Entertainment and damnation

Melonnee Desireé backed by Sassback.

Melonnee Desireé backed by Sassback.

Cover bands are perhaps the most maligned of all musical performance groups. (With alumni like Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, even the Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeers have more street cred these days.) The damning of cover acts is so widespread that bands playing original music are automatically considered above the average cover band in terms of musical quality—regardless of the actual performance.

The reason for this seems as simple as the damnation itself: Cover bands exist to entertain. Bands that perform original music look down their noses at such trivialities, calling upon artistry, emotional resonance and originality for their own creative expression. The idea of playing music to entertain sometimes seems irrelevant to many of the original-music bands I see performing around Sacramento. Instead, being a band performing live music is often seen as enough, in and of itself.

But all this brings us to one of the stickier critical problems: how to critically assess a cover band that is essentially doing its job as entertainment but isn’t a particularly noteworthy band. This was exactly the case last Friday when Melonnee Desireé and her band, Sassback, performed at Yager’s in Old Folsom, located at 727 Trader Lane.

Yager’s wasn’t packed by any means, but there was a good-sized group of Folsomites in attendance, providing an interesting cross-section of ages ranging from the early 30s on up. The audience was, as a rule, pretty well buzzed. The beer was flowing. Women carried fur-lined purses. A basketball game was on television, provoking momentary shouts from various fans scattered throughout the bar. And, of course, the band was on the stage. People danced. People smiled. People flirted and were rebuffed. And the band played on.

Desireé’s band is not terrible by any means, but it’s not particularly remarkable either. The band’s saving grace is Desireé herself, a personable and talkative woman who utilizes her wireless bass guitar to roam the entire club—sometimes engaging in lengthy conversations with folks in the audience while thumping away on her instrument. By way of stage presence and sheer entertainment value, it’s a great shtick.

But the music itself is a bit lacking. Musically, keyboardist John Covert is the most solid of the group. The rest of the band relies heavily on endless jams, unoriginal guitar solos and the same tired cover songs. (If anyone ever, in the history of music, actually liked the song “Mustang Sally,” I have yet to meet this person.)

Nevertheless, what Desireé and Sassback accomplished is exactly what they were there to do: They kept people happy, dancing, and fishing into those furry purses for more drink money. Perhaps that makes all further criticism irrelevant.More on Desireé and Sassback can be found at www.melonnee.com.