Opening the evening was Ryan Wasoba with Foxing as his backing band to cover Neutral Milk Hotel. I was not very familiar with NMH when I went into the set, but after hearing the one or two tunes I did know I can safely assume that the ones I didn't were note for note covers. Like Search Parties the night before, these guys took their source material to heart and actually became the band they sought to cover.
Wasoba's vocals were the star of the set, replicating Jeff Mangum's frantic desperation with eerie precision. Foxing did one hell of a job surrounding Wasoba's acoustic guitar and vocals, moving from rock solid to cacophonous and back again without a bit of hesitation. Members that were not actively performing left the stage to allow the crowd to focus on the songs themselves rather than trying to decide what the guys standing there were thinking. My favorite part of the set was the last song, in which Wasoba performed solo while the rest of the band quietly broke down equipment and hauled it off stage. I think it was very complementary to the overall vibe of the set.
The next act to rock the house was Scarlet Tanager performing the works of the Beach Boys. The band set the scene with leis, surfboards and beach balls that were later launched into the crowd. The one thing that wasn't faked was the set itself. Musically, the instrumentation was dead on. The guitars were twangy and bright and they keys were shimmering over the top.
Vocally, the performance was just as good. Backing harmonies are crucial when covering a band like the Beach Boys, and this crew had the chops to pull it off. The only thing that could have made me enjoy this set more would have been a cover of "Good Vibrations" with Jordan Shepherd using her voice to replicate the Tannerin.
Last to Show, First to Go was next on the bill, remaking themselves as the Police. After last year's Neil Young set I was excited to see what they would do with Sting and company. This set was a little off in that the musicians were playing the original tunes almost note for note, but there was the addition of the trumpet that wasn't found in the originals. I don't necessarily think it was a bad addition, though.
Although Bredon Jones doesn't have the Everest-like high of Sting's vocal range, he did a damn good job of hitting every note he was aiming for and making it sound like something Sting would belt out. The same could be said for Mike Cracchiolo, who stood in on bass and lead vocals on "King of Pain." The rest of the band knocked it out of the park, recreating the classic Police sound without a hitch.
The Feed took the stage next to recreate the musical styling of WHAM!. Those of you who may not remember, WHAM! was the group that launched George Michael's career. If you're anything like me, you forgot how much you really disliked them until you had to sit through an entire 30 minute set of nothing but their greatest hits.
Needless to say, I wasn't a big fan of the set, but I was pretty much the only one in attendance who wasn't shaking my thing to the tunes. Vocally the delivery was dead on. The only thing missing was an indecent exposure charge resulting from an incident in the men's room. The band themselves replicated WHAM! perfectly from the cheesy '80s synth drums to Andrew Ridgeley's guitar lines. Add in the all-star lineup of backing vocalists and there was one mighty '80s revival going down.
The final act of the evening was Via Dove, who for the last five years took on some of the biggest names in rock and delivered nothing short of excellence every time. Retiring from AUCW after this year, the group decided to cover INXS for its final set. As in years past, they delivered in spades.
Andy Shadburne is a vocal chameleon. I don't think there's a singer out there that he can't mimic with enough practice. Backing up his Michael Hutchence impression was the rest of the crew, who replicated the Farriss brothers with great poise. I spent much of my younger days with "Kick" in the tape deck and was pleased to hear most of those classics included in the set. I can't think of a better way to end another great edition of An Undercover Weekend.