“Every group is different,” said fourth-year Acquire member Michel Gellad. “They all have their own identity, so it’s nice to bring together all the different groups onto one stage.”
The natural follow-up to that statement is, “So, what’s Acquire’s identity?”
Multiple members of the group laughed and stumbled on coming up with one word to encapsulate the hours spent choosing songs, electing soloists, arranging numbers and perfecting pitches.
They threw out some suggestions — “silly,” “energy,” “fun” — but couldn’t pinpoint what makes Acquire unique. It is something they all feel, but don’t have to say.
“It’s something you can definitely tell when you watch a group, but it’s hard to describe,” said music director Matthew Testo. “[Our identity] changes between years, but it also changes throughout the year.”
Acquire director Brendan Lee hopped back into the conversation and almost instantly came to an answer the group wholeheartedly agreed with — “diverse.”
“We have rugby players, we have science majors, tech majors,” Lee said about the 16-member co-ed group. “We don’t have one music major, which is something you don’t see in the other a cappella groups here. The one thing that does unite us is the music.”
This weekend Acquire will host its ninth annual Acquirefest, an a cappella showcase featuring groups from universities up and down the state. Both Friday and Saturday night will showcase five groups, including four other UC Santa Cruz groups — Cloud 9, Isang Himig, Slugz II Men and The Hightones — each with a separate identity.
Cloud 9 identifies as “family through music.” One of its members, Riley Sheets, highlights that “without each other and the music we make, we wouldn’t be who we are as a group and as individuals.”
Slugz II Men are the “bad boys, the Cinderella story, new, fresh, fun,” who sing songs like “Stacey’s Mom” and tunes by One Direction and the Backstreet Boys, Michel Gellad said about the all-male group he started last spring. Gellad is one of four men on Acquire who double as singers for Slugz II Men.
The Hightones are “an all-female group that emphasize female empowerment,” third-year Hannah Shenberger said. Hightones member Kalinda Bittner was also quick to refute the stereotypical “Pitch Perfect” cutthroat a cappella community at UCSC.
“That type of in-house competition is not at all uncommon on other campuses,” Bittner said. “That’s something special we have here—we don’t have that at all. We’re all different, and we celebrate those differences.”
Hightones members talked about Acquirefest as a chance to expand the tight-knit a cappella community at UCSC to other schools. Bittner said it’s common to travel to shows and meet other groups who later invite them to sing at their own shows.
“We get the opportunity to talk to these people who are really dedicated and really great, but who are also a cappella dorks,” Bittner said. “It’s a good networking opportunity, but also so much fun and everyone does such a great job every year.”
This year the show includes groups from UC Davis, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, Santa Clara University and San Diego State University. Bittner called Acquirefest a “festival, not a competition.”
Linda Wang, president of SDSU’s SoundWave, said the group met Acquire at a performance at UC Santa Barbara last quarter and was invited to Acquirefest shortly after. Only formed in spring 2012, SoundWave has never traveled farther than Santa Barbara for a performance, but is excited for the upcoming road trip and to share its style with other universities.
A founding member of Acquire and Acquirefest, Chris Crawford, reflected on the first Acquirefest in 2007 at the Cowell/Stevenson Dining Hall, exactly four months after the group was established. Over the years he has seen the festival expanded to two nights, featuring twice as many groups that continue to impress him.
“It’s not about who’s the best group,” Crawford said, “it’s about bringing people together around music and creating an environment for people to meet other singers.”
Acquirefest is May 1-2 at 8 p.m. at the Stevenson Event Center. The event is free with student ID and $5 for general admission.