An Undercover Weekend and its like-minded events are fun for so many reasons. The concert series, in which local combos don the guise of a famous band/artist and play its/his/her music, allows bands to jump outside of their comfort zone, play to new audiences and pay homage to their favorite artists.
The audience is rewarded with a diverse lineup of talented musicians playing the music of acts that probably wouldn't share a bill on something short of Farm Aid. In short, great local bands + beloved music = a hugely entertaining show. Saturday's concert was no exception to this equation. The show featured the emerging talents of the Sham, the Dive Poets, John Henry & The Engine, Fattback and the Monads covering the songs of Tears for Fears, John Mellencamp, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Talking Heads and Andrew W.K, respectively. All of the acts did their alter egos justice and made sure that nobody in the sizable crowd left unhappy.
The Sham started things off with a quick but memorable five-song set as
Tears for Fears. Singer/guitarist Chris Phillips hilariously started
the set by introducing the band in character with a fake British
accent. The for-the-night six-piece (The Sham is usually a quartet)
then launched into "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" and sounded
completely at ease with the Tears for Fears sound. Immediately,
everyone in the band locked into the song's shuffling groove and just
clicked as a unit. Powering through, "Head Over Heels," "Mad World,"
"Change" and "Shout," The Sham seemed to draw its strength from its
rhythm section. Although the band's parts might not have been difficult,
bassist Joel Burton and drummer Nathan Larson were perfectly in-sync
with each other and air-tight, which created a solid foundation on which to
build. It also didn't hurt that The Sham did a fantastic job of
replicating the timbre of Tears' instruments. All that was left was for
Phillips to nail the vocals, and for the most part he did. He gave a
solid portrayal of both Tears singers and sold the blue-eyed soul of
"Head Over Heels" well. Only during a few off-key sections in "Mad
World" and "Shout" did Phillips struggle. Otherwise, The Sham was
terrific as Tears (though I wish they wouldn't have been so faithful to
the overly-long ending in "Shout").
The Dive Poets as John Mellencamp were next. I'm going to level with
you: I don't care much for John Mellencamp. I've always found his voice
and lyrics to be preening and cocky in a very unappealing way that
overwhelms the few songs of his that I would otherwise enjoy. To be
fair, my dislike of some of his bigger songs has kept me from giving
his other tunes a chance. With this in mind, I tried my best to go into
The Dive Poets' set with as open of a mind as possible, hoping that the
group would expose me to a side of Mellencamp I hadn't seen.
Aside from "Rain on the Scarecrow," The Dive Poets did not convert me
to the Mellencamp. What they did do was provide an energetic and
soulful tribute to the Coug' that a non-fan such as myself could
appreciate. Augmented by two female backup singers, The Dive Poets tore
into rockers "Hurts So Good" and "Authority Song" with aplomb and
deftly handled slower moments like "Small Town" and "Jack and Diane,"
the latter of which provoked a massive sing-along in the crowd. Having
Rachel Parkin on the violin certainly helped on some of the ballads and
her instrument provided an interesting touch on the songs that didn't
have it to begin with. Eric Sargent also channeled Mellencamp voice
well (too well for my taste). The Dive Poets closed on a rousing
version of "R.O.C.K in the U.S.A." the merged into The Romantics' "What
I Like About You," confirming my suspicion that they are indeed the
same song. All in all, any Mellencamp fan would have loved this
well-executed set and if they couldn't make me detest Pink Houses
less, they at least didn't make me hate it more.