Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Truth About Cover Bands

We found the perfect happy hour spot.

There was a couch for the two of us to sit on. We paid retail not restaurant prices for the wine and cheese.

And the music was a mix of vintage '80s and '90s classics that never let up, a foreshadowing of what was to come later in the evening.

My girlfriend and I met at Olio, where we kicked off happy hour as the first customers of the evening.

Choosing the Bodegas Montecillo Verdemar Albarion was a no-brainer. Its fruity nose was exceeded only by its big, beautifully rounded mouthfeel.

Deciding on cheese was more challenging, so we narrowed it down to a few in the stinky family.

The chef then asked how much we wanted to spend (we kept it economical) and assured us she'd make a cheese plate from that.

What arrived at our table was a cheese feast.

The Taleggio, French Pierre Robert with creme fraiche (as obscenely rich as good butter), English cheddar and French raw milk Fourme D'Ambert (a creamy bleu) with country pate, cornichons, various sizes of olives and grilled bread slices was truly impressive.

It was as comfortable as being at one of our homes, but with a far better variety of food and wine to choose from.

We girltalked and ate for two hours and still never finished all the food on that plate.

"We're coming back here," she said as we prepared to leave with full bellies.

Great ambiance, a view of the Main Street passersby (like the guy who walked by with an unzipped fly, only to return to the window to zip it up) and well-priced vino and victuals make for an unbeatable combination.

Afterwards, I took my car home so I could begin the artwalk on the night with the most daylight of all the First Fridays.

The crowds were a tad lighter than usual, but bands were performing on the street and vendors were set up everywhere.

Quirk's new show "Supper" featured table settings by Chris Milk, Christopher Jagmin, Tina Frey and Melody Gulik, each distinctive in its own way.

Jagmin's lunch setting was all about numbers on the dishes with office supplies (rubber bands, pencil shavings, push pins) as "food."

Gulik's table and the TV in front of it were covered in moss and plant matter for beautiful, if unusable, furniture.

In the front gallery, local artist Kenneth Chase's "Shop Show" featured collages on wood blocks, some of them painted, too. I felt myself begin to covet one of the very reasonably priced pieces, always a dangerous thing.

After a stop at ADA Gallery's show "Bovasso! Bovasso! Bovasso!" with whimsical and colorful new work by Nina Bovasso, I headed to Gallery 5 for the "Under the Covers" show.

No original material tonight.

I walked in just moments before the Pretend Pretenders began playing. Onstage, star guitarist Paul Ivey spotted me  buying my ticket and said, "Karen's here" as if anyone cared.

Lead singer Allison Apperson repeated, "Karen's here" and from there they went into "Brass in Pocket" and took us through" "Kid," "Stop Your Sobbing," and "Back on the Chain Gang."

They did a superb job with the material (I love seeing a bass player slap a bass) and the crowd was wildly appreciative, dancing and singing along. Great songs, great voice, great playing.

The Green Hearts played next, doing "badass power pop" according to the show poster. What that meant was a lot of hard and fast old songs like "Starry Eyes" and "Rock and Roll Girl."

Lead singer Paul Ginder, with his magnificent new chops, did a great job carrying the energy of the songs.

Then Zepp Repplica (two P's, both words) took the stage in their impossibly tight pants and look-alike wigs to rock the faces off of the sweaty crowd.

Having seen them before, I knew how eerily similar they sound to the real thing, but most of the people I knew, as well as strangers, had never witnessed the veracity of their performance. 

These twenty-somethings have seriously studied their Led Zeppelin history. Songs are note-perfect, vocals reach Plant-like pitch and mannerisms are nailed.

More than one person asked me afterwards why these guys aren't doing this professionally. Maybe they will. Likewise, several acknowledged how hard it was going to be to follow them onstage.

The Sweater band, a Weezer tribute, had that privilege. And while I can appreciate Weezer, I'm far from an aficionado of the band.

In fact, earlier in the evening, I'd asked musician Prabir why 30-somethings consider Weezer so god-like. 

What followed was a 30-something's dissertation about the brilliance of the song writing and the technical skill of the guitar playing. 

I recall something about the breadth of sounds Rivers Cuomo is able to coax from his electric guitar and that's about it. Frankly, I think it's because it was high school music for thirty-somethings.

But the Sweater Band fed into those people and soon there was rabid dancing and shouts of "WEE-ZER!" after every song. 

I feared for my sandal-clad feet because of the large drunk guy dancing so boisterously right in front of me.

The band was smart, though, and began taking requests directly from the fanatics. It's a great way to shut people up.

And while I knew some material like "Buddy Holly" and of course "The Sweater Song," I couldn't commit like the diehards did.

Near the end of their set, I said my goodnights to nearby friends, including the one who was about as big a fan as me ("I traded my first Weezer album for Prodigy," he admitted sheepishly) and walked outside to say more goodnights there.

For all the cover band haters out there, you guys missed a seriously entertaining evening. They may not have been the real thing, but they were close.

Sometimes close counts in more than just hand grenades and horseshoes. Sometimes it's just good fun.

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