Smile Politely

The Great Cover Up 2017: Second weekend in review

The second weekend of the 26th annual Great Cover Up was simply a blast. These bands covered the full gamut of genres, from indie to rap to pop music and more. There was even a little Swedish death metal mixed in there. Some groups played stripped-down sets while others went with full-on theatrics and wore pink sequins and giant wigs. A lot of the performers used their stage time to address the current turmoil in our country in their own unique ways. One sure thing is that everybody in attendance had a lot of fun contributing to another excellent finale of this long-standing tradition. Only a year left until the next one.

Check out our report on all the craziness that happened over those three days. – Julia McAnly


Kickstarting Day 1 of Weekend 2 of The Great Cover Up was the post-hardcore band Winder. Covering one of the great emo pioneers Sunny Day Real Estate, the band delivered a fast and furious set of Sunny classics. It was a great way to get the night started, setting the stage for the rock acts that would immediately follow.

Winder as Sunny Day Real Estate.

When Euriah first came on the stage, I got prematurely excited because lead singer Eric Stanley was wearing an American Football t-shirt, leading me to believe that the group was covering the group that spawned from Champaign-Urbana. To my pleasant surprise, Euriah ended up playing tracks from the indie rock act Copeland. I had never heard of that band before, but I knew Euriah from reviewing their Passengers EP last summer, and they did not disappoint, with brilliant guitar playing and strong vocals.

Euriah as Copeland.

Punk rockers Roberta Sparrow got the blood flowing with a set consisting of tracks from Avail. Every track was fast, intense, and loud, but all done with love for everyone (except if you were the 45th President of the United States). As the feedback whirred from the guitar and right before the drumsticks cued the band to start, lead singer Greg Jaeger (wearing a “I Stand with Standing Rock t-shirt) cried out “FUCK DONALD TRUMP” and from there on out this band was on fire, moving all around the stage while trying not to bump into each other and fall (which they gracefully failed a couple of times). One great moment during the performance came towards the end where the group requested everyone in the audience to hug the person next to them, saying “this is the real social media right here.” – Casey Skorski

Roberta Sparrow as Avail.

Tara Terra followed in what was a trend of taking some extra time to set up, experiencing some technical difficulties with getting their mics loud enough. When they did get going, they smoothly transitioned into the warm and solemn vulnerability of indie band The National. It was a good fit for the mathy Tara Terra, who played largely from the album Boxer. They closed their set with the high energy fan favorite “Mr. November,” the cynical lyrics of which take on a different light in this time: “I won’t fuck us over / I’m Mr. November…”

Tara Terra as The National.

So, if you attended last year’s Great Cover Up, you’ll know that as a general rule, Mike Ingram slays. He did a grand job of keeping up his reputation this year with his cover of 90s singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley. This was a genre about-face from last year’s choice of Eminem, showing Ingram’s versatility. He also showed his ability to push himself, as he chose to take on the vocals of a singer who some critics rank among the best of all time. Ingram and his band played mostly from the classic album Grace, but the peak was when he stopped the show for a moment to speak about all we saw and went through in 2016, including those we lost, set to a background slideshow of those departed ones. This was a prelude to the performance of “Hallelujah,” a Leonard Cohen song that was revitalized when Buckley covered it, and might be the most well-known song by both of those artists. Ingram invited the audience to sing along in honor of these two men and all other people lost, and we did, and it was great. Another one well done, Mike. (JM)

Mike Ingram as Jeff Buckley.

Following a series of heavy rock acts was a much more laid-back performance from the alt-country group The Fights. I had never listened to Ryan Adams & the Cardinals before The Great Cover Up, but after watching The Fights take care of business, I actually started to listen to both groups the following morning. I think it is safe to say that they did a satisfactory tribute.  

The Fights as Ryan Adams & The Cardinals.

Closing out a really great Thursday was We the Animals covering some the biggest hits from Adele. It really had the crowd singing their hearts (and throats) out. Even though it’s not an easy task to belt out the notes from the British pop star, Kayla Brown did a really phenomenal job, as did the backing vocalists. Musically, the whole band was really tight, especially on cuts like “Rumor Has it” and “Chasing Pavements.”

We The Animals as Adele.

All of Thursday’s pictures are by Tom Chandler. View more of Tom’s photos in the gallery below.

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One of the fun parts of the weekend was hearing the crowd around me try to guess who each artist was covering right before they took the stage. When The Bashful Youngens jumped on stage donning wigs (and facial hair) reminiscent of the famous folk duo, some people in the crowd cheered loudly while others were still confused. It wasn’t until the background screen displayed a photo of Simon and Garfunkel that a couple behind me finally understood who they were portraying (even after they played “The Sound of Silence”). The tribute was done extremely well, some of the standouts including “The Boxer” and “Cecilia.”

The Bashful Youngens as Simon & Garfunkel.

Zero Time gave the night a pleasant surprise covering hits from the Soul/RnB legend Bill Withers. In all honesty, I could not get over the fact that the lead singer had such a deep, unique country voice, but made it really work with songs like “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lean on Me”. Without a doubt, the best track of the whole night was “Grandma’s Hands.” They did a phenomenal job taking on a profound song such as that one. (CS)

Zero Time as Bill Withers.

Katie Flynn goes by The Katie Flynn for a reason, and that’s because there’s no one like her. Flynn chose The Gloria Estefan as her cover subject, and she became the character. She opened the show by parting the crowd from behind and ascending the stage while singing, dressed in full Estefan garb with a glittering pink dress, garish barrette and earrings, and gigantic curly wing. She and her band fully engaged the crowd by playing all of the Latin pop star’s favorite tunes, including “Conga,” which definitely compelled some audience members to dance as such. It was a riot. (JM)

Katie Flynn as Gloria Estefan.

