An Under Cover Weekend Night Three: Theodore + The Rats and People Motion Picture Orchestra, Fractured Army, Makeshift Gentlemen, The Dive Poets, Via Dove
The Dive Poets was startlingly good as R.E.M. Eric Sargent was perfectly cast as Michael Stipe; not only did he look and sound like R.E.M.'s frontman, but Sargent exuded Stipe's energy and playful stage presence. Decked out in a suit and Stipe's later-era blue face-paint over his eyes, Sargent gleefully leapt into "Pop Song '89" and bounced around during the group's up-tempo numbers. His gigantic smile made it clear he was happy to take on this role. The rest of the band provided rock-solid support.
The rhythm section of Jeff York and Renato Durante locked into a solid, propulsive groove that fed into the jangling guitars of Karl Eggers and Anna Moffatt, resulting in an almost perfect approximation of R.E.M.'s sound. Only the occasional presence of Moffatt's violin hinted at the Dive Poets' country tendencies, which were largely kept at bay for the sake of faithfulness to the Athens' combo's sound. The Dive Poets also picked an excellent setlist, hitting standards such as "The One I Love," "Orange Crush," "Radio Free Europe," and "Losing My Religion," which inspired a loud sing-along in the crowd. When you add in the set's fast pacing (songs faded into each other) and the group's spot-on harmonies, The Dive Poets portrayal of R.E.M. was one of the highlights of this year's Under Cover Weekend.
Following this set would be difficult for most bands, but Via Dove was up to the task in its performance as Pearl Jam. Despite the night's Stone Gossard abstaining from the long wigs and '90s fashion that the rest of the group donned, Via Dove were coordinated musically. From opener "Not For You" onward, the for-the-night quintet displayed a mastery of Pearl Jam's pile-driving yet tuneful sound. Aaron Vaught proved himself capable of stepping in Mike McCready's shoes with arena-ready classic rock guitar heroics. And as always, Andy Shadburne remains a thrilling frontman with energy, stage presence and vocal talent to spare, although he jumped the gun on getting to the chorus on a few songs. Via Dove was at its best tearing through rockers like "Even Flow" and "Do the Evolution," but also demonstrated its proficiency with the Temple of the Dog ballad "Hunger Strike."
John Joern of Fattback joined the group on vocals for the duet, and once he and Shadburne realized that they both couldn't be Eddie Vedder the song took off. The call-and-response at the end, particularly Joern's wailing as Chris Cornell, riled up the crowd in true power ballad fashion. This primed the pump for the night's closer, "Alive." As expected, the Pearl Jam fans in the audience went nuts and Via Dove did it justice. Vaught brought the house down with his never-ending solo in the epic coda and helped send this year's Under Cover Weekend