Welcome to the 26th year of The Great Cover Up, Champaign-Urbana’s very own cover band festival. It’s not that simple, though. This annual event is all of C-U’s best and brightest musical acts masquerading as their own favorite bands and artists. It’s a great way to see your favorite local music chums in a whole new light, which lets you get to know them in ways you never have before. TCGU is an institution here, upheld by the best we’ve got, and as a local music fan, you owe it to yourself to be a part of it.
Here’s a recap of what you might have missed over the first weekend of The Great Cover Up, no. 26. – Julia McAnly
Friday night was a ridiculously fun set of performances and a phenomenal beginning to this year’s Great Cover Up. Throughout the night, the bands represented a certainly eclectic range of music. Unfortunately, I did not arrive in time to catch the first act, but I heard Slick Lisp did an awesome cover of Hootie and the Blowfish.
I walked in right as The Autocorrect took to the stage and I shuffled through a surprisingly large crowd which would somehow grow larger as the night went on. Members of The Autocorrect were draped in brilliant red dress shirts and black ties – it was the iconic look of German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk. The trio played their instruments like animatronic robots programmed to take us through a dancing computer world with auto-tuned vocals, electronic drums, warping synths, and bouncing bass riffs.
The Autocorrect as Kraftwerk.
The next group took the award that night for largest group on stage. The vocalist of The Underwerewolves brought his moppy black wig to humorously embrace the spirit of Joe Cocker and put forth an energetic and whole-bodied performance while singing the highs and lows with powerful grit. The accompaniment of shaker, tambourine, trumpet, and bongos filled the room with good vibes, especially during their anthem-like rendition of “With A Little Help From My Friends” which had the whole crowd helping out on the chorus.
The Underwerewolves as Joe Cocker.
Tigerbeat and Jans Project teamed up with a sum of five guitarists to play classic hits by The Church. They did a spot-on job at reviving the dreamy tune “Under the Milky Way”. With the crescendo of applause and excitement and the limited elbow room, this was about the time when I noticed just how large the crowd had grown.
Tigerbeat and Jans Project as The Church.
The energy was kept in momentum by Lonely Trailer with music of the UK punk band Gang of Four. Towards the end of their set, technical errors led to a real punk moment as the band paused and the drummer continued into a dismembered solo incited by a screaming crowd’s begging for loudness.
Lonely Trailer as Gang Of Four.
Acme Principle covering The Pixies seemed to strike a chord with a larger part of the audience. Yet another silky black wig was brought on stage and worn by their bassist. They saved the best for last with the cathartic finale of “Where Is My Mind?” yet this was just a continuation of the aforementioned crescendo of excitement while there was one more band coming up.
The Acme Principle as Pixies.
Terminus Victor had every intention to go out with a bang when they covered Interpol. (I tried to take some notes after each band to keep track of memorable moments and for the last show, all I could find noted was “holy shit”). The four-piece group shredded through guitar solos and hi-tempo breakdowns. Surely, the first night of the 26th Great Cover Up ended on a high (and brutally loud) note.
Terminus Victor as Interpol.
The second round of shows for the weekend yielded an immediately larger audience and thematically landed somewhere between a comfortable country bar and an intense game of guitar hero. It’s no secret that earlier in the day, one of the largest marches took place across the country and here in Champaign, and so each performance was especially meaningful with an aim at bringing the crowd together to enjoy some great music for a great cause. A couple of bands even used their platform respectfully and took the time to mention the courage of protesters and to preach for a bright, happy, and peaceful future.
First up, Whiskey Shadows toasted to the sweetly crooned music of Nathaniel Rateliff & the Nightsweats. Their vocalist took up a striking resemblance to Rateliff while he sang under a full beard and the band which included trumpet, baritone sax, and upright bass initiated a night of high energy with their stomp shuffles rumbling through the floor. Teaspoon Hunter followed up with a family tribute. They went on an impressive progression beginning with classic country music of Hank Williams and then Hank Williams Jr. and then introduced Hank III for a heavy closer. The Caleb Cook Band recalled some of the feel-good hits of country music singer Conway Twitty. A couple of songs in, they called for Loretta Lynn to come up on stage and join them for a few heartwarming duets.
Whiskey Shadows as Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats.
Teaspoon Hunter as Hank Williams I, II and III.
Caleb Cook Band as Conway Twitty.
Almost halfway through the night, The Inn Keepers shifted gears and signaled a radical change in musical attitudes. As soon as they took the stage with fluffy colorful wigs, things got weird in the best way and stayed weird for the remainder of the night. The Inn Keepers covered The Sweet, beginning with their recognizably spastic song “Ballroom Blitz”. Although the band flailed wildly about the stage, especially the vocalist who was not still for a single second, they hit every note and delivered an engaging performance.
The Inn Keepers as The Sweet.
A dramatic introduction brought on the next group, Guns N’ Roses covered by Decadents. These guys went to an extreme level of commitment to not only dress up like the band, but put forth the same California rock vibes. It seemed like the bushy headed crew had just come from a party on their tour bus. At one point the bassist was so into slamming on his bass that his cigarette nearly lit his wig on fire and I’m really not sure if he didn’t notice or didn’t care at all. The vocalist as Axl Rose occasionally took swigs from the bottle of Jack they brought on stage and actually ran into the crowd with his mic during a song. Slash stood out with a perfectly identical top hat and killer solos. They played a set of hits from the album Appetite for Destruction including “Welcome to the Jungle”, “Paradise City”, and of course “Sweet Child o’ Mine”.
Decadents as Guns N’ Roses.
The duo of Coco Butter Kids took to the stage next. Although they are three members short, their stripped down version of Judas Priest went above and beyond what you could expect. The guitarist used a briefcase as a kick drum and the singer waved and smashed a tambourine. Appropriately before covering the song “United” they took a moment to say some kind words and raise spirits.
Coco Butter Kids as Judas Priest.
To top off the night with one more wild act, Airacobra put on a theatric recreation of Alice Cooper. They played hits like “School’s Out” which got the crowd shouting even though it’s ironically just the beginning of a new school semester. Following in the lively and sometimes violently graphic stagecraft of Alice Cooper’s performances, the frontman swung around the mic stand like a cane and engaged in an epic battle. It was loud, thrilling, and a climactic ending to the first weekend of the Great Cover Up.
The fun’s not over yet – catch the second round of the 26th annual Great Cover Up this weekend, featuring over twenty more of your favorite local acts covering their favorites big-timers. Day tickets and festival passes are still available. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit The Accord’s website.
All featured photography is by Westley Banks. View the rest of Westley’s shots in the gallery below.