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‘They’re crazy good’: Home Free, winners of NBC’s ‘The Sing-Off,’ set to perform in Bemidji

submitted photo Home Free, a five-member a cappella group that won NBC’s “The Sing-Off,” is headlining two concerts this week to benefit the show choirs of Bemidji inc. Pictured are (from left) band members Tim Foust, Chris Rupp, Austin Brown, Rob Lundquist and Adam Rupp.

Bethany Wesley

BEMIDJI — Home Free, which won NBC’s singing competition “The Sing-Off” in December, is headlining two local concerts this week to benefit the Show Choirs of Bemidji Inc.

The concerts, to be held tonight and Monday night at Bemidji High School, feature the five-member Home Free, an a cappella group based out of Mankato, Minn., and performances from local show choirs, including Vocalmotive, the premier show choir at Bemidji High School.

“Their voices sound like instruments,” said Lori Fraley, a SCOBI board member, reflecting on the popularity of Home Free. “They’re great at what they do. They’re crazy good.”

Home Free has enough material that they perform a mix of different songs each night while also repeating favorites, including their mix of “Ring of Fire,” which has been one of their most popular songs.

“That was probably the biggest song we had in the show, so everyone expects that song,” said Chris Rupp, who with his brother Adam founded the Home Free Vocal Band in 2000.

Home Free has been coming to Bemidji for several years and had already cultivated a local fan base when they competed in and won the fourth season of “The Sing-Off,” performing song such as “Cruise,” “Oh Pretty Woman,” and “Colder Weather.”

“We’re playing on a whole new field now,” said Rupp, commenting on how winning the show has impacted the band. “Bigger audience, bigger houses … a lot of national TV. It’s fun because people know who we are now. Before, we used to have to win the crowd over, but now they know who we are. They’re screaming for us when we go on the stage.”

The band, whose membership has changed over the years, has for nearly two years now consisted of the Rupp brothers and Austin Brown, Tim Foust and Rob Lundquist.

“We knew this was a really strong combination,” Rupp said.

They recently completed a 32-city, 36-show “Sing-Off Tour Live!” on the heels of their debut release, “Crazy Life.”

Now, they’re back in Bemidji, getting ready to perform in the BHS auditorium. Tonight’s show is sold out and while there are some tickets left for Monday’s concert, there aren’t many. At this point, tickets can only be purchased at the door, but you can buy tickets for Monday’s concert during tonight’s show. Both concerts begin at 7 p.m.

“We do a lot of workshops ... with all ages but this has been our first show choir experience,” Rupp said. “It’s fantastic for us to, to watch and see what they can do.”

This will mark the third time Home Free performs in tandem with the show choirs, but it may be the last, at least for the immediate foreseeable future.

“I really don’t think we would be able to afford them anymore; they’re in high demand,” Fraley said. “We were just really, really lucky.”

SCOBI had a contract with the group before Home Free appeared on “The Sing-Off,” where it sang an arrangement of Hunter Hayes’ “I Want Crazy,” as its final song. The win earned the band $100,000 and a Sony recording contract.

Home Free honored its contract with SCOBI and now are set to perform tonight, along with two local show choirs. Both high school show choirs — Vocalmotive and La Voce Ballo —  perform each night and the two middle school show choirs split the difference: Pizzaz performs tonight and Jive on Monday.

“(The fundraising concerts are) unique in that Home Free doesn’t do a lot with show choirs,” Fraley said. “But they really do understand and enjoy the education piece with the kids.”

Home Free will be working with area students while they are in Bemidji.

“They’re really, really nice people and really good guys,” Fraley said.

Fraley, a SCOBI founding member, said she scouts acts as she seeks groups that can partner with the local show choirs to headline the fundraising concert each year.

The concert started as a single-night affair at the Chief Theatre to offer a thank you for show choir supporters and the greater community. The venue only seats 350 so it was a risk when it moved to the high school auditorium.

“We filled it” that first year, Fraley recalled. “We had over 100 more show up. We had to turn people away.”

So it was expanded to two nights while Fraley sought a capella acts that could headline the event. That has long been the rule: It has to be an a cappella group.

“There is nothing as unique as that,” Fraley said. “You can’t fake it. It is your voice, period.”