Holy shit, Yakuza Triad. This group was out of this world. Akin to heavy metal acts like King Diamond, the lead singer was covered in black and white makeup donning dark garbs not unlike a priest while the rest of the group wore similar outfits in addition to silver masks with demon horns on top and no holes for mouths. They covered the Swedish metal band Ghost while tossing holy wafers to the crowd and offering “baptisms” to random people that were on stage. Seeing the different reactions of the crowd was almost as entertaining as Yakuza Triad themselves. It was truly a musical and visual experience. (CS)

Yakuza Triad as Ghost.

Andy Mo began his set by featuring Andy Kaufmann, and I couldn’t think of any other band that that would allude to except 90s alternative band R.E.M., and he and his band indeed cranked right into “Man On The Moon” for their first song. Mo did an excellent job of replicating Michael Stipe’s stage dance, swaying back and forth and making serpentine gestures with his arms. He also skillfully executed the lyrics of “The End of the World as We Know It,” which very few people can actually do. (JM) 

Andy Mo as R.E.M.

Known as “Champaign’s Best Dressed Group,” Brother Embassy went to work on a series of Janet Jackson singles. With plenty of instrumentalists, background dancers and backing singers to go around, each performer did an excellent job and gave the night plenty of much needed soul.

Brother Embassy as Janet Jackson.

90’s Daughter closed out an eclectic Friday evening covering hits from the classic rock band Boston. Each member was dressed head-to-toe like they were straight from the 70’s, and overall played a solid set. “More than a Feeling” was a really good closing number not just for the band, but also the night itself. 

90’s Daughter as Boston.

All of Friday’s pictures are by Brittany Busboom. View more of Brittany’s photos in the gallery below.

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Nick Rainey + Grand Ambassador hit the ground running on Saturday with rousing renditions of tracks from Barenaked Ladies. In between the songs, the duo of “Steven Page” and “Ed Robertson” would do comedic exchanges in their best Canadian accents, although some superfans of BnL in the crowd would try to add anything that they thought were missing, to which “Ed” responded with “…ok”. The song “One Week” was executed brilliantly, especially when it came to the Page rap sections.  

Nick Rainey + Grand Embassador as Barenaked Ladies.

Flight of the Conchords was my personal favorite act of the whole weekend. Ryan Groff of Elsinore (playing Jemaine Clement) and Kayla Brown of We the Animals (playing Bret McKenzie) did the New Zealand comedy duo justice by performing four classics akin to their popular stand-up routines. It wouldn’t be a classic Conchords moment without something awkward happening during the performance. This time, it was a woman (who many not have known that these two were not actually from New Zealand), yelled out “shut the fuck up and play!” after “Jemaine” apologized for all the things happening in the country currently. With class, “Jemaine” responded cooly “we will play, but after we talk to Bret about his situation with the ladies,” before kicking off the opening number “Business Time.” To quote the HBO show, “They came, they saw, they Conchord”. (CS)

Ryan Groff and Kayla Brown as Flight of the Conchords.

If there’s one thing that Church Booty does really well, it’s have a lot of fun. The large, fresh-faced ensemble were pop superstar Miley Cyrus, and her more angelic television counterpart, Hannah Montana. This was certainly a crowd-pleasing set – even a lot of the guys got to dancing. I appreciated that the group covered the light and dark sides of Miley, because that’s what makes her interesting. The crowd loved it, and so did Church Booty.

Church Booty as Miley Cyrus.

Hip-hop group Trouble Chasin’ were Kanye West and Twista, and the audience freaked out. The spectators were already amped from the previous set, and this one lent itself well to both the sense of togetherness that TGCU compels as well as general Saturday night craziness. Trouble Chasin’ pulled tracks from Life of Pablo and spit rhymes deftly, to everyone’s delight. (JM)

Trouble Chasin’ as Kanye West and Twista.

One smart thing that this next particular group did (or rather didn’t do) was have the members go up on stage to test their microphones or equipment because when C-U Babe Alert came on stage dressed in Spice Girl gear, the crowd went crazy. Not only were their accents and vocals on point, but their choreography was also pretty damn spot on. Watching performances of guilty pleasures like “Wannabe” and “Spice Up Your Life” were highlights of the weekend for sure.

C-U Babe Alert As Spice Girls.

Beat Kitchen really did a sound job taking on classic Marley hits such as “Could You Be Loved” and “Exodus.” It was a real treat. The highlight of the performance was at the end with “Get Up, Stand Up.” The lead singer took off his Marley wig and briefly broke character, telling everyone “don’t just cry about something or talk about it on Facebook when you see something wrong with the world! Do something! Rise up America!” This led to a crowd chant of “Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights.” I don’t think I’ve ever seen a crowd really get into a performance at the Accord like this since the continuous mosh pits at the White Reaper show last October.

Beat Kitchen as Bob Marley & The Wailers.

It should be mentioned that leading up to CURB SERVICE + New Souls’ solid tribute to A Tribe Called Quest, there were many technical issues that became distracting on the final night of The Great Cover Up. It always felt like right before (or during) each act there would be at least one major problem that would require one or two of the sound guys to come down and do their best to fix it. It wasn’t that great for momentum’s sake, especially when there already was a major technical issue after the first song from Curb Service + New Souls, leading to what felt like an eight-minute gap in time. But once that was out of the way, the group carried on and really got the crowd into it, even if some of them left during the mishap. Being a ATCQ fan myself, I was really happy that the event capped off with a great group to cover. It wrapped up one of the most fun experiences I have had in my short history of covering music in Champaign-Urbana.

All of Saturday’s pictures are by Veronica Mullen. View more of Veronica’s photos in the gallery below.

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