By Jason Shoff
Well that was quick.
I say this because, normally, we’re lucky if the local music scene gets more than two Cover the Crescents a year. Yet only a month after last months’ classic rock installment, Crescent Ballroom threw together another night of covers benefiting yet another great cause (Best Buddies AZ). And this time, they chose three well-respected local bands (Owl and Penny, Bad Neighbors and Genre) to cover three early/mid-2000s indie/alt-rock mainstays: Brand New, Modest Mouse and local heroes Jimmy Eat World, respectively.
Even better, this show was a 16 and over event, which I thought would guarantee a pretty big turnout. However, I was not expecting the venue to be as packed as it was; seriously, from my point of view, it looked like the Crescent was packed to the gills with people, maybe even bordering on near-sold out levels. The amount of people was something that Saddles frontman Charles Barth also noticed: “We never play to audiences this full,” he told the crowd. “I guess the take away is make better music that people really like.”
While I was expecting the Owl and Penny line-up to perform the Brand New covers set, it was actually something of a local super group consisting of O&P’s Ryan Osterman, Barth, Jason Milham of Ghost Feelings, and Evan Phelps of Earth Giant. But while this group only came together to perform this set, you never would have known it judging from their performance. In fact, they were so tight and together, nailing all of the atmospherics and dynamics that songs as epic as “Degausser” and “Sowing Season” require, that you’d think that they were a real band if you didn’t know better. Needless to say, the relatively young crowd ate their set up (except for the one guy who sarcastically shouted that he thought this was a Taking Back Sunday set).
Now at this point of the review, I have a confession to make: before this set I have never listened to Brand New. I know, I know, this might come as a shock to some of you. But when these guys became popular I was a senior in high school and was deep in my “post-grunge” phase (it was a dark moment in my life, for sure) and thus never listened to the emo/pop-punk bands that were around at the time. But after their set, these guys made me want to dig and explore the Brand New catalog even further, which for a show like this is really all you can ask for.
Now in terms of local bands, Bad Neighbors is one that I am less familiar with. However, I was rooting for them throughout their set, as covering the catalog of such a quirky, eccentric band as Modest Mouse is no small task even for the greatest of bands. But frontman Martin Shaffer more than delivered, capturing the zaniness of both Isaac Brock’s vocal delivery and dance moves, looking like a cross between David Byrne in Stop Making Sense and one of those inflatable dancing things you see at car dealerships across the country. And despite some early bass guitar complications, the band also delivered on a musical front, as well, giving the songs a bit more of a straightforward, rough-around-the-edges rock vibe while still maintaining their unique brand of weirdness. Plus their version of “Float On” was easily one of the highlights of the entire night, a rousing rendition that got a good chunk of the crowd singing along.
In the case of Genre, I honestly wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, as Jimmy Eat World is a more straightforward band than the type of music they normally play. So a part of me was hoping that they would bring a different, unique take on their catalog. Yet for their set they played it straight, performing the JEW catalog with plenty of energy, intensity, and aplomb. They also, interestingly, broke their set into chunks: after opening two opening numbers from Static Prevails, they played a huge chunk of crowd-pleasing Bleed American material, followed by one track from Chasing of Light before closing with a heapin’ helping of Clarity tracks. If was an different strategy than the other bands, but it worked, guaranteeing that each of Jimmy Eat World’s most beloved albums would get a decent amount of stage time.
But most importantly, you could tell that the band was having a damn good time up there, and the crowd was definitely feeding off that energy throughout. Oh, and if what frontman Zac Markey said about their bassist not playing because he wasn’t a fan of the band was true, then his loss, I say (though Corey Gomez more than capably played the bass parts on his keyboard).
All in all, this was definitely another successful Cover the Crescent. All three bands brought their A-Game, the turnout was exceptional, money was raised for a great charity, and most of all, everyone that was there seemed to be having a blast. And when it comes to a show like this, you can’t ask for anything better than that.