Like a talking naked mole rat, Disney’s tween culture is endearingly repulsive. I would know – at the crux of my own tweendom, lovable and conscientious Cody from “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” became a go-to model for rendering my crippling fear of authority socially attractive. If Cody taught me anything, it was that obnoxiously neon button-down shirts, oversized cargo shorts and puffy Etnies skater shoes are wonderfully effective agents of cool – even amongst the viciously conformist pre-pubescent crowd that, unlike you, prefers four-square to standardized reading tests.
Yeah, I was a Disney kid. I fit the target demographic: privileged and impressionable enough to demand a grasp on the pre-adolescent zeitgeist of the day (Heelys: Are They Shoes or are They Roller Skates?), socially inept enough to need Cody to show me how kids with a grasp on the zeitgeist look, think and behave. The Disney corporation played a significant role in shaping my malleable 11-year old perception. Scary, right? No, not really – I got quite a few hearty laughs out of “The Suite Life,” even if I could never rock an advanced reading level with the same floppy-haired swagger that Cody did. It’s just as well – if the UR’s Midnight Rambler’s tribute to mid-2000’s Disney Channel is any indication, us Disney kids turned out pretty cool after all.
The Midnight Ramblers, one of UR’s all-male a cappella groups, performed its biggest show of the year, “Rambler Channel,” in Strong Auditorium on Friday, April 11. The group intertwined into a setlist of pop classic its own interpretations of scenes from “That’s So Raven,” “Hannah Montana,” “Kim Possible” and – you guessed it – “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody”. Judging by UR’s collective social awkwardness, a majority of the student body here probably comprises Disney kids. That’s what made “Rambler Channel” such a knock out of the park: the concert, which paired a cappella cheese with a tribute to an even cheesier childhood staple, made for a night in which everyone could let their guard down and immerse in the enchanting magic of the human voice.
From a musical standpoint, the Rambler’s performed with aplomb. Highlights from the group’s setlist included its cover of the Bee Gee’s “Stayin’ Alive,” Passion Pit’s “Little Secrets” and Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love.” On songs like “Little Secrets,” the group showed a refreshing awareness of the frequency spectrum – members tackled everything from the song’s high-pitched synth motif to its integral bass wobbles without clashing with one another or losing a low-end foundation. I thought the Ramblers were playing to a pre-recorded drum track because the sound was so large. A member of the group assured me after the show that nothing during the night was prerecorded – the group just has really slick beatboxing skills. Impressive.
As for the Disney skits, they were a goofy affair. The group’s videotaped tributes of Disney channel episodes featured freshman Rambler Ben Hall playing Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana and senior Rambler Dan Slavin playing the psychic Raven Baxter from “That’s so Raven,” among other group members’ reenactments of classic Disney Channel characters.
Also worth mentioning was the show’s inclusion of the Mandarins, a Syracuse University all-female a cappella group, who performed a brief set towards the beginning of the show. The Mandarins covered a number of crowd-pleasers including Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” and “Let it Go” from the animated Disney smash “Frozen,” which received a thunderous applause that rivaled the Rambler crowd reaction at its most uproarious. The Mandarins not only did justice to its covers (the group went so far as to include the flatted sixth in the bass of the “Single Ladies” chorus – a nice touch) but also fostered a warm dynamic with the audience.
Overall, the Ramblers provided UR with a highly entertaining, engrossing, and well-executed concert experience. If the show’s earnest and unashamedly goofy tribute to a network that sets the mold for the annoying American kid is any proof, Disney’s efforts to put us in a box have only made us stronger. Here’s to lime green button down shirts and puffy skate shoes.
Howard is a member of
the class of 2017.