I tend to spend the majority of the time in this column writing about bands that are putting out new albums of original material, playing their songs and compositions on stages across the state. Yet I am keenly aware of the fact that a considerable percentage of the bands actually seen live in Maine aren’t playing their own songs, but rather are performing covers for crowds that are often very large and appreciative crowds.
There’s an art to being a good cover band. You can’t just go through the motions — you’ve got to sell it, you’ve got to believe in it, and you’ve got to entertain the hell out of the people watching. Here are seven Maine cover bands that routinely bring the house down.
Hello Newman, Portland
Enough time has passed that now we have 90s cover bands, too. And Hello Newman is undoubtedly the best of the bunch in that genre in Maine, possibly New England. They tend to veer towards the pop-punk and ska side of things, be it Blink-182, Green Day, Reel Big Fish or Rancid, but they throw in some gems from Beck, R.E.M. and Stone Temple Pilots, too. Though there’s a core four members there are auxiliary horn and keys players that often join in. They play every Thursday at Bull Feeney’s in Portland. Bring your own flannel and/or babydoll dress.
Magnetic North, Bangor
Three dudes, one eclectic batch of covers. This Bangor power trio — lead singer and guitarist Cory Deshane, drummer Mike King and bassist Matt Rideout — veer from Elvis Costello and Johnny Cash to Lady Gaga and Prince, from Phish and Primus to Zeppelin and Hendrix. No gimmicks, no getups, no specific style, era or genre to stick to. Just fun music to dance to. Percussionist Andrew Geaghan joins in sometimes, too. Magnetic North’s next show is set for Saturday, Nov. 2 at Nocturnem Drafthaus in Bangor.
It’s a safe bet that on Thursdays, one of the most reliably fun places to be in Portland is RiRa’s Irish Pub on Commercial Street in the Old Port. Kilcollins, a Portland four-piece, says on their website that they play songs that people love but aren’t played out — so no “Sweet Home Alabama.” Instead, expect wide-legged rock stances, live mashups of songs, unexpected alt-rock and 80s hits, and expertly performed version of songs by everyone from Paul Simon to the Lemonheads. They play every Thursday at RiRa; they’re also set for Nov. 1 and 3 at Federal Jack’s in Kennebunkport.
Both of these bands play 80s covers, and neither of them play lots of shows — but that’s probably a good thing, as they both tend to get extra wild, and would probably blow a fuse or set fire to the stage if it happened every weekend. Bar Harbor’s Destroy Them My Robots (pictured at left) plays the more new wave, unique haircuts side of 80s music, while Bangor’s Rock Revelation moves more towards the hair metal and power ballads area. Both are equally entertaining. Check their Facebook pages for more information.
A Band Beyond Description, Portland
Though their weekly residency at The Big Easy in Portland has come to an end now that that venue has closed its doors for the near future, A Band Beyond Description has pleased Grateful Dead fans in Maine for more than a decade. They go deep into the Dead oeuvre, putting a bit of their own flair on that massive catalog of songs. It’s an epic jam band experience. Check them out at The Green Room in Sanford on Nov. 9.
They play heavy rock – and by heavy, I mean really heavy. Black Sabbath, Rob Zombie, Queens of the Stone Age, Metallica. A dash of classic rock thrown in for good measure, like Tom Petty or the Black Crowes. Even some David Bowie and Faith No More. Face melting is the order of the day. Their next show isn’t until the new year, so check them out on Facebook for updates.
Got any other suggestions for a favorite Maine cover band? Reply in the comments. I’m sure I’ve missed a handful.