Saturday, February 25th, 2012 was a day that Buck That! would not soon forget. I had the pleasure and honor of following them in most of their day long, soon to be epic journey, as they embarked on dedicating the day doing what they love: Singing.
The day began at nine in the morning as they all met up in the lobby of Weigel Hall at The Ohio State University. One by one they straggled in, greeting each other with excitement and nerves. While envisioning what their day was to encompass, they did not lose sight of each of the three major events that awaited them.
Their first stop was at ten, at the Renaissance Hotel in Downtown Columbus, Ohio where they were set to audition for America’s Got Talent. This wasn’t a typical open audition; this was a closed audition they were specifically invited to.
Once there, they found the person in charge and began the procedure that was laid out; Paperwork, ID’s, series of questions, and then waiting for their turn to audition.
Walking in the room, the judges were straight ahead with only a small faux wood dance floor in the center separating the auditioners from Buck That!. Immediately upon looking at this, they realized that perhaps their performance was not typical of most as it was much smaller than what was needed for their choreography.
This was no deterrent. They took to the faux dance floor and ran through a modified version of “It’s Gonna Be Me”. The judges asked them if they had another song that they might be able to see, so without hesitation, the guys got into position and sang “Poison”, by Bell Biv DeVoe. The judges continued to ask them a number of questions in an attempt to understand the history and story behind the group. After the simplistic drill of questions and answers, the guys thanked the judges and those holding the auditions for their time, and Buck That! exited to continue on the next leg of their journey.
Buck That! was now on their way to Kettering Fairmont High School (home to the renowned Eleventh Hour) to compete in the one competition that is coveted by all college A Cappella groups: The International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, also known as the ICCA’s.
Having been accepted into the ICCA competition earlier this year, amongst the deepest pool of entries the ICCA has ever received, they had already accomplished more than any other official A Cappella group from The Ohio State University. Buck That!, for the first time, would be competing in the equivalent to the first round of a play-off for collegiate A Cappella.
The quarterfinal is the first step along a could-be path for any group that competes. Each of the regions, Northeast, South, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and West, all have a series of competitions to bring about the best groups from all over the country. The top two winners of each regional quarterfinal then go on to compete at the regional semifinal. Then, only the overall winner of the regional semifinal is provided the opportunity to compete for the title in New York City.
Once at Kettering, they checked in with the regional producer to receive their instructions on what to do next. They were shown to their room where they could place their stuff and begin preparing for the sound check. As they sat down their items and began to prepare for what lay ahead, it began to finally sink in what really was about to happen.
Having only been around a little over a year, Buck That! is the first official group to represent The Ohio State University at the ICCA’s. Despite The Ohio State University’s standing nationally as one of the largest schools, and in the Big Ten regarding everything else that it does, it was not until 2009 that A Cappella sprung to life on campus; going from one group, the MeshugaNotes, to nine groups in less than four years. They are quickly becoming an equivalent rival in Collegiate A Cappella to some of the best universities in the Midwest, such as the University of Up North.
Soon after Buck That! got settled into their room, it was time for an ICCA meeting with the folks from Varsity Vocals on the rules and procedures. As all the groups began entering the room with their various matching jackets, polos, blazers, and uniforms, it was clear that Buck That! was amidst the elite in their region. After a briefing on the rules, a representative from each group went on stage to draw a number, which would determine the performance order. Buck That!’s president, D.W. Routte, drew a piece of paper and opened it to see “6” written. This meant Buck That! would be opening the second half of the show, an excellent draw for them.
After the draw, Buck That! went around introducing themselves and meeting other groups they had only previous heard about, filling the time until their short, ten minute sound check. Just as they were really making sure their set and sound was ready, their time was up. All they could do now is wait.
Thirty minutes before the show began, they sat among their room talking and preparing themselves mentally for the event. Their set was not until the second half, but they still continued to talk and go over items as if they were on in two minutes.
The show began at eight. The first half was full of entertainment as multiple groups got to perform their prepared twelve minute set. Full of rock songs and ballads, with everything from Adele to a modified (and hilarious) version of Mr. Grinch, the audience showed their equal and joined support after each set with the expected amount of applause. This went on for a little over an hour and at nine-fifteen, the first round of groups had completed and a brief intermission began.
