THE GREAT COVER UP: I'm from a small town in Illinois,
where there really was no local music scene to speak of. So whenever
my friends and I wanted to go see live music, we would have to
drive out of town, to Chicago, St. Louis, or Champaign, Illinois,
which was the shortest drive of the three--a little over an hour
away. Champaign is one of those small, Midwestern towns where
everything revolves around the University of Illinois. It's also
a veritable local music hotbed, spawning such nationally known
bands as the Poster Children and Hum. While our trips to Champaign
were often geared towards seeing touring bands, just as often
we'd make the trip to check out local shows. For the really big
shows, we had to have friends who lived in town get us tickets
beforehand, to ensure that, upon our arrival, we wouldn't have
to hear those two words most painful to loyal clubgoers: "sold
There was only one local show every year that inevitably sold out, and it was called The Great Cover Up. Here's the premise: Months beforehand, local bands pick a well-known band they want to cover for the show. Ostensibly, they spend long hours practicing the songs, only to play them once, in a 20-30 minute set at the Cover Up. While you'd think the bands would view this arduous task as a serious pain in the ass, bands actually jockeyed for a coveted slot at the show. In fact, about five years ago, the event was expanded to two nights due to the immense number of bands wanting to take part.
Needless to say, wacky antics always ensue, and the show has become the stuff of which local legends are made. There was the time that 16 Tons almost burned the club down while playing "Kerosene" during their Big Black set; Hum, dressed in full regalia, singing immaculately choreographed renditions of Village People songs to a pre-recorded backing track; Poster Children powering through about 10 Who songs in a half-hour; and the always-reliable Honcho Overload, who appeared half-naked for their Madonna set (only to send the singer's future wife running from the club, crying in a hysterical fit, due to his partially exposed genitalia). Yep, those were good times, and as icing on the cake, none of the bands made a dime on the gig; instead, all of the proceeds were donated to a local charity.
It was a couple of years ago that Shoebomb's Melissa Manas caught wind of the goings-on in Champaign, and decided the idea could easily be transplanted to the Old Pueblo. In the spring of this year, she put the word out to some of Tucson's finest bands to see who would bite. Just as in Champaign, she found a bevy of willing participants ready to surrender their summers to learning the songbooks of well-known artists for your listening pleasure.
After a few minor arguments about who would cover whom, the confirmed line-up (with the artist they're covering in parenthesis), in order of appearance, follows: How to Build a Rocketship (Pink Floyd), 35 Summers (Elvis Presley), Annie Hawkins Band (Jane's Addiction), Greyhound Soul (Cream), Creosote (in the biggest genre-fuck of the night, performing Prince), Shoebomb (The Cars), Al Perry (The Beach Boys, natch), and The Weird Lovemakers (Devo). Workshop Music will be donating equipment for the bands to share, in order to expedite the change-overs between each band's 20-minute set. And, in keeping with the spirit of the original event, all proceeds for the show will be donated to the Brewster Center, a local non-profit devoted to domestic violence services.
The (First Annual?) Great Cover Up takes place Friday, September 4, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Doors open at 8 p.m., and the bands will start promptly at 8:30 p.m. Admission is $6 at the door. For more information, call 622-8848.
HOT PICK: Calling all hippies! Fans of "Barefoot Rock" a.k.a. "jam bands" a.k.a. H.O.R.D.E.festers won't want to miss next week's String Cheese Incident show. Playing in support of their new, self-released album, Round The Wheel, which marks their first venture into a studio (their previous release, A String Cheese Incident, was recorded live), this Boulder, Colorado-based band has been drawing a lot of attention primarily for its high-energy live shows.
As with like-minded state-mates Leftover Salmon, the Incident has its roots in bluegrass, but infuses the sound with funk, jazz, rock, calypso, salsa, Afro-Cuban, and virtually any other genre you might care to mention. Just as many bands of their ilk have done before them, the cheese meisters have toured ceaselessly, garnering a devoted grassroots following in the process. The live show stays true to the Barefoot Rock ethic, featuring explosive jams, swelling crescendos, and extended improvisation--but these guys are good enough players that it rarely delves into masturbatory territory, as many bands of this genre have a tendency to do.
Opening the show will be Tucson jam band Spirit Union Revival, who have acquired quite a West Coast following of their own as a result of their "Caravan Tour" this past spring. This will be their last show in town until winter--they're hitting the road again, this time to the Northwest, where they'll be playing with the likes of Merl Saunders' Rainforest Band and New Riders of the Purple Sage founder David Nelson.
The show goes down at 8 p.m. Tuesday, September 8. Throw on your boogie shoes and head out to the once-again improved Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door, and they're available at Hear's Music, Yikes!, Zip's University Music, and Guitars, Etc. All ages are welcome. Call 740-0126 for information.
LAST NOTES: Still touring on the strength of last year's breakthrough album, Twenty-Eight Teeth, ska-punk favorites Buck-O-Nine will be skankin' into town tonight. The seven-piece band recently put the finishing touches on the follow-up to that recording, entitled Libido. The album is set for a February 1999 release on TVT Records. Check out the new tunes, as well as their cover of Musical Youth's "Pass the Dutchie," on Thursday, September 3, at the Double Zero, 121 E. Congress St. Admission is $10. Pasta Rocket opens the show at 7 p.m. To get the lowdown, call 670-9332.
Local hard-edged funk band Funky Bonz is setting up a house-band stint with a twist. Each Thursday-night show will consist of a set by the Bonz, a set by a featured band-of-the-week, culminating with a dual-band jam to top off the evening. The event should be quite interesting, due to the diverse line-up planned, which includes roots-rockers Greyhound Soul (September 3), warp3 (formerly Father Funk, on September 10), and everyone's favorite New Orleans-style brass band, Crawdaddy-O (September 17). It all happens at Mutt's, 424 N. 4th Avenue. Call 628-8664 for more information.
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