Cover the spread

Thirty (mostly) local bands celebrate three decades of music to mark Old Ironsides’ 70th anniversary

Gwamba, left, is no stranger to dressing up in character to play cover tunes. Here, he’s pictured in a circa-2002 parody band called Smell the Glove.

Gwamba, left, is no stranger to dressing up in character to play cover tunes. Here, he’s pictured in a circa-2002 parody band called Smell the Glove.

Photo By Gertie Scott

Thursday, June 17; Friday, June 18; and Saturday, June 19, with all three shows beginning promptly at 9 p.m. Old Ironsides, 1901 10th Street. $8 each night.

Yes, people still pay good money to see bands play cover versions of other artists’ tunes. You can go to Harlow’s on any night when either Tainted Love or Wonderbread 5 is holding court to see how successful that particular gig is.

But most musicians would rather play their own material—except when they want to show off by picking some obscure cover that demonstrates their record-geek credentials, or by finding something so deliciously awful that it’s a blast to massacre in public, or something so beloved by them that it’s pure delight to share it with others.

So, it’s a real treat to see a good cross-section of local bands—30, at this writing—stepping up to lay down 15-minute sets onstage. The occasion is the 70th anniversary of Old Ironsides, the venerable club south of downtown, which is commemorating its presence with a three-night anniversary extravaganza this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with each night devoted to one decade of music.

On Thursday, the theme is the 1960s, and bands on the card include the Trouble Makers, Deathray, Frank Jordan, Forever Goldrush, Honeyspot, Gwamba, David Houston, the Good Mornings, Spider Silk Dress and the Jolenes.

Friday night will honor the 1970s, with the Brodys, the Groovie Ghoulies, Hypnotic 4, Seventy, Black Saddle Hookers, Crazy Ballhead, the Snobs, the Veronicas, the Helper Monkeys and the Arlenes.

Saturday night will conclude with the 1980s and will feature Magnoleander (basically Oleander minus Tom Flowers plus Magnolia Thunderfinger’s Skid Jones), Red Star Memorial, Las Pesadillas, Dungeons & Drag Queens, Army of Trees, Pets, the Looky-Loos, the Black Dahlias, Zero to Heaven and Carquinez Straits.

The shows will be hosted by parallel-universe television personality “Bobby Day”—not the “Rockin’ Robin” guy, but a certain local clarinet-playing music promoter who occasionally enjoys adopting a thrift-store-clothed persona. There will be fun trivia and prizes, and the event isn’t a fund-raiser, which means that bands most likely will get paid. The cover charge is $8 each night, and the shows start promptly at 9 p.m.

According to Jerry Perry, the impresario and Alive & Kicking publisher who started doing these multi-band theme nights back in 1992 (when he and Brian McKenna—who now books the Empire—were putting on shows at the old Cattle Club on Folsom Boulevard), the extravaganza started with Old Ironsides owner Kim Kanelos, who wanted to celebrate her club’s anniversary with a lot of bands. Perry, who books Thursday nights at Old Ironsides, told her to spread it over three nights, like he used to do at the Cattle Club.

Pressed for examples of what people might be coming up with, Perry didn’t know, although, in a few instances, he asked a performer or two to make sure certain bases were covered. “I was really trying to get somebody—even a couple of somebodies like Gwamba and Rusty Miller—to represent ’60s country,” Perry said. “Because I know what ’60s night is gonna be; it’s gonna be like the Beatles and Zombies. And I’m not knocking that, but the country music from that time is great.

“I asked Gwamba to specifically do country songs from the ’60s,” Perry added, “because I really felt someone had to come in and represent that.” According to Perry, Gwamba will be doing Tammy Wynette’s signature hit from 1968, “D-I-V-O-R-C-E.” “We were trying to think of some funny stuff,” Perry added. “I don’t know what’s sticking with him—'You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man,’ stuff like that.”

Deathray, also scheduled to play the Thursday-night ’60s bash, sent in a tentative list of the Who’s “Boris the Spider,” the Yardbirds’ “Over Under Sideways Down” and an unnamed tune by Skip Spence, the Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape drummer whose 1969 solo album, Oar, is a totem of the record-collector zeitgeist.

All in all, the shows look like a great way to celebrate a Sacramento institution that was around before most of us were born.