Houston better like its concert scene the same way coffee addicts prefer their morning brew, because there's about to be a double shot of musical talent headed this way. The male singing group Straight No Chaser has teamed up with YouTube sensation Postmodern Jukebox for a nationwide tour that will land at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion next Wednesday, August 9.
Both groups have unique musical stylings, yet they also have much in common. Both gained a following for their fresh interpretations and covers of popular music, and both have found most of their success due to online followers from social media. So it only made sense for the two to join forces for a musical tour-de-force, right?
Straight No Chaser's Charlie Mechling agrees when talking about Postmodern Jukebox and their joint tour.
"It’s kind of a similar thing to what we do. It’s a great night, a ton of great music and a ton of fun. It’s a great party show," he says.
Mechling wouldn't reveal the set list, but he did at least give a few clues as to what audiences can expect to hear.
"We’ve got some songs that have become classics for us that will be in the show. One of those is 'I’m Yours/Over The Rainbow,' but we’ve added another song into it," he says. "We’re bringing back some classics that people have asked us when we’re going to do again. It’s a mix of old and new."
Mechling also spills the beans, slightly, on a few of the Postmodern Jukebox songs, saying the group has a great version of Radiohead's "Creep" and Sia's "Chandelier" among its vast repertoire of hits.
Straight No Chaser got its start more than 20 years ago in 1996 as an a cappella group from Indiana University. Their success was somewhat accidental, especially for Mechling, who had different intentions for his musical career.
"I grew up playing instruments. I played violin for 12 years, and I played saxophone in marching band and jazz band, and because my older brother started doing musicals in high school, I started auditioning and enjoying it," he says. "I thought about going to college to study saxophone, but I really enjoyed singing, so I thought I should audition for the voice department at Indiana University, and I got into the show choir."
The college group he landed in wanted to find a way to get together and sing music they liked, so they started an a cappella group that would assemble at nights and on weekends for rehearsal. Eventually, they produced a concert, which was well received, and the rest is history.
Mechling says, "We went our separate ways in 1999-2000. Years later, when YouTube was just getting started, one guy posted the '12 Days of Christmas' video of ours. We started sharing it with friends and families, and somehow it started getting picked up, and then it just went crazy."
As a result, the group got a call from the CEO of Atlantic Records. They ended up singing for the record executives, and then they were offered a contract the next month. They’ve been hitting the road and touring ever since.
For Mechling, this will be a homecoming of sorts. When not on the road performing with the group, he has grounded his life right here in Houston with his wife, local stage star Julia Krohn, and with their children.
They met in New York, where their romance and eventual engagement blossomed. They wanted to start a family, but New York and Los Angeles didn't quite fit their needs, so instead they moved to Houston, where Krohn grew up and had family. Also, they both knew Krohn could find theater work in the Houston area, and Mechling could fulfill his duties as a member of the band while based out of the Bayou City.
"There is this theater scene in Houston where she knew a lot of people working as actors. We said, 'Yeah, let’s try it out. It’s the fourth-largest city in the country, and it should have enough,'" Melching says, reflecting on the couple's decision. "It's consistently getting better, and there are so many theater places popping up. It's even better than it was when we moved here seven years ago."
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There you have it, folks. Straight from the lips of a Straight No Chaser member, Houston's theater scene is popping!
Melching also admits he's semi-excited, semi-nervous about performing in front of his hometown colleagues.
"There are extra levels because friends and family are there," he says. "It always feels nice to have family and friends in the audience. It’s always a lot of fun and a jolt of energy, and it's nerves at the same time."
Straight No Chaser and Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox with Jon McLaughlin perform Wednesday, August 9 at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Drive. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. For information, call 281-364-3010 or visit woodlandscenter.org. $19.95 - $79.95.