UNDER COVER: A few years back I was talking to Shoebomb frontwoman Melissa Manas about an event I attended in Champaign, Illinois, wherein local bands that normally played original music checked their egos long enough to play a set of covers to benefit charity. The event was called the Great Cover-Up, and it was always one of the most anticipated events of the year. Every band in town scrambled to get a slot at the event (bear in mind they had to learn the covers specifically for the event, and received absolutely no compensation for their time), and the event was always sold out days in advance. Melissa and I both agreed that the event would translate well to Tucson, and she vowed to make it happen.

Make it happen she did. With the help of then-Congress booker Mia Proli, the event debuted at Club Congress on Labor Day weekend in 1998. The house was packed, and the show earned thousands of dollars for the ladies' charity of choice--the Brewster Center, a local domestic violence shelter--and plastered smiles on the throngs of people who were there to witness it. Melissa and Mia continued their tireless efforts in 1999, expanding the event to two stages (thereby increasing the number of bands able to participate) and earning even more money for the Brewster Center.

Cut to 2000: Mia has since moved on to greener pastures, and Melissa and her husband, Shoebomb guitarist/vocalist Joe Manas, are expecting a baby in early December (congrats, kids!). A couple months back I asked Melissa what the state of affairs was for this year's Cover-Up, and she told me that unless someone stepped forward to organize the event, it simply wouldn't happen. That's where I come in.

Because the Great Cover-Up is one of my very favorite musical events in this town, and because no one benefits monetarily from the event save for the Brewster Center, which needs all the money it can get, I decided to be the one to step forward and make sure the Cover-Up would see another year of action. Luckily, Kini Wade and Jared Shortman, the Congo's current bookers, and Melissa Adams of the Brewster Center have all agreed to co-coordinate the event along with me, and we're all beside ourselves with excitement for this year's event, which will take place the weekend of November 17.

Here's where you come in: We're asking for submissions from local bands to participate in the shindig. The rules: Your band must normally play original music, but for the event, must only play songs by the artist you choose to cover in a 20-minute set. Keep in mind you will only have about two months to learn the material. And just like everyone else, you will not be compensated monetarily for your efforts (but you will have a hell of a good time and raise a ton of money for a worthwhile organization). In addition, you are highly encouraged to get creative in your choice of artist to cover. Often, the most interesting sets of the past two years occurred when bands stretched outside their usual genres (e.g., Creosote countrifying Prince, Crawdaddy-O playing tunes from Jesus Christ Superstar).

Send us the following: the name of your band; what type of music you normally play; your first and second choices for artists you'd like to cover; and a contact name and phone number and/or e-mail address where we can easily get in touch with you. E-mail all this info to with the words COVER-UP in the subject line. The deadline for submissions is Thursday, September 21, and the list of selected artists will appear in these pages shortly thereafter. Good luck to all.

LET FREEDOM RING: As testament to the sheer fervent devotion of her fan base, I've been contacted by three unpaid fans (in addition to paid publicists) to alert me to the fact that Melissa Ferrick is hitting Tucson this week. The contemporary folkie has just released her third album on What Are Records? (she also recorded a couple of albums for Atlantic before being dropped by that label). The new release is not coincidentally titled Freedom.

Tackling Ferrick's mainstay topics of personal politics and the like, Freedom was recorded on a shoestring budget of $5,000 with bassist and co-producer Marika Tjelios, and no one else. Drums were provided by a drum machine, and the project was recorded on a digital four-track. The result is a highly intimate affair intended to echo the everywoman feel of her (reportedly amazing) live shows.

And in an unprecedented move by Ferrick, the album closes with the uncharacteristically erotically frank "Drive," which Ferrick claims was written on a dare to try to evoke the style of Madonna and Janet Jackson, though to these ears it more easily recalls a stripped-down PJ Harvey with a beat. Elsewhere, winning tunes like "Win 'Em Over," "Some Kinda Nerve" and the title cut recall Melissa Etheridge or a less heavy-handed Ani Difranco.

Melissa Ferrick appears at 9 p.m. on Saturday, September 9, at 7 Black Cats, 260 E. Congress St. For more information call 670-9202.

À LA MODE: Tucson's favorite Frenchmen, the Amor Belhom Duo, will perform their first local show in months, as they've been busy wowing audiences all across Europe recently. Vocalist/guitarist Naim Amor and drummer/percussionist Thomas Belhom (one of the most fun-to-watch drummers you'll ever witness) specialize in a twisted mix of suave pop tunes (Amor could make a song about a pile of rocks sound sexy) and avant-jazz improvisation, and as such constitute a singular voice not only in this town, but across the world.

Catch the second-home homecoming appearance by the Amor-Belhom Duo at 9 p.m. on Saturday, September 9, at Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave. Opening the show will be their buddies Howe Gelb and John Convertino (both of Giant Sand). Cover for this all-ages show is $5, and you can direct any remaining questions to 884-0874.

LAST NOTES: The '80s Flashback Tour, featuring A Flock of Seagulls ("I Ran" and "Wishing [If I Had a Photograph of You]") and Wang Chung ("Everybody Have Fun Tonight" and "Dance Hall Days") pulls into town for a show at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 7, at Bob's, 6350 E. Tanque Verde Road. Tickets are $24 at the door, and you should call 733-6262 for more info.

America's preeminent Cajun band, Beausoleil, featuring the talents of fiddler Michael Doucet, will tote the authentic sounds of the bayou along as they perform this weekend to promote its most recent release, Cajunization (Rhino). It's at 7 p.m. on Sunday, September 10, at St. Philip's Plaza, at the corner of River Road and Campbell Avenue. Doors open at 6 p.m. with full bar and Cajun food available. Advance tickets are available for $16, or $14 for In Concert! and Tucson Jazz Society members, at Hear's Music, The Folk Shop, CD City and Antigone Books, or by phone at 327-4809 or 903-1265. If there are any remaining tickets by showtime (and that's a pretty big if) they'll be $18 at the door. For more information call 327-4809.

Santa Barbara, Calif. trio the Cadillac Angels brings its unique brand of roots-rockabilly to our neck of the woods this week for a show with future labelmates Al Foul and the Shakes. Both bands will be releasing upcoming albums on Tucson's own Slimstyle Records, with Al's due in November and the Caddies' slated for early 2001. Get a preview of both when the greasers take over the Double Zero, 121 E. Congress St., at 9 p.m. on Thursday, September 7. Cover is five bucks and the club can answer any questions at 670-9332.

Munkafust combines an indie-rock aesthetic with funky jam band tendencies, radio-ready arena-sized pop songs with the ability to come off sincere while retaining a healthy sense of humor. The West L.A. band is currently touring in support of its latest offering, Down for Days, recently released on Pinch Hit Records. To that end the band will play an all-ages show along with Table For One and Fire Engine Red at 9 p.m. on Thursday, September 7, at Skrappy's, 201 E. Broadway Blvd. Cover is $5 and you can call 620-1824 for more info.

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