Mercy Me! motivates grown-ups to dance

Mercy Me!

Mercy Me!

No form of live music is more maligned than the cover band. Why is something of a mystery, particularly when one takes into account that the average cover band tends to be significantly better at performing than the average original-music act, even if only in the quality of the material being presented. A good cover band, one that takes its role seriously, is a performance band by definition in a way that many original-music bands are not. The cover band exists to entertain, to keep the dance floor filled, to keep the drinks flowing and, ultimately, to ensure that the audience is having fun.

This fun level is important, particularly for those of us who have passed our 20s. In the day-to-day world, there are scant opportunities for adults to dance to live music outside of the occasional wedding reception. Most upscale bars and nightclubs in town that cater to an older crowd don’t regularly feature live music, and other live-music venues tend to attract a much younger, 20-something audience.

These are all significant reasons why Saturday night’s Mercy Me! show at Aces was so successful. The club itself, located at the Holiday Inn in Foothill Farms off Interstate 80 at the Madison Avenue exit, is like a north-area Harlow’s, a clean, classy establishment with a clear sense of purpose: entertaining a clean, classy audience. (In fact, the maitre d’ refused entrance to a pair of young men with colored bandannas wrapped around their heads—dress code enforced!) The drink prices seem high ($5.75 for a microbrew), as does the cover charge (generally $10), but you get what you pay for, and what you’re paying for here is a clean, non-threatening environment meant to cater to your needs.

On Saturday night, Mercy Me! was part of that catering. An old-school R&B band boasting six members, Mercy Me! understands completely that its purpose onstage is to entertain. From the opening bars of the Staple Singers’ 1972 classic “I’ll Take You There,” Mercy Me! proved that it had all the necessary components of a successful cover band: a clear, precise sound; and technical excellence. It’s no wonder that it won a 2002 Sammie for cover/bar band.

Mercy Me! is successful because it has a clear vision of its sound. It doesn’t cover a particularly wide variety of music (as the band’s Web site,, states, it’s a 95-percent R&B mix). Instead, the band has tailored its set list to work on its strengths. Indeed, even when the band covers a decidedly non-R&B number, like the Guess Who’s “American Woman,” Mercy Me! gives it a smooth R&B spin—still kickin’ and still danceable yet distinctly flavored by the band’s own style. (This one, with drummer Chris Dailey’s vocals, really got the crowd jumping.)

Both Mercy Me! and Aces are worthy of your attention, particularly if you’re looking for an evening of dancing to live, familiar music. Bring your wallet and your dancing shoes, and leave your bandanna at home. You’ll have more fun without it anyway. (The club’s Web site is