Pentatonix adds bass vocalist and a 2nd night at Mohegan Sun
Published 12:00 am, Monday, December 4, 2017
With a new bass vocalist, an NBC special airing recently and a Yale-educated beatboxer, who made his mark via YouTube, Pentatonix brings its first holiday tour to Connecticut.
The a cappella group’s Christmas tour began this week with three sold-out shows in Chicago and caps the week with two shows at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Kevin Olusola is the bulldog alumnus and beatboxer, who was asked to join a trio of Texas vocalists (Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi and Kirstin Maldonado) in forming Pentatonix before the group tried out for (and won) the third season of “The Sing-Off” on NBC.
Mohegan Sun Casino, 1 Mohegan Sun Blvd., Uncasville. Saturday, Dec. 9, and Sunday, Dec. 10, 7 p.m.$65, $45. 800-745-3000, Ticketmaster.com
In a recent phone chat with Olusola from his Los Angeles home, he said despite several long tours in recent years, this will be the vocal group’s first Christmas tour. After the group’s strong reception at the Wolf Den during its first year and at the arena last year, Mohegan was quick to add a second night this year.
Olusola, son of a foreign-born psychiatrist and nurse who raised him in Kentucky, was recruited by the then-college singing trio when they saw his YouTube video, with him beatboxing while playing the cello.
“I would say (online media) is kind of paramount to our success,” Olusola said. “The great thing, especially about these platforms and I think the digital age with it, is that everybody can self-relate. So in the beginning, we had our own distribution platform; we didn’t necessarily need a label at the time when we were starting.”
With a cappella, said Olusola, “it’s not (that) you want to just hear what they’re doing, but you want to see it being done.”
The group, which has 13.5 million YouTube subscribers, is named after the pentatonic scale, a musical mode with five notes per octave, representing the five members of the group. The fifth original was bass singer Avi Kaplan, who recently left and has been replaced by experienced vocalist Matt Sallee (who Olusola calls “a wonderful human being”). A division of Sony picked up the group after the “Sing-Off” win, then eventually parted with them. But with online and touring popularity (and three Grammys, including one with Dolly Parton for “Jolene,” which surprised the group), another Sony label picked them up.
Most songs in the Mohegan set list will be Christmas songs from three holiday albums, some of which they’ve never done in public.
Olusola is not only a 2011 Yale grad, but during his years in New Haven he went off under a Yale program to Beijing, China, to study the language and became fluent in Mandarin. He was planning a year at Berklee College of Music in Boston and maybe medical school after that when Pentatonix happened two weeks after graduating from Yale. He was still a practice hall monitor at the Yale School of Music when founders first called.
“And initially I said no because it wasn’t anything I wanted to do. I didn’t want to be, really, in a cappella. They kind of convinced me and they said they were gonna pay for half my flight to go down and meet them. So I said, ‘Sure, why not?’”
Explaining beatboxing, Olusola said, “I am the drums of the band and there’s a bass player, who is a singer. So we hold down the bass while the trio does a lot of the leads and vocal harmonies.”
Talking about fond memories of New Haven, Olusola said his freshman year was when Yale last beat Harvard in football before the Nov. 18 win this year — news that gave him “such a great feeling.”
Jamarante@nhregister.com; @Joeammo on Twitter