The Buffalo Chips have been around for longer than most UB students have been alive.
This past Friday, the Chips commemorated the a cappella group’s 28th anniversary with a Valentine’s Day concert filled to the brim with swoon-worthy ballads, upbeat anthems and a healthy dose of humor (which is just as good for the heart as any love song).
When the lights lowered on the SU Theater’s stage, a once boisterous crowd quickly hushed themselves.
The silence didn’t last long. Soon enough, the Chips took the stage and jumped into a feverish rendition of the Jonas Brothers’ “Burnin’ Up.”
Eric DeVore, the Chips’ music director and a fifth-year media studies major, along with Jack Catena, a sophomore music theatre major, burned up the stage, channeling their inner Joe and Nick.
Continuing their high-energy start to the night, the Chips immediately dove into another sizzling number. Simon Wu, a third-year grad student studying medical physics, wooed one extremely lucky audience member with a cover of “It Don’t Have to Change” that would have even John Legend blushing and kicking his feet.
After a comedic break, the squirrely singers returned to their regularly scheduled programming with a performance of Train’s “Drops of Jupiter,” featuring Catena.
Although the song serenades an otherworldly girl who “fell from a shooting star” and has “drops of Jupiter in her hair,” it was Catena’s voice — not Train’s muse — that was truly out of this world.
Following the interstellar magic of “Drops of Jupiter,” the Enchords, UB’s only all-gender a capella group, gave the Chips a much-needed water break. After getting the audience “Hooked on a Feeling” and “Accidentally in Love,” the Chips returned to perform a warmup on stage.
According to Chips folklore, if the group can successfully perform a round where each member sings up and down the solfege scale at different times, they must immediately end rehearsal. Thankfully, the Chips’ traditional warmup was their first and only failure of the night, allowing the show to continue after a few chuckles.
Following this silly and stumbling interlude, the Chips offered up delightful nostalgia and modern pop bliss back to back. The Beatles’ “Eight Days a Week” served shoo bop before Charli XCX’s “Good Ones” gave the audience whiplash. Since The Beatles and love songs aren’t for everyone, one singer noted, “Good Ones” gave all the single people a moment to breathe.
Charli XCX’s 2022 hit smashes into the audience like a car crash with eerie siren sounds and stomping that set the scene for junior biomedical engineering major Zack Farnam’s freakishly high falsetto to shine. Still stunned by Farnam’s dolphin-level frequencies, viewers couldn’t help but “(Boom) Clap.”
Following this number, the Chips teased their latest mid-show competition, “Chips Idol.” Based on audience donations, the Chips would perform either Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” or Boyz II Men’s “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye.” After intermission and a prompted drum roll, the Chips dove into “September,” which was met with excited dog noises and hollers from the audience. “September” ends on a high note, with a literal high note from DeVore, whose confidence on stage is a testament to his five-year commitment to the Chips.
Through his work with the Chips, DeVore realized that his major shouldn’t be mechanical engineering or computer science, but media study. Not only that, but over the years, DeVore fought off his initial freshman jitters.
“Now it’s kind of the opposite because I know that I’m gonna vibe with everybody. I’m gonna know my music,” DeVore said. “But now it’s me worrying [about my groupmates] as a parental figure.”
The Royal Pitches, an all-female a cappella group, kept the audience occupied with Bruno Mars’ “Runaway Baby,” while the Chips prepared for Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”
As a soloist once again in this number, DeVore was electric. The Chips’ alumni, called to join the current members onstage, were equally remarkable. Despite having left the group some time ago, the former singers fall right back into rhythm, performing in perfect sync with one another.
Adam Rakiecki, Chips alumni and mechanical engineering graduate of the Class of ‘22, said the culture of brotherhood is what makes the group so close-knit.
“It’s just the friendships that we make in the group while we’re here,” Rakiecki said. “It’s just really solid and strong and we prioritize keeping that together, making sure we see each other… you don’t want to let that go after you graduate.”
To wrap up the show, junior theater performance major and assistant music director John DellaContrada and freshman musical theatre major Dylan Saglian channeled rockstar realness with Cheap Trick’s “The Flame.” Saglian’s growly, punchy vocals and DellaContrada’s clean but powerful sound create a perfect storm. From their “Burnin’ Up” opener to their “The Flame” closer, the Chips were sensational — on fire, some might say.
The Chips exited, but only briefly. Joined by their a cappella contemporaries, the Enchords and Royal Pitches, the Chips brought it home with the unfiltered childhood joy of “Gitchee Gitchee Goo” from Disney’s “Phineas and Ferb.” Newbie Chip, freshman biomedical science major Jaden Lombardo, shined as the soloist.
“I sing my first solo later tonight,” Lombardo explained to The Spectrum before the Chips took the stage. “It’s supposed to be a secret, but I’ll tell you because I’m being interviewed. And I’m extremely nervous.
“[But] when I get up there, I think once I see all the people and I start singing that I’ll be able to perform. It’s just right now I’m very nervous about it. Don’t tell anybody I told you about that though,” Lombardo said with a laugh.
Fortunately, Lombardo, like DeVore, had nothing to fret about. Both Chips, whether seasoned or brand new, get the jitters.
But Lombardo says it’s worth the nerves.
“I’m just excited to be out there with those guys because I’ve built such a good relationship with all of them that it’s fun to perform with them because we have been like a brotherhood,” Lombardo said. “I’m very grateful to be part of this group. I think it’s helped me get through college because the curriculum that I am doing is quite hard and I find music as an escape for myself.”
Alex Novak is arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alex Novak is a senior arts editor at The Spectrum.