Cover songs can be tricky business. Finding one(s) that everyone in a band wants to do and then executing it while attempting to pay proper homage to whoever or whatever reason you wanted to do it in the first place.
Doing an entire set of someone else's music, though -- that's downright fucking adventurous. Kudos to all the bands that participated in Sunday night's Cover the Crescent event at downtown's Crescent Ballroom. Everyone rose to, met, and exceeded the challenge like serious champs.
Sweetbleeders kicked off the night with a Billy Joel set, opting for some interesting choices from Joel's mid-'70s offering Turnstiles. Even if you are like me and have never gotten into, or down with, the sounds of Billy Joel, Sunday night's performance brought those tunes to life in an honest, fun, and musically right-on homage. Singer Robin Vining was nothing but fierce as he channeled Billy Joel via interesting choices like "James," Angry Young Man," and "I've Loved These Days."
The band, complete with sax action, was righteous with big, impassioned arrangements. Not saying I'm gonna go rock a B.J. album now, but if I had to hear him, this was for sure the way to go.
Blues Oblique rocking Television was nothing short of outstanding, capturing the band's brilliance with songs from the timeless Marquee Moon and delivering it with real power and elegance. Hey, Michael Krassner on vocals and guitar, you are exceptional.
The whole band, actually -- but never having seen Krassner perform before, I was beyond impressed. Truth be told, I got chills during "Prove It," a song I've probably heard 5,000 times before; it was a beautiful rendition. "Venus," "Torn Curtain," "See No Evil," and "Marquee Moon" were also part of the set.
Wooden Indian was a good choice for a band to tackle a Velvet Underground set. Great players with an eclectic nature, they brought the sweetness and beauty with "Candy Says," and "Pale Blue Eyes."
The singer traded an electric for an acoustic and along with the band, pounded out a killer "Beginning to See the Light."
It was super-spirited and further amped up an already excited crowd. "I'm Set Free" closed out their set intensely with big sound and nice, pounding drums.
Members of all the bands closed out the night with an oft-riveting Talking Heads set. Totally on track with music and vocals, it not only was really good, it was really fun. Everyone was smiley, loose, and rocked out hits like "Psycho Killer," and "Once in a Lifetime" before wrapping up with a booming "Burning Down the House." Michael Krassner ventured back to the vocal mic for the encore, "Heaven," dedicated to former New Times music editor Jason Woodbury. A great time and a benefit that raised some bucks for Bike Saviours, a nonprofit that teaches all things cycle. Thumbs up to local DJ Shane Kennedy for double drum duty.
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Critics Notebook: Last Night: Cover the Crescent/New York Night at Crescent Ballroom Personal Bias: Three of my all-time favorite bands were covered, as was Billy Joel. The Crowd: Big mix. Lots of happy dancers. Overheard in the crowd: Not overheard, but seen: A lone Bic lighter held up as an offering for Billy Joel encore. Better than: Having to see an actual Billy Joel concert.