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Take it from Chris Cole, leader of Pittsburgh’s most fastidious Steel Dragon tribute band: Imitatin’ ain’t easy. “My pursuit of perfection was relentless….I’d study the music note for note. I read every interview. I copied every outfit, every move.”
But the participants in last Saturday’s third annual Run for Cover event made it look pretty simple. Their pursuit of perfection may not have been quite as relentless as the subject of the 2001 movie Rock Star’s was, but what the extravaganza lacked in skill it made up for in quantity: Nine cover bands took the stage to ape their rock heroes in 10-minute sets before a capacity crowd.
Joe Halladay, a Silver Spring graphic designer and bassist for Citygoats, organized the show, which benefited Green Skate Laboratory, an effort to build a skate-park-cum-science lab in D.C. The first Run for Cover took place in a Falls Church basement in 2002, and since then the event has grown significantly, filling the Warehouse Next Door last year and the Black Cat this go-round.
“It’s a lot of fun,” says Halladay. “They’re not trying to build on a career here.”
Bringing together personalities from various parts of the oft-fractious D.C. rock community, this year’s show offered low-rent versions of the Modern Lovers, Van Halen, Sonic Youth, Dolly Parton, and Led Zeppelin, among others. The most unexpected tribute, though, came fifth on the bill: Between the Dolly Woulds and classic-rockers Meatnecks was Oi!asis.
The band’s guitarist, Alec Bourgeois—Dischord Records employee by day,
Capital City Duster by night—says the original plan was a relatively straight-ahead imitation of the Britpop darlings. But once bandmate Michael Fussell (another Dischord employee) blurted out the group’s unlikely name during a brainstorming session, the concept was born: The Gallaghers’ Beatlesque compositions would be melded with the hyperaggressive genre usually associated with early-’80s street punks.
Halfway through the group’s Run for Cover opener, “Wonderwall,” the oi! bomb is dropped: “There are many things that I would/Like to say to you/But I don’t know how/Oi!” Then chaos ensues. Plastic cups of beer and water go flying onstage and all over the pink sweat suit of Erik Denno, playing Noel Gallagher, before the set ends in a shouting match between Denno and Fussell, who takes the role of brother Liam Gallagher.
With a raincoat and sunglasses, Fussell perfectly channels Liam’s indifferent, chin-in-the-air, hands-behind-the-back stage posture, and throughout the night, authentic costuming abounds: Jonathan Richman’s signature candy-striped T-shirt, some guy who just naturally looks like Thurston Moore. Halladay himself, doing his best LL Cool J as leader of Ladies Love, looks especially dapper in his Kangol and denim.
But the most eerily accurate act turns out to be the final one, B-52’s tribute Glitter on the Mattress, which complements renditions of “Planet Claire,” “Private Idaho,” and “Love Shack” with tremendous beehive hairdos and a dead-on channeling of Fred Schneider’s Southern-homo snarl by metallic-shirted vocalist Frank Higgins. The band (which includes Washington City Paper employee Jason Hutto) spent more than two months perfecting its set.
All told, the event raised more than $2,000 for Green Skate Laboratory, and, according to Halladay, it will likely take place again next year—possibly with a twist: “I don’t want us to plateau,” he says. “I don’t think that we’re tethered to a format.”
Bourgeois also deems the show an unqualified success: “I’m really, really happy people threw stuff at us,” he says.