by Jaime Lees
The Riverfront Times has a long, long, long history of promoting the An Under Cover Weekend shows. On the surface it's a cool event that seems to support our huge pool of local talent. It's nice to see local bands in any showcase together, especially one where everyone is working together to try to make something bigger happen. Still, I have some issues with AUCW.
First, though, I still have my compliments for the event. The first few years of AUCW brought us some amazing sets that set the standard for future performances: Robb Steele as the Beastie Boys (perfect), Ghost in Light as the Cure (fantastic), the Bureau as Duran Duran (dreamy), the Blind Eyes as Elvis Costello (inspired) and 7 Shot Screamers as No Doubt (legendary).
And I will cry forever because I missed Union Tree Review as Marvin Gaye. In fact, in the six years that AUCW has been a thing, the majority of the bands have produced great sets, and it is a testament to all of the people involved that only a few fell flat. For example, the same night that False Moves totally pulled off Interpol, Troubadour Dali should have probably covered Black Rebel Motorcycle Club instead of Sonic Youth. And the Orbz as the Stooges is pretty much unmentionable, so I won't mention it.
But it's fun to see bands that you love (or your friends who play in bands that you tolerate) go all out in tribute to those they are emulating with costumes, attitudes and mimicked stage behaviors. Still, other people in town are putting on (arguably) better cover show events with much less fanfare and far fewer demands of the bands. All of these kinds of shows should just be good Halloween-style fun and not such a serious occasion. Everything doesn't have to be such a B.F.D. all of the time.
The AUCW shows are being promoted online ad nauseum. It's smart business to advertise your show in any way possible, but the AUCW crew has gone into over-saturation mode, and it's enough to make me want to skip the show in protest. The mystique of the event is damaged by multiple updates containing links to self-congratulatory videos explaining both the process and the characters. And the videos look good, but I'm not sure what they add to the experience. We just want to go to the show and have a good time. But there are worse things than Facebook spamming or what I perceive as a vanity project on behalf of the organizers. The rules that participating bands are expected to adhere to are unreasonable.
AUCW's web site states the most objectionable one last on their list:
"We ask that the bands playing AUCW blackout their schedules locally for 4 weeks on either side of the event. This is a somewhat flexible rule, but we like to see all of the bands working to promote this event, as it will certainly be one of the biggest events of the year. With the amount of effort that it takes both to organize and to prepare to play the event, it is in every band's interest to not hinder their draw for AUCW by playing too many local shows in the weeks surrounding the event."
That's almost more offensive than hosting pay-to-play gigs. These bands hustle all of the time to book their own gigs, and it is their fans who will populate the show. If someone told me that my band couldn't play AUCW unless I blocked out two months of my own shows, I'd tell them to get bent. Local bands work too hard and are far too awesome to be saddled with such restrictions. It doesn't matter if this rule is "somewhat flexible," it still does nothing but hurt the very community that projects like these claim to support.
There is little concern for audience overlap, anyway, because these bands aren't playing their own music, they're playing cover songs. For example, I've never heard Aquitaine, but I'm dying to see somebody (anybody) cover Oasis because I'll probably never get to see Oasis. And I've been meaning to see Palace, but I'm not going to go watch Palace cover ABBA because I want to see Palace, you dig?
I go on about all of this for one reason: in defense of the bands. Yeah, they volunteered to play, but I doubt half of them would agree to such unfortunate terms if they knew that they were capable of doing it themselves. You guys: please remember that you can put on your own shows and have fun with it and not have to deal with any bullshit rules. And while I think there are things that you can learn from AUCW's quality control standards (for example, it's nice to see those professional band photos; they're beautiful), you might be better off doing it on your own. Or consider taking all of the time and effort you are putting into this one 30 minute gig and apply it instead to your own original music. Your music is better, anyway. You can do it. This is a D.I.Y. town. Make something happen.