 renowned U-M A Cappella groups, were promising a night of fun, diverse musical choices, and perhaps just a teensy bit of harmless daytime TV-bashing. While we waited for the singing extravaganza to begin, the audience was subjected to awful real life horrors that I wish did not exist (I urge you to explore these hilarious videos, perhaps in private, so no one can make fun of you over your shoulder):

What a creative way to lift students’ finals week spirits!

But wait, there’s more…

If you come to the Dicks and Janes concert within the next 30 minutes, we’ll throw in two free performances featuring Sha Bop Shoppe A Cappella and Groove.  The Sha Bop Shoppe is an after-school all-girls ensemble at Pioneer High School. They specialize in performing popular songs, such as Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal” which was hauntingly beautiful, as well as “Until the Morning” by Thievery Corporation, which they stopped mid-way through to “speed up a bit” and remix it with their own spunk and soul. If it isn’t impressive enough that they are already dipping their feet in a university venue, add in the fact that they are also sensational choreographers, which means that they create their own choreography movements to flow in sync with their singing. The Sha Bop Shoppe girls definitely will have a powerful vocal presence in a few years in whichever university they choose to attend, so hold on to your boots!

But…the creme de la creme, the reason we were all suffering through the commercials for, was to see…the Dicks and Janes! The minute that they ran on stage and began to sing, the room came alive. Throughout the show, the setlist alternated from hit songs of 2014 (Reflections, Clarity, Say Something, and Latch) to old classics (Happiness is a Warm Gun, Proud Mary, Don’t Mean a Thing). The variety showcased not only the collective group’s range in interest and amazing ability to creatively interpret the pieces (each of the songs are arranged by a Dick or Jane him/herself), but also displayed each individual soloist’s remarkable skills and talents.

I was especially impressed by the energy created in “Clarity.” Originally a high-speed electronic dance song, I was curious how the Dicks and Janes (DJ’s) could recreate that sound. But somehow they did! I’m not a singer myself, so I’m not sure how they accomplished the feat, but they did it stunningly. The crisp “kssss” of every accelerating percussive beat, the siren-like croon of the synthesizer, the pulsing bass…all imitated the feel of “Clarity,” with the voice of DJ member Hannah Sparrow at the center. Perhaps, the DJ’s were a little too good at the house music vibe, for sometimes they turned up the volume a little too much and I could barely hear Hannah. The DJ’s know how to make the MLB Auditorium into a good time, even if they can’t turn up!

Shine the spotlight on Austin Montgomery, another DJ member, and prepare to be amazed. He soloed twice, as he is the token falsetto of the group. He sung his soul out in “Latch,” with perhaps even more energy than Sam Smith himself. And he was able to take Helena Ratte’s playful arrangement of “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” and morph it into a 50’s barber shop sound.

Because I’ve never sung A Cappella, I look on with awe at how the DJ’s start with a silent stage and slowly build on each other with only their voices. They’re like an orchestra, I guess, something I’m more familiar with. But yet, because they are standing and have hands free (no bows or horns to hold), there is a special energy that is present. I literally got shivers when soloist Lyndsey Burke belted out Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” and felt twinges in my heart just from the dramatic facial expressions shown in “Say Something.” I could feel every note, like the DJ’s were handing each one to me. Here you are, have another! their words seemed to say. The DJ’s gave me something that night that is special to a cappella singing. The sound of humanity, streaming through the voice to the ear. No phones, no instruments, no car horns to interrupt the experience; just good ole’ human to human connection. And maybe with a quick infomercial or two.

Call 1-800 999-2288 to get your DJ singer absolutely free! And while you wait, watch this hilarious infomercial video, Save a Suffering Freshman, that the Dicks and Janes made themselves!