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The 27th annual Great Cover Up: Weekend one in review

The 27th Annual Great Cover Up kicked off it’s first weekend this last Friday and Saturday at the Canopy Club in Urbana. Despite relocating from it’s previous home in Downtown Champaign, the Cover Up still brought out tons of loyal attendees, proving that this yearly tradition focused on community and local music withstands the test of time.

If you’re unaware of what the Cover Up is, now’s your chance to join this awesome tradition — there are still two weekends left (this coming weekend at the City Center, and the weekend following at 51 Main).

Each winter, original CU bands and musicians transform into well-known, famous artists for a night by donning costumes, adopting personalities, and performing tributes of their chosen artist. The real kicker of the Cover Up is the anticipation; each act is a surprise! Nobody knows what artist is being covered until the stage lights up and the first song begins. A final cherry-on-top to the The Great Cover Up is that all proceeds from the event are donated to the CU One-To-One Mentoring Program, The Matthew C. Farrell Memorial (Scholarship) Fund, and Urbana Middle School Bands program.


“I don’t know a Molly. Who’s Molly?,” McLay asked the crowd.

Friday began with Love Handles, a band started by sexual violence advocacy and prevention educators, performing Alanis Morissette. The familiar words of “You Oughta Know”, “Hand In My Pocket”, and “Ironic” were sung along by fans as “Alanis” (Love Handles’ Molly McLay) threw up peace signs and denied knowing who Molly was when the crowd cheered out the name in between songs. 

The night continued with Melvin Knight and the Amber Sky covering D’Angelo. Between the back-up singers laughing and dancing, and Knight smoothly singing, ‘Brown Sugar’, ‘Lady’, and ‘How Does It Feel’, the band brought a fun energy into the big room of the Canopy Club.

Spandrels, a four-piece band, swept the stage away next with the dreamy, reverb-rock riffs of My Bloody Valentine’s “Only Shallow”, “When You Sleep”, “Sometimes”, and “Soon”. Spandrels will be kicking off an east coast tour at The Canopy Club on March 16th.

The Cover Up got a little more intimate as the crowd closed into the stage to watch Fiona Kimble and her band cover indie-folk singer Angel Olsen. The band covered a spectrum of both softer and louder songs of Olsen’s, including “Intern”, “Shut Up Kiss Me”, and “Never Be Mine”.  Kimble’s hypnotizing voice sang out the final haunting words of “Windows”, “won’t you open a window sometime / what’s so wrong with the light,” to finish out the set.

The crowd was quickly woken up again as CJ Run demanded the stage by paying tribute to the iconic rapper, Missy Elliott. CJ’s infectiously energetic attitude got their friends and fans laughing and dancing while they performed songs like “Get Ur Freak On”, “Work It”, “Supa Dupa Fly”, and “Pass That Dutch”.

“Everyone get up closer or I’ll just keep waiting,” Chase Baby encouraged the Cover Up crowd to enjoy the final act of the night.

Closing out Friday night, Minneapolis-based hip-hip artist Atmosphere paid the Cover-Up a visit. Champaign-Urbana’s own Chase Baby‘s offered beefed-up versions of “Sound is Vibrations”, ‘In My Contiental”, “Good Times (Slick Pimpin)”, and “Trying to Find a Balance”.


Saturday night started out with ZXO, a local psychedelic jam band, covering indie-rock band Real Estate. The band eased into the performance with swaying, soft songs like “Darling”, “Easy”, and “Kinder Blumen”, and closed out with the catchy, good-vibes song “It’s Real”.

“We’re from California, so it’s a little colder here than we’re used to,” Brian Hilderbrand, a la John McCrea, informed the crowd.

Next up was the thumping bass guitar, too-cool-to-sing vocals, and blasting-brass trumpet of Grand Ambassador‘s tribute to the band Cake. Grand Ambassador cranked out the heavy hitters like “Never There”, “The Distance”, and “Short Skirt/Long Jacket”, while also performing a cover within a cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”.

Kid Cudi, as performed by Truth AKA Trouble, graced our Great Cover Up stage next. He immediately asked the crowd, “Can we get moving? Cause for the next seven minutes, it’s not gonna stop,”. And that it didn’t, as Truth AKA Trouble brought out fellow rapper Chase Baby, had the audience sing “Happy Birthday” to a friend, and performed his hip-hop hits like “Day and Night” and “Pursuit of Happiness”.

Members of CU Babe Alert put on a great performance as Spice Girls last year, and they didn’t disappoint this year either. Kayla Brown and Carrie Chandler-Harrison, aided by some 90’s inspired costumes, transformed into the Swedish pop group Ace of Base. The two coordinated a fun performance that including the songs “The Sign”, “All That She Wants”, and “Don’t Turn Around”.

Beat Kitchen is a band we have come to know and love seeing at the Cover Up.  In previous years, they’ve performed as both The Clash and Bob Marley and the Wailers. This year, Brandon Washington, the front singer for Beat Kitchen, and the rest of his band payed amazing tribute to Sam Cooke, a soul singer from the late 50’s and early 60’s.  They covered “Twistin’ the Night Away”, “Bring it On Home to Me”, and what Washington referred to as “one of the best protest songs he’s ever heard in his life”, “A Change is Gonna Come”.

The first weekend of The 27th Annual Great Cover Up rounded out with a wacky and wonderful cover of The Flaming Lips by Urbana’s six piece band, Sun Stereo. They opened with “Fight Test”, while an adorable hoard of glittery, animal-costumed fans danced around the stage, shot off confetti, and sent giant balloons floating into the audience.

They continued with “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots”, “She Don’t Use Jelly”, and “Race for the Prize”. While closing with “Do You Realize?”, one giant circle of arm-linked fans, costumed and regularly-clothed alike, opened in front of the stage and sang along.

This circus-like finale to the first weekend really sums up the entire tradition of the Great Cover Up. Once a year, anyone and everyone is invited to help Champaign-Urbana celebrate it’s community, musicians and fans alike, through the art of live music.

The Great Cover Up continues this coming weekend at the City Center, and the following weekend at 51 Main. Check out the GCU’s Facebook page to see more information about performers, set times, and more.

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