Clad in groovy glasses and retro outfits, the singers overwhelm the stage with good vibes and funky dances, every moment and accessory touched with personal flair.
A buzz of excitement fills Slee Hall, melding voices together into lyrics and instruments.
An energetic crowd waves its hands in tandem to the beat of “Leave the Door Open,” by Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak as the “What the Funk” concert kicks off with a bright spot of talent and joy.
“What the Funk” marked the Buffalo Chips’ return to in-person performances at UB for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The all-male a capella group performed on Nov. 13, accompanied by Chips alumni; Ithaca College’s all-male a capella group, Ithacapella; and MCs, Intisara Brittan-Karshud and David Eve. With presale tickets costing $6 for students, $10 for non-students, and $12 at the door, the Buffalo Chips had a crowd of 244 with lines going out the door.
The concert celebrated the Chips’ past work and represented many firsts for the group: the first in-person concert at UB in nearly two years, the first time having guest MCs and the first senior send-off since COVID-19 began.
In returning to the stage, the Chips and MCs were confronted with a flurry of emotional highs and lows.
“When you’re on a concert stage, that’s your only opportunity to really showcase yourself,” Simon Wu, assistant business manager and second year medical physics Ph.D. student, said. “You have to have everything memorized, the attention’s on you — it’s a lot of pressure.”
Wu wasn’t the only one who felt the thrill and strain of performing for an audience again.
“Having that adrenaline rush again, like that feeling of, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m about to perform,’ but also like, ‘Oh my goodness, I’m about to perform!,’ just feels really great,” freshman musical theatre major Jeremy Meyers said.
For others, the return to the stage presented more excitement than nerves.
“I felt like I was about to go and play in the Super Bowl or something,” Matthew Pestinger, a structural engineering graduate student said.
The concert showcased music from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Queen, and the Chips and the MCs expressed a deep sense of gratitude for in-person and maskless shows.
“I think the pandemic has made everything so stressful and uncertain,” Eve said. “So to have that night to give people some music and happiness and to just chill out and feel like everything’s OK for a little while was really fun to do.”
Amid the excitement and trepidation, the Chips noted there were certain hurdles in adjusting to the workload and pressure that came along with returning to an in-person format.
“It was definitely a shock for a lot of the members in our group just to be like, ‘Oh, this is the amount of work we have to put in again,” senior media study major and business manager Eric Devore said.
With eight of the 17 members having never performed at Slee Hall before, the production of “What the Funk” required nearly half of the Chips to learn tasks such as sound checks and mic talks.
“It was really entertaining for me to watch them [the new members] run around like chickens with their heads off,” Pestinger said. “It was really fun to tell the newbies to do stuff again.”
Along with this good-natured ribbing, the newest Chips had to perform “Say So” by Doja Cat with only 15 minutes of preparation.
“That was interesting,” Meyers said, regarding the experience. “But I think that’s part of the fun and I think the audience really got a kick out of it. I can’t wait to do it to next year’s [members].”
In riding through these ups and downs together, one thing remained constant, according to the Chips: their unity as a brotherhood.
Where the Buffalo Chips felt especially connected to one another, was in their final song, the senior send-off for graduating Pestinger.
The song was performed following the intense and bone-chilling performance of “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac, with Bologna as the soloist. Following the performance, the Chips came forward to take their bows, presumably ending the show.
That was, until the audience began to shout, “One more song!”
Re-entering the stage, the Chips remarked that, “We forgot about Cubed,” Pestinger’s nickname.
Thus began their rendition of “You Be The Anchor That Keeps My Feet On The Ground, I’ll Be The Wings That Keep Your Heart In The Clouds,” by Mayday Parade.
Long before they retook the stage, the Chips knew this particular song would be the hardest of the night, as they said their goodbyes to a beloved member.
“That’s why we did this song last and covered the rest first,” Bologna said. “So that way we get the tear-jerker out of the way at the end.”
The Chips were right that the final song would be a tear-jerker. Members wiped away tears before the singing began and spoke about what made Pestinger special to the group.
“I wasn’t crying because I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m sad that I’m never going to be able to sing on the stage again,’” Pestinger said. “It was, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m not going to be able to sing with these guys like that.’”
For the Chips, this wasn’t just a moment of farewell to a friend, but a family member, a brother.
“When I think of the Chips, I think of Matt and I think of the other people that have been in the group maybe this whole time,” senior environmental engineering major and marketing manager Clayton Markham said. “So it really is like taking a piece of that group away.”
The Chips finished their night with a group hug, the sounds of muffled crying still coming through the microphones as the lights came back on.
Despite the bittersweet emotions the Chips felt during the performance, they said that coming back to an in-person format was a positive and necessary experience, one that brought them even closer together.
“Being on the stage felt like I was home again,” Meyers said.
Kara Anderson is the assistant arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org