During the intermission, Buck That!quickly exited the auditorium after watching their fellow competitors take the stage and headed straight for the warm-up room, since they were first up during the second half. They began discussing what they just saw which quickly turned into last minute reminders about all the little things they had been polishing; Keep choreography tight and together, remember the scene changes, look forward… the list went on.
As the intermission window grew to a close, they formed a circle for some last minute pep-talk about how far they have come and that regardless of the outcome they already had learned so much from watching the others.
When all was done, they headed for the stage door.
Begin round two: Nine-thirty pm.
After the host did the typical reading of the group biography for introduction, Buck That! ushered themselves to the stage quickly, taking their place to begin their set.
Their energy was high and showed no fear or uncertainty about what was to happen next.
While not flawless, their set execution was anything but boring. With each scene change and transition they continued to put their energy at full and showing the world they were here to win. The soloists were passionate and engaging, and never drowned by the backing voices. Their set continued to build energy with the very end consisting of a well arranged mash up that consisted of all three songs they just performed which really brought it home.
After the last note was sung, the audience rang with applause which echoed their feeling of the performance. Amazing! Each clap was filled with more than just placing two hands together. They were willed with enthusiasm and excitement, all wrapped into an engaging power as each clap echoed what they had just felt from Buck Thats! performance. The rest of the second half, while better than the first, went off without a hitch as each of the remaining groups also gave their all as they competed for the coveted first and second place spots.
At 11:15pm, the results were finally in. Kettering’s’ own Eleventh Hour had wowed the audience for the past fifteen minutes while the scores were being tallied by the judges. All groups joined the producer on the stage to await the results.
First began the special awards:
Best Arrangement: Doug Brunner of Buck That! for Kryptonite
Best Vocal Percussion: Meg Hickey of Rip Chords from the University of Illinois
Best Choreography: “Buddy” Gannon of Buck That! for the entire set.
Second runner up (3rd Place): Michigan State University – State of Fifths
First runner up (2nd Place): University of Illinois — Rip Chords
The Rip Chords were good and very deserving of either first or second place so this was a no brainer. However if they got second, the question still remained as to who got first because again, the evening did have quite a great number of performances. The room remained dead silent as the producer removed the paper to read the name off the sheet…
First Place: Buck That! of The Ohio State University.
Just like their performance over an hour prior, the crowed went crazy with enthusiasm. While the other groups began to usher themselves off stage so the winning group could perform a closing number, the look among the members of Buck That! was the equivalent of a deer in headlights. There was blank amazement and sheer shock amongst them that resulted in a sort of stammered stage presence as the stage emptied.
As the last few people exited the stage, Buck That! had momentarily overcome their emotion to congregate and perform their closing number.
It was 11:30pm and the show was officially over. Buck That! headed back to their room to begin gathering their belongings, share in emotional comradery and prepare for the next stage of the journey. Before leaving the room, they pulled together to sing Carmen Ohio as a way to close this part of the night.
And back to Columbus for part three.
1:30am: Back in Columbus they reconvened at the Ohio Union to prepare to sing for Buckeyethon, a 24hr dance marathon for cancer awareness and research. Once all were together inside, they immediately found their go-to person to begin preparations for the next performance at 2:00am. At this point, there were no warm ups needed as they all still had moderate amounts of adrenaline running in their veins and were surely singing in the cars on the drive back.
2:00am: Buck That! takes the stage for Buckeyethon and opens just like they did hours earlier, except now they went from having a set, to a winning set. While not nearly as perfect as earlier that evening, no one cared. The room full of college students (albeit mostly females) ogled at the charismatic group on stage and sang along with each of the songs, screaming at them as if Buck That! were N’Sync and this was 1999.
Once done, every person in the venue was seemingly just as excited, if not more, and continued about their dancing as Buck That! exited back into the hallway.
2:20am: Time for food. Heading down to Sloopy’s, they finally sat down to reminisce about what an overwhelming and fantastic day it has been. All through the day, regardless of the three major events, they had also sung Happy Birthday three times for three different people, and also serenaded a girl who just wasn’t having a very good month. All while, each time being asked, remained chipper and never said no.
While eating and chatting, they never lost sight about what the real world brought them next; Homework, relationships, class project, it was never ending. They talked about the whole day like it was any other.
With their day having drawn to a close, the members of Buck That! remained humble. Excitement about both the results of the day’s events, and what lay ahead for them was rampant among their minds. As all was said and done, this was surely a day they will never forget.