An Under Cover Weekend Night Two: Samuriot, Tenement Ruth, Beth Bombara and Cassie Morgan, The Orbz and The Hibernauts
Night two of An Under Cover Weekend featured a little something for everyone, a nice reminder of another one of the event's benefits: the ability to bring disparate crowds together.
Most of this diverse crowd was still filtering in during Samuriot's opening set as third-wave ska legends Reel Big Fish. The local quintet's fans knew to show up on time, though: Within ten seconds of Samuriot's first song, people leapt into something of a ska-line dance that involved kicking with alternating legs while twisting their torsos. (It looked a lot more fun than that description sounds.) The band knew how to get the party started with its comically arrogant stage banter ("We just kicked your ass! We just kicked the shit out of your ass!"), get-ups that ranged from sideburns and a Hawaiian shirt to a '40s pilot uniform, and loads of energy.
Underneath all this bravado was solid musicianship. The rhythm section locked in tight, and guitarist Mike Belaska both ably skanked and shredded over their grooves (save for a couple false starts before some songs). A few scuffs aside, Andrew Vogel and Nathan Golomski's horns sounded great too. Vogel had a natural stage presence that befitted his frontman status and he made for an excellent ringmaster to the group's show. However, the peak might have been during the night's lone instrumental when the dancing fans all huddled together to skank the night away in a circle.
In terms of presentation, Tenement Ruth went the extra mile for their set as Loretta Lynn. Not only did the group look the part - the band dressed in matching blue jeans and black collared shirts while Melissa Anderson donned an old-timey white dress and styled her hair like Lynn - but it even brought delicious chocolate "bourbon balls" for the audience. Tenement Ruth furthered the goodwill these treats engendered with a faithful set which dropped the "alt" from its normal alt-country attack. Every member of the group, expanded to a six-piece for this show, worked together as a cohesive unit and churned out smooth and sincere renditions of songs spanning Lynn's career. Especially good was Dave Anderson, whose tasteful lap-steel playing added just the right amount of color to Tenement Ruth's sound. Melissa Anderson did a fine job portraying Lynn as her naturally twangy voice proved a good match for the most famous coal-miner's daughter.
When Cassie Morgan and Beth Bombara play together, they usually produce tuneful, mellow folk music. So it was slightly jarring to see them rock out as The Breeders. But rock out they did, along with a rhythm section of Kit Hamon and Melinda Cooper. The leading ladies traded vocal and lead guitar duties throughout the set and convincingly plowed through a show that mostly drew from Last Splash. The group nailed the slacker garage rock vibe the Deal sisters all but copyrighted and Morgan and Bombara sounded fantastic harmonizing on "Divine Hammer." As expected, "Cannonball" proved to be the set's highlight, especially given that Morgan brought out a megaphone to replicate the song's ridiculous a capella intro. Unfortunately, Bombara's guitar died on her in the middle of "Saints," which pulled her away from the mic to try to fix the problem. Thankfully, the band rallied for a great reading of the Breeders' arrangement of the Beatles' classic "Happiness is a Warm Gun" to close out the set.
The Orbz vocalist, Jason Robinson, took the night's crown for commitment to character in his depiction of Iggy Pop. Donning ripped jeans, shoes, silver gloves, a Pop wig and nothing else, Robinson did everything short of cutting himself and smearing peanut butter in his embodiment of the world's forgotten boy. This included writhing on the floor, screaming his head off and cursing up a storm in between songs. Likewise, the rest of the Orbz did a great Stooges impression. If the band played it faster, their run-through of "I Wanna Be Your Dog" would have been perfect. "No Fun" amped up the energy and "Search and Destroy" had the entire venue rocking out. Ken Adelman in particular did a great job channeling the various guitarists Iggy worked with, adapting his leads to each player. The Orbz didn't entirely play by the rules, as they also played some of Pop's solo material. While the execution was solid, the energy waned on some of these tunes; for instance, "The Passenger" dragged after the rush of the Stooges' classics. The band might have fared better by cutting these songs in favor of tracks from Fun House, which they completely neglected.
The Hibernauts' choice of The Raveonettes as its under cover band might be the single most perplexing choice in the history of An Under Cover Weekend. First, the Raveonettes might be the most obscure group chosen. (The Firebird could probably book the real band given the opportunity.) Second, the Hibernauts had to shrink from a quintet to a trio to take on the Danish duo's minimalist garage-rock attack. Finally, if we're being honest, The Raveonettes aren't that memorable of a band. Frankly, the only thing as confusing as this choice was the decision to have this set at the end of the night. That being said, the Hibernauts did a good job with its choice of material. All the harmonies and chord changes were handled well, and the band played with energy, sang with conviction and injected the proper amount of reverb into its performance, in order to capture the Raveonettes' echo-laden sound.