I am a strange person. I will admit it. I have long dreamed about being in a band, and the reality of the situation is, if I wanted to make that happen quickly, I would have to be the vocalist for a cover band. Naturally, I would do it. But there is one small problem with that idea: I am a vicious bitch when it comes to other people’s cover bands. If I am going out to see live music, and I walk in and hear someone that is NOT Ted Nugent singing “Stranglehold”, I am walking out. I don’t care how good they are.
And you know what? I hate that about myself. I really do. Look, I write songs all the time. I think some of them are pretty good, and I’m a decent vocalist. But am I in a cover band? No. I am not in any kind of band, and I am too chicken to hit an open mike night. Do you know where I go to get my rock star kicks? Karaoke. That’s right. KARAOKE, the form of performance that ranks well below cover bands on the lame scale. I do it as often as I can, and I love it. This essentially makes me a hypocrite, and I detest hypocrites.
I failed to realize that until this weekend, of course. Consider this column my public apology and shaming for my blatant hypocrisy.
This past weekend found me in the warehouse district of Austin once again, enjoying a sticky humid Texas date night with the hubby. He was dressed to kill, and I was, well, dressed. Any kind of look I had going on at the beginning of the night turned into a sweaty, mascara streaked nightmare after about thirty minutes in the heat. We hit a couple of rooftop bars, and what was left of my perfect Brigitte Bardot coif was finished off by the misters scattered around in a vain attempt to cool off the patrons of said rooftop bars. After a dancing for a few songs and collapsing on the couch in an exhausted heap, we finally gave up and decided to head downstairs into the air conditioning.
“Why,” you ask, “would you hang out on the roof if it’s a hundredy-billion degrees and five hundred percent humidity?” Because every single club we happened to hit in the district had a cover band inside, that’s why. I wanted to get my dance on, and typically if you want to see original live material it’s at a venue where you have to buy tickets, or an open mike night, and those are notoriously hit or miss. I figured I would go dance in the district, let loose and have fun, and get some air conditioned relief on my frequent trips to the ladies room.
So there we were, downstairs in the club listening to a cover band. Not only were they a cover band, but they were dressed as super heroes. I am not kidding. We had a bearded Batman on lead guitar and vocals, a surfer looking Superman on the bass, a chick dressed like Poison Ivy on backup vocals, and Captain America on the drums. I hope you can appreciate the choice I was faced with: sit still and continue to alternate between mint juleps and Moscow mules (the only respectable cocktails to drink when it is that hot outside) and suffer through the super squad on stage, or go back out in the heat, on foot, in platform stilettos, and find somewhere else to land. I figured that we would go somewhere else nearby only to find another cover band, so my throbbing piggies, crammed into the completely impractical but awesomely sexy shoes I had chosen, did the deciding for me. And my morbid sense of curiosity, of course. I mean, these guys had costumes! Gimmicks have their place, I guess.
“And so do cover bands”, I found myself thinking later in the night. Batman was good. I was impressed when he busted into an awesome version of the Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues”, and even more impressed when he did the guitar solo one handed while chugging a beer with the other. I suppose Batman can do anything, but I still had to admit that it was cool. Every song they played, they played well, and the crowd was having a fantastic time. So was I. Toward the end of the night, as the onlookers ushered me into the go-go cage, and I took my rightful place in the sloshed-up fool spotlight, I realized that it was one of the better live music experiences I have ever had. Because cover bands do, in fact, have a purpose.
Weddings, clubs, birthday parties, anywhere you would have a DJ, you could insert a cover band. If they are good, the party will rock. And for all of those guys out there playing all of these events, at least they are on stage, doing something they love. That’s more than I can say I have ever done (karaoke does not count). And you never know what the story behind the band is. Maybe they do have original material, and have no idea how to market it. But I have finally accepted the idea that it’s perfectly ok even if they don’t. If you are a weekend warrior that just wants to get out there and play, then a cover band is the way to go, and it is in no way a reflection of your talent. It’s not the songs you play; it’s all in how you play them. Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing new, original music from talented unknowns, and I still don’t think of cover bands as being in the same category. But it’s not an issue for me of what is superior anymore. It’s an issue of what I am in the mood to hear. I feel like it’s rather arrogant of me to say support live local music and not at least hold some grudging respect for the cover bands out there keeping the party alive.
What I can tell you, as I bring this article to a close, is that I was sore from head to toe and had trouble walking for two days from all of the dancing I did to that band. I won’t be seeking them out for any new music articles I may do in the future, but I will be looking for them the next time I feel like letting loose in a go-go cage and whipping my hair around to “Pour Some Sugar On Me”. And next time, I will make more of an effort to make sure my head clears the door jam of the cage first.