Uncovering the Great Cover-Up

December 6, 2012 |

LeeAnne Savage performs at The Great Cover-Up, Saturday, December 15, at The Rialto Theatre

Several years ago Bob Dylan stunned a Tucson crowd, when seemingly out of nowhere, began singing, “Old Man look at my life, I’m a lot like you are…”  While  Dylan had been known to occasionally play an old country standard or something completely out of the mainstream, the idea of covering a Neil Young classic was so delightfully unexpected and out of context, it was the highlight of the night and indeed the only thing this concert goer still remembers. Such is the novelty when performers choose to go outside their well-developed comfort zones.

While organizers of Tucson’s annual Great Cover-Up, cannot claim this idea as their own, the notion of getting a bunch of original music bands together to cover any and everything (but themselves) for charity, is an idea they have continued to successfully nurture, develop and expand upon since 1998.

As Music Editor for the Tucson Weekly and author of its weekly Soundbites column, Stephen Seigel must plead guilty as one of the Cover-Ups principal co-conspirators.  A huge fan of a similarly styled event he attended in Champaign, IL in the late 1990s, he cleverly managed to convince Melissa Manos, front woman for the band Shoebomb, we needed this in Tucson.  Manos in turn enlisted help from Mia Proli, the booker at Club Congress, and for two years Manos and Proli delivered a wonderful one night event at the Congress to benefit the Brewster Center (providing temporary housing and counseling for victims of domestic violence).

Giving truth to the adage “no good deed goes unpunished,” Seigel eventually became the event’s chief organizer and spokesperson, effectively using his column to successfully recruit and publicize the event.  “It actually wasn’t too difficult.  As an established event it already had some momentum.  I was mostly very pleased just to see it continue from its charity aspect as well as the fun aspect.”

Eventually it became clear that one night at one venue could not contain the growing enthusiasm for the event as interest from performers and the community continued to swell. A good part of the fascination grew from not only performers who wanted to participate and the ever expanding list of groups they wanted to cover, but also from some of the wild and wacky juxtapositions that might occur when performers unexpectedly matched  themselves to artists covered.  The New Orleans/Dixieland styled group, Crawdaddy-O covering music from the show Jesus Christ Superstar or the Weird Lovemakers performing Devo (completely in character) or Sergio Mendoza’s former band, 7 to Blue, covering Paul McCartney and Wings are but a few examples of great moments in Great Cover-Up history.  In fact, “It was The Jons doing Tom Jones, that got me hooked,” said Mel Mason, now in her third year as one of the event’s co-organizers.

In 2010, after taking a well-deserved one year break, Seigel recruited occasional Tucson Weekly contributor and chief booker for The Rialto Theatre, Curtis McCrary.  Together they brought The Rialto into the mix adding an additional stage thus allowing several more bands to participate.  Last year with the addition of Plush as a Thursday night venue, and additional Saturday afternoon sessions at The Rialto and Club Congress, the event ballooned to accommodate 70 bands. This year, acknowledging the enormity of running five stages over three days, they chose to scale back just a bit eliminating one of the Saturday afternoon slots.  “We don’t relish turning people down,” said McCrary, “but with 80 bands applying for 50 slots, we can only do so much.”

Adding to the charm and appeal of the Cover-Up are its attempts to keep everything shrouded in secrecy.  With publicity focused on the bands and the artists covered (but not together), unless word leaks out (as it sometimes does), the unveiling of who is covering whom is not announced until the day of the show.  Mason, acknowledging the wide variety of bands and genres participating, admits not everyone will like every band.  “But it’s like listening to KXCI.  If you just wait a little bit you’ll always find something to your liking.”

This year’s Great Cover Up will be Thursday, December 13, at Plush; Friday, December 14 at Club Congress;  Saturday, Dec. 15, in the afternoon, at Club Congress and Saturday night at The Rialto.  Artists performing will include, Brian Lopez, Tryst, LeeAnne Savage, 8 Minutes to Burn, the Cordials and Silver Fox (featuring David Slutes) with artists being covered to include Leonard Cohen, Tom Petty, Hall & Oates, Alice Cooper, Weezer, David Bowie, The Doors and The Lovin’ Spoonful, and many others.

Proceeds from this year’s event will benefit the Tucson Area Musicians Healthcare Alliance.

More details at GreatCoverUpTucson.com

Category: MUSIC