Covering The Greats

November 25, 2013 |

Big Star will be performed during The Great Cover Up.

This month, local musicians are paying homage to an array of legendary musical acts by recreating their music for the 15th annual Great Cover Up.

The wildly popular charitable event will feature 30 bands performing selections from famous groups, and maybe dressing the part, from all generations and genres. It spans three nights and three locales: Thursday, Dec. 12 at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., Friday, Dec. 13 at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., and Saturday, Dec. 14 at Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St.

“I love the sense of community fostered by the event,” says event co-organizer and KXCI’s Locals Only! DJ Matt Milner. “The collective effort of the bands requires literally thousands of hours of time, but no one is paid. From the organizing committee to the performers, everyone involved is willing to donate their time in service of a memorable weekend and much-needed financial assistance for our charitable beneficiary. There are very few events on the annual cultural calendar that bring together so many local artists.”

The hardworking committee of Milner, Mel Mason (Tucson Weekly contributor), Kris Kerry (Rialto Theatre), Curtis McCrary (Rialto Theatre), Stephen Seigel (Tucson Weekly Music Editor) and David Slutes (Hotel Congress) spent countless hours organizing the event and all of the proceeds of the Great Cover Up go to the Southern Arizona Artists and Musicians Healthcare Alliance. The non-profit organization (better known as S.A.A.M.H.A., and originally established as Tucson Artists and Musicians Healthcare Alliance/TAMHA) is an alliance of artists and art advocates who are dedicated to the sustainability and vitality of the local arts community by helping to provide them with affordable healthcare. And while the event only lasts one weekend a year, the work for the Great Cover Up spans many months for the organizers.

“It’s a lengthy process, but we don’t need to reinvent the wheel because we have a long history with this event and we have an established structure in place,” says Milner. “We always have some tough decisions to make when sorting through the applications, but our past experience informs the process. As a result, we take into consideration the popularity of the band being covered, the skill/professionalism of the applicant band, and any other x-factors that excite us.”

Hank Topless

While the lineups and list of who’s covering who is typically kept a secret until show time, it has been revealed that this year local bands will be performing the music of The Clash, The Killers, Foo Fighters, Spy Songs, Quincy Jones, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Joni Mitchell, Jethro Tull, Tears For Fears, The Pixies, Led Zeppelin, Hall & Oats, Blondie, Prince, Nick Cave, Bjork, Old School Hip-Hop, The Bird and the Bee, Big Star, Beastie Boys, The Beach Boys, No Doubt, Heart, Aerosmith, The Cars, Bruce Springsteen, Prisencolinensinainciusol, Velvet Underground, and Joe Walsh.

“The bands are given a tall order, and every year the audience (as well as the organizers) are blown away by the creativity and passion shown by Tucson’s incredible musical talent,” says co-organizer Mel Mason. “People talk about what happens at this event years later. Personally, some of my favorite local music moments take place at the Great Cover Up, which is why I wanted to get involved with it behind the scenes in the first place.”

The local bands are encouraged to dress the part of these iconic bands, which typically leads to some outlandish attire that makes the performances all the more memorable. Each performance will last approximately 20 minutes and the sets will run from 8 p.m. to midnight on Thursday and 7:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Among the local bands who are participating this year are The Cordials, Garboski, Sugar Stains, The David Clark Band, Hank Topless, Spacefish, Chris Black, Gat Rot, The Tryst, Cathy Rivers, LeeAnne Savage and many more. Tickets will be available at the venues for $8 for one night, $12 for a two days pass and $15 for a three day pass.

“There’s so much musical talent in Tucson and it’s really impressive to see bands take on this challenge of covering a wide scope of artists and a lot of the music can be really technically difficult,” says local musician and 2013 Great Cover Up participant Mark Williamson of The David Clark Band. “More than anything it’s a great weekend to come out and celebrate Tucson’s local music scene while observing more than a few tight jump suits, gratuitous wigs and musical debauchery.”

“The Great Cover Up combines everything I love; music, a huge amount of local talent, loads of creativity, hard work, and fundraising for a stellar cause,” says Mason. “The results always astound me, and it’s worth every second of organizing behind the scenes to facilitate making the magic happen.”

For more information on the Great Cover Up visit

Category: Community, DOWNTOWN / UNIVERSITY / 4TH AVE, Entertainment, Events, MUSIC