Since I'm such an opinionated music lover (some would say "music snob"), I have fairly rigid ideas about successfully pulling off a cover tune. The way I see it, there are generally two ways you can go. The first is to do a note-perfect rendition of whatever song it is you loved enough to perform in the first place. Otherwise, break it down and make it completely your own — Grandaddy's cover of "Revolution" is a nice example of this tactic.
But after seeing The Velvet Richman Division (supported by Slaughterhaus Rose and Life In A Blender) last Saturday at The Rendezvous, I may have to add a third option. It turns out that combining said song with others by equally-adored, though generally unrelated, artists and just rolling with it works too.
The VRD provide a mash-up of songs by The Velvet Underground, Jonathan Richman and Joy Division. I'm intimately familiar with The Velvets, yet considerably less so with Joy Division and not at all with Richman. Though this presented some interesting limitations, the benefit was that my ignorance allowed me to enjoy the performance in a way I would have otherwise been unable to. It was as though I was watching a great original set, albeit one heavily influenced by Lou Reed!
What I was most impressed by was VRD's ability to weave these three elements together so seamlessly. Or so it seemed- I suspect it presented quite a challenge to them. Nevertheless, making something difficult appear simple is no small feat. Now that I think about it, being in a cover band that's actually good is an accomplishment in and of itself- I've seen some that were so putrid, I still wake up screaming. OK, maybe that "music snob" label I alluded to was more accurate than I'd like to admit.
The VRD consist of Michael McGivaren, R. Aaron Brown, Mitch Leffler and Dan Schulte. Between them, they're been involved with a number of great local bands including Hotels, The Capillaries, Treasure State and Ed Wang. With such credentials, it's no surprise they are able to do justice to the material of such legendary artists.
They'll be taking a winter-long hiatus to hone and add to their already excellent set (Imaginary Steve selfishly hopes this will include "Venus In Furs.") They're also in the process of booking dates for 2012. And when they do start playing gigs again, make sure you attend because The Velvet Richman Division, above all else, provide something often all too lacking in Northwest music-fun.