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It’s taken three years, but the beloved benefit show Run for Cover is coming back to the Black Cat this Sat. July 25.
The raucous event, which ran each year from 2002-2012, morphed from a group of pun-friendly local musicians crowding in original organizer Joe Halladay’s Falls Church basement to perform famous covers to an annual concert at the Cat. Run for Cover went from cult favorite to sold-out success and eventually became a benefit concert, with proceeds going to Fort Reno’s concert series or Girls Rock! DC, a summer camp that teaches girls and young women to play in bands and grow their own self-worth.
Black Hills frontman and Black Cat sound engineer Aaron Estes was the brains and brawn behind Run for Cover’s comeback. A six-year Run for Cover veteran with the best Daft Punk band the show had ever seen, Estes has been itching for its return since the last iteration in 2012. Estes and his pals found themselves wistfully pondering what bands they’d want to cover and what punny names they’d use if Run for Cover ever came back. “It’s the thing my fellow bandmates and my friends who are musicians…it ends up being a default conversation sometimes,” Estes says.
Abstract conversations turned serious at the beginning of this year, when Estes reached out to Halladay to discuss a potential resurrection. Halladay gave Estes and his crew a reluctant go-ahead to plan their own cover show, and the two began texting each other about what the revitalized benefit show would be called.
“We had names like In Living Cover, Cover Me Bad,” Estes says. “And I think [Halladay] just started to get excited again, and he was like, ‘Alright, we’re back in. Call it Run for Cover. Let’s do it.’”
With Halladay’s blessing, everything else fell into place. The Black Cat booked the show for July 25, cover bands old and new started returning Halladay and Estes’ calls, setlists were drafted, and Girls Rock! DC was selected as the show’s beneficiary.
Run for Cover’s decade-long stretch inspired lively shows and some highly creative puns for band names (watch a treasure trove of YouTube videos for evidence). Estes wants to bring back the same DIY vibes, but with a little more organization and planning. “One thing we’re trying to make sure we do right is being efficient. There have been a couple years where the stage managing hasn’t been as good; the show has run super late,” he says. This year, the first band will go on at 8:45 p.m., which Estes hopes will get the audience out on time. “While it does have this off the rails feel to the night—it’s like this kind of wild and crazy party feel—we’re trying to keep it just so it doesn’t get out of control and devolve into this 2 a.m. thing where people are like, ‘What the heck’s going on?’”
So far, Run for Cover’s lineup is full of legacy performers. Tereu Tereu’s Ryan Little, a sporadic Washington City Paper contributor whose covers of the Who’s tunes have been a Run for Cover fan favorite, will perform again. Short Lives and We Were Pirates’ Kate Rears Burgman will perform as Hirvana with Alexia Kauffman from local Americana band the Torches. These bands place a premium on wordplay: Depëche Motörhead, Le Cougre, Van Schleibaum, and Estes’ own What About Bob? are highlights.
With a still-growing lineup, Estes says he’s preparing for any stunts Run for Cover’s impulsive creativity might inspire. A 2005 Duran Duran cover band, aptly named the Girls on Film, surprised audience members when former Black Cat general manager Bernie Wandel showed up wearing only a saxophone.
Estes says he can’t imagine any of Saturday’s bands doing something quite so shocking, but he’s open to surprises. “There has kind of [been] one curveball [that’s] come at us within the last couple days,” Estes says. “Never mind, we’ll leave that one shrouded in secrecy.”
Secrets and antics aside, Estes is confident that Run for Cover’s return will live up to the series’ reputation. If anyone would know, it’d be the show’s number one fan. “I’m so excited,” he says. “I love our band and—yeah, it’s going to be a blast.”
Run for Cover is this Saturday at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. Doors at 8 p.m. $12. Proceeds benefit Girls Rock! D.C.
Photo by Flickr user ann gav, Creative Commons