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A cappella sensation Pentatonix bringing sweet harmony to UCCU Center

February 26, 2015 2:00 pm • Doug Fox Daily Herald

With apologies to Meghan Trainor, when it comes to Pentatonix, it's only partly about that bass.

Sure, the breakout a cappella sensation does include the signature bass stylings of Avi Kaplan, but that's only one element of the group's sound. In the overproduced, technically enhanced world of music today, it's mostly about the purity of voice in Pentatonix.

Mostly.

"I think the reason people latch on to us is because we're so past the novelty of 'only using our voices'," said tenor Mitch Grassi, who at 22 is the youngest member of Pentatonix. "We just make music we enjoy and happen to use only vocal elements. And sure, people could be sick of the overproduction of pop music, but I think really people are just looking for something different and new."

The a cappella quintet is appearing Tuesday at the UCCU Center in Orem. You may have heard that this show was a sellout. That was true at one point, but according to UCCU Center Director Mark Hildebrand, the venue has recently released a substantial block of tickets in sections on either side of the stage under the potential "obstructed view" designation. However, after recently receiving specs for the band's stage, there's a good chance those new seats will not be obstructed after all.

Utah County is definitely a hotbed for a cappella appreciation, with BYU groups such as Vocal Point and Noteworthy enjoying loyal followings. But the national success of Pentatonix has pushed the Arlington, Texas-based group to a whole new level.

"People like a cappella groups here," said Hildebrand, "but I think Pentatonix sets itself above everybody. You listen to them and they are head and shoulders above everybody. I think they spend a lot of time in the studio. ... They obviously work on their craft a lot."

The height of that success -- Pentatonix charted the fourth-highest-selling album in 2014 and just picked up a Grammy earlier this month -- has surprised even members of the group.

"We definitely didn't foresee it being at this level!" said Grassi of the group's reach. "We're so eternally grateful that the odds worked in our favor. We've accomplished so many amazing things since the beginning of this whole process. I think our work ethic has really exceeded my expectations. We've worked tirelessly on creating our sound and brand, with minimal downtime, and I think it's really paid off. I'm so proud of the progress we've made."

The whirlwind rise of Pentatonix now has the group facing the welcome challenge of projecting those golden voices throughout larger venues as well as upping the show's production values. The UCCU Center is quite possibly the biggest arena the group will have played in.

"I think the biggest challenge was making our sound big enough to fit these larger venues," Grassi said. "Luckily, we work with an expert technical team that really helped us power through. Besides that, it's been really fun upping the production aspect. Makes us feel like professionals!"

Pentatonix first broke nationally after winning the third season of NBC's "The Sing-Off" in 2011. Incidentally, Vocal Point, the BYU male a cappella group was also on that season, finishing fifth.

While "The Sing-Off" pitted a cappella groups in direct competition, Grassi said the reality of it is that most members of the genre are actually very supportive of each other.

"A cappella groups are a very lovely people," Grassi said. "We're all incredibly supportive of each other. Truth be told, we aren't personally super immersed in the scene itself. But the a cappella groups we're friends with are really down-to-earth, dedicated people."

That statement appears to sing true.