Saturday, February 28, 2009

Can fake be just as good?

(Subtitled: even better than the real thing?)

(Disclaimer: this is my first blog post ever. I am not what you could call an internet-savvy individual at the best of times, and have avoided blogging thus far solely due to my immense dislike for the word Blog. However, I feel that it is my moral duty as a "weird punk" queer woman (a minority within a minority within a minority you could say) to at least try to contribute to this glorious Blog. Blog, still has a terrible aftertaste. Anyways).

Recently I was sitting around in a friends jamspace, waiting for my bandmates to arrive (the norm), listening to my two dear friends discuss their new-and-exciting project – a cover band. Not just a cover band mind you, but a band that is really a bar band for young-hip-and-happenin’ kids (scenesters, hipsters what have you) in Vancouver. And my friends are being paid nicely for this. Much more cash than your regular band can pull in a night in Vancouver.

So, anyone who knows me knows that I am big-time into theoretical bands/projects/dreams and will joyfully dream up new and wonderful ideas with anyone, anytime, anywhere. And these projects have of course included the odd cover band concept, of course. But sitting listening to my friends discuss their band, play tunes they wanted to cover, I was struck by how I wish they were this excited about their own projects and that we were listening their creations with this much enthusiasm. Not that I wasn’t enjoying their back-and-forth, I just was left thinking “does this mean I am getting old? My friends are becoming the bar band! Did I ever think this would happen? (Answer: no.) And is this the future for most musicians?”

Understandably, most of us have surrendered the notion of being rich-and-famous as we for the most part play in such niche genre. But being able to sustain art and lifestyle is key, and in a ridiculously expensive, soulless city such as Vancouver (the city aptly nicknamed No Fun City) this is pretty much an unattainable pipe dream. Leaving selling-out to the masses one option, at least. And I for one don’t begrudge my friends for trying to make a living out of music, not in the least.

In light of this, I would love some discussion on this topic. Is this happening in your city and to your friends? Is this the future we face? Can a cover band be even better than the real thing?

And here is my favourite cover from my formative high school years:

Much love, always.


  1. i don't know if i ever told you , but i'm in a a for-shits-and-giggles- on and off black flag cover band .
    we've played 4 shows in the past 2 years , One being a chili cook-off , another being a benefit for a punk venue that got shut down by the cops.
    we never made any money cause the things we played were so scrappy and lo-key but i know we *could* make money if we wanted too.
    the cover band thing has filled me with a lot of ambivalence cause a) i really enjoyed doing it. playing songs i've like for 20 years with friends who i would normally never play with , or even see in normal circumstances (they are into pretty different music than i for the most part and roll with different crowds?)
    but b) have a weird bitter taste in my mouth over the fact that the cover band will bring out more of my pal n' gals than any show i've played with my real bands over the years.

    my friends are more into me as rollins than me as me and it's hard to not see that as a rejection of my art and by extention , my personality.
    i'm aware that i'm extremely neurotic and spend way to much time brooding about trivialties.

    i think the worry is less in BEING the bar band and more in the fact that many people would rather see and bar band.

  2. Ain't that the truth. Sad truth though.

  3. Yeah, i'm over in Alberta. I've been trying to find people who want to play experimental music and add a little rock-and-roll to this dead fucking town.
    I was in some weird band last year but they were total assholes, and pretty much did the same fucking bullshit every time i went. So i quit.

    Now this year, i found this another band. Everything started out pretty awesome, good musical chemistry and what not.
    Then one day we started jamming, and this guy starts playing this clean cut 3 chord song, in the style of Hoodie And the Blowfish...
    So I just followed along with this bullshit. Feeling a bit irritated.
    Then after 20 minutes of this shit, when we ended, they started talking about how awesome the jam was and how everyone did a good job. At this point i could see myself throwing furniture around, punching holes in the walls, yelling "WHAT THE FUUUUCK!!"
    ...but i kept my cool.

    EVERY TIME I thought we had a wicked jam, they started bitching about how it was rather shitty. And every time we had a rather awkward and boring jam, they were ready to cum in their pants about it.

    Eventually it just clicked in my head.

    They don't know yet, they're like a closet cover band. Their idea of composing an "original song" is basically being the emulation of another band, which is pretty much like cover.

    I think most of the musicians now days have this orthodoxy implanted within their creative patterns.
    They aren't creative at all! And I'm sick of them coming out like that after a few jams.

    "Guess what, I'd rather play other people's stuff, isn't that what everyone does? Isn't that how it works?" Man fuck these people. Where's all the real music appreciation gone? Is there a punk Utopia I had to move to? Have I just missed the fucking train here?

  4. At this very moment in time there is a cover band called Millions of Dead Comps which includes -




    I found this profoundly odd... if you consider the "careers" of these people.

    I write it off to boredom coupled with the fear to actually "try" at anything. God forbid you are good! A good schtick to attempt is the whole "not sucking" thing.

    Say hello to Nardwuar!

  5. the cover band thing is big here in SF too. There is one called "Blowie", a Sisters of Mercy tribute band, a Cranberries tribute band called Ocean Spray that plays the ironic '90s night called DEBASER, many many more, too many to mention.
    I have had friends in Fall cover bands, Black Flag tribute bands, bands that just do specific albums - there was a group of SF musicians that even did a whole cover album of Taking Tiger Mountain.
    I would put them in a slightly separate category but Neung Phak were doing covers of Southeast Asian music and get lumped in with Dengue Fever, sort of more ethnographic rock.

    I relate to what Erin is saying, I have to say the phenomenon that is usuroping live creative music is the DJ night in our town. No dis on the people I know who make a good chunk of change and love the music that they spin, but it definitely sucks to see an awesome live band come through town on tour and there are 15 people there to see them, while a dj night with a $6 cover can sell out.
    I attribute this to the lack of danceability in the stuff I go to, or the lack of a chance of hooking up/meat market potential

  6. George points out a crucial fact in his last bit.

    This is clearly an effect of the over saturated suburban type with the American dream. Owning nice things, and fucking somebody. This which most creative arts scenes don't attract anymore.

    Now days, we have the DJ night, and the bland Indie rock / Alternative bands out there who are enjoying the effects of the social a trend.
    The most interesting music is only there for it's own sake. And this is what only the freaks and geeks seem to enjoy. A minority of them anyway.

    Why aren't youth movements happening anymore? Times are way more fucked up then they've ever been. Oppression usually triggers such things.

    Smells like the point of no return. Or perhaps in a few years we'll experience a social snap of some kind. To be compared with a person who represses all their feelings setting up for a violent explosion.

    Extreme, but who knows really? The times they are fucking strange...

  7. Side note, semi-related albeit... has anyone seen the movie "Good Copy Bad Copy"? Seems to be cutting close to what I brought up here, hasn't made it to Nardwuar's home yet.

  8. Is this a documentary or a movie? I have not heard of this before.

  9. A documentary. Looks interesting.

    For several years I've been talking about doing an early Pere Ubu cover band as a one-off for Halloween with some people. Maybe one day it'll happen, but I would just like to play one show to see if we could do it and then leave it at that.

    There's something interesting about learning someone else's stuff and playing a different musical role, even if it's on the same instrument, than the one you usually default to when playing your own material. Or at least there's the possibility of a different perspective - I definitely know the type that Endth is talking about w/r/t "closet cover bands" and the copout of not working on your own stuff, that fear of committing yourself to that kind of personal expression coupled with a particularly vicious circle of boredom. Total mind-killer.

    The one thing I will say about that comps band is, from the looks of it, they're at least nerding out for charity. If it brings in more people and money for worthy causes that's fine I guess.