Coverband explosion

by Devender Sellars

About twice a year my friend Joe Garrigan puts on a very special concert. It features dozens of local musicians mixing things up in various new groups’­. You might call them super groups! They’re all covering bands they would love to hear. And the show is a benefit for the Humane Society — all five bucks of your hard-earned money going right to helping cute, fluffy animals. Even better.

I have been in Greensboro over a decade and have seen various friends move into adulthood and away from the time when they could devote hours to sweaty house shows or ridiculous late-night adventures. Older rockers who get a break from the daily grind now hire a babysitter for the kids and play with other musicians who don’t get to dust off their guitars too often. It’s a great reminder of how much talent lies in Greensboro — all of it living on for one more night.

The evening also emphasizes and encourages a sense of tribute to the band being performed, which sets it aside from other cover bands and cover shows. A group of people get together to cover one band’s songs — sometimes even just a particular era of that artist, all taken vary seriously with costumes, attitude and a friendly competitive spirit to outdo the others.

Here in the Gate City, I have seen a guitar player pull off a shockingly realistic Johnny Marr to a gladiolawielding Morrissey in the Smiths, as well as a hilarious Spinal Tap, complete with mustaches, leather pants and their own personal Stonehenge. One of my favorite performances was a complete rendition of “This Year’s Model” by an amazing Elvis Costello & the Attractions.

This year I am particularly excited about the Descendents, the latter bringing me back to teenage days of angst and pop punk. If they don’t play “Bikeage,” I’m gonna throw a teenage-inspired fit. Show them something to “run from but never get away.”

Other acts include ZZ Top, Rick Springfield, Bauhaus, Shocking Blue, the Cars and REM.

ZZ Top are sure to be sharp-dressed men with long beards. While you might think ZZ Top is for boomers, I’d remind you that they had tons of killer songs about girls, getting laid and the oft-used-in-film ’70s song, “La Grange.” It’s always used when someone is driving. Man, that guitar player still rocks.

I suggest yelling at REM to play “Radio Free Europe.” Their 1983 album Murmur helped spark the more withdrawn indie and post-punk movements — by no small feat did it gain critical and commercial success. Plus, the record was recorded in Charlotte. Even cooler. If they play “Everybody Hurts,” show them what really hurts. Hopefully they will stick to the early tracks.

If Rick Springfield brings you back to your youth, perhaps you’ll also enjoy the Cars. I for one can’t deny the glory of “Jessie’s Girl.” The 1981 song is full of easy rock and three-part harmony backing vocals. Surely they’ll play that track. Even if it is creepy as hell.

And if the ’80s brings you back, or if you have jumped on the current nostalgia for trickle-down economics and leggings as pants, then you’ll love the Cars. Maybe they will play their 1984 hit “Drive,” and you can feel all shimmery in pop sadness about that decade being lost forever. I just rewatched that music video, and I’ve never seen so many shots with Venetian blinds in my life.

“The bats have left the belltower, Bela Lugosi’s dead!” Geez, guys, Bauhaus sure needed a hug. Peter Murphy probably says the word “dead” 100 times in the song. Maybe 1979 was really depressing in Northern England.

I didn’t even know who Shocking Blue were until I saw them on this bill. Though a brief foray into their catalog notes a catchy late-’60s sound that I’ll enjoying hearing — “Venus” being their largest hit in 1970.

Personally, I have been involved in performing an angry Gang of Four, a loud-as-hell Jawbox and an emotive Jawbreaker. All awesome experiences with new and old friends.

Though I must admit, coming together with some of my oldest NC friends to do a fully costumed Judas Priest was a particular highlight. I had to search for appropriately-long hair and a manly leather jacket. Perhaps I wasn’t as tough as I thought in my head, but it was a fun performance.

This year I will be headed down to the Blind Tiger on Saturday, May 15 as an audience member and fan of some great music and local musicians. I invite you to join me.