When I was in Chicago last October, I noticed some posters at Beat Kitchen advertising shows where local bands covered well-known, national bands. Thinking this was a cool concept, I wondered if these kinds of shows ever happened in Dallas, Fort Worth or Denton. Well, fast forward to this past Saturday, Dan's Silverleaf in Denton hosted "Our Band Could Be Your Band," a tribute to the bands featured in Michael Azerrad's book, Our Band Could Be Your Life.
Since there are thirteen bands featured, this could have been a day-long concert. Instead, the show began at 8:45 and it had to end before the bar closed at 2am. So, each band had only ten minutes to cover an average of three songs. This was a great set-up, but I wish the bands had more time to play as precious minutes were eaten up by a babbling MC (more on him later) and babbling gushers introducing each band and reading a passage from the book. It was great to hear stuff from the book be read aloud, but it got old very quickly with all the gushing added in.
The MC looked like David Cross before he started balding and his material consisted of rants/taunts that tried to be as biting as Steve Albini's Forced Exposure columns. They weren't; they were always annoying and unfunny and they were between every single band. Again, I would have preferred to hear each band play an extra song or two instead.
As far as the bands, this is what made the show one of the best shows I've seen in a long time.
Black Flag was covered by Drink to Victory, a trio featuring a singer/guitarist who had Henry Rollins' tattoos drawn all over his body. Of all the bands that played this night, they were one of the bigger letdowns. While "Wasted" was delivered well, one of Black Flag's greatest songs got butchered. "Rise Above" just didn't work at a slower speed, with only one voice on the "Rise above!/We're gonna rise above!" part and with a botched final section (complete with forgotten lyrics and an extra chorus). After their four songs, that was it and I was a bit relieved. I wasn't so sure how the rest of the show was going to be.
Deep Snapper got the show going right with their Minutemen set. Complete with a bass player that dressed like Mike Watt and played as furiously as Watt, this trio was spot-on. Highlights included "Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs" and "This Ain't No Picnic."
Birth to Burial raised the level of excellence some more with their Mission of Burma set. Starting off with "Academy Fight Song" and ending with "That's When I Reach For My Revolver," I was pretty blown away. Though not as ear-splitting as Burma was back in Eighties, the tribute was very sincere and powerful.
This Ain’t No Picnic did a better job looking like Minor Threat compared to playing Minor Threat's songs. Songs like "Guilty of Being White" and "Straight Edge" were played accurately, but they had all these dropped drumbeats that killed a lot of their intensity. The singer looked a little like Ian MacKaye while their guitarist had Brian Baker's blonde hair-and-glasses look down pat.
I believe the Replacements' Slim Dunlap once said that Bob Mould could do three things at once on a guitar. Well, that was very apropos when Raised by Tigers covered Husker Du. Complete with three guitars, the five-piece tore through classics like "New Day Rising," "Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill" and "Ice Cold Ice." Though there were no vein-popping vocals, these guys did a fine job.
The Replacements were perfectly covered by The Drams. Vocalist/guitarist Brent Best donned a sports jacket with a Gibson guitar, lead guitarist Jess Barr wore a dress, bassist Keith Killoren had frazzled hair, eye shade and a checkered-colored jacket on and drummer Tony Harper dressed up as Pappy the Clown, this was one of the best sets of the night. Tearing through "Color Me Impressed," "Can't Hardly Wait" and "All He Wants to Do is Fish," there were moments of pure drunken Replacements rage replicated. Be it Killoren falling down during a song, Best's guitar strap falling off mid-song or a brief, impromptu cover of "Feel Like Making Love," this was proof that these guys knew who they were covering and how they should be covered.
That said, Fra Pandolf's Sonic Youth set was even better. I would even venture to say it was the best set of the night. They didn't noodle around; they just went for the noisy art punk without any hesitation. Though I didn't recognize any of the songs (still holding out for those SST-era releases to get the two-disc reissue treatment), I was blown away. I was reminded of something Matt once told me: you have to see Sonic Youth live even if you don't know their songs.
The classic Butthole Surfers came alive with the Baptist Generals covering "The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey's Grave" and "John E Smoke." Complete with a projection screen at the back of the stage showing all sorts of odd and disgusting stuff, I got a good look at what I had only read about in books and reviews. By this point, plenty of alcohol had been consumed by the attendees and more was to be had. I think that's what made it even more fun, albeit a little dangerous. Some people looked like and walked like they were in the original Dawn of the Dead.
Inaction Park did a fine tribute to Big Black as did History at Our Disposal with their Dinosaur Jr set. When the mighty Record Hop tore through three Fugazi songs (including "Great Cop" and "Waiting Room"), the place went nuts. I'm talking a full-on mosh pit without stopping the songs to address the moshing. I was smack-dab in the center and was pushed against the edge of the stage many times. I had not felt so alive in a long time being in this spot and screaming my head off to the songs. Though I have bruises all over my legs and arms, it was a good kind of pain.
When Record Hop was over, I had to sit down. I enjoyed White Drugs' Mudhoney set as I did with Denton County Revelators' Beat Happening set. I thought about leaving as DCR was finishing, but I stayed until the end. I'm glad that I did. DCR's vocalist/Record Hop drummer Josh Prisk said something that was so damn inspiring even though I've heard this all before: if you don't like what you're hearing, start your own band. This idea was new in the Eighties and I gotta say, it still sounds new today. Sure, there are plenty of really awful bands out there thinking that they're playing something worthwhile, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't pick up an instrument, start a band or a record label.
As I've said before, Our Band Could Be Your Life is one of my favorite books. While I don't like all of the music by the bands featured in it, the stories are what I love. Not a day goes by that I don't think about the book and how it affects me. Even though I was listening to Huey Lewis and the News, Janet Jackson and INXS and had no idea about these underground bands in the Eighties, I'm glad Azerrad decided to document the decade's underdogs. Even though I've read portions of the book several times, I always get something new out of it. Seeing a full-on tribute show devoted to it, I have even more stuff to enjoy and remember.