House of Bricks hosted an all cover band evening this past Saturday, and it wound up being a night bifurcated by two extremely different band experiences.
First up were the delightfully named Hot Lady Band. The first thing you need to know about HLB is that they are amazingly entertaining. Consisting of four unbearably charismatic ladies—Adrienne Gross, Jodi Roberts, Sara Briddell and Cat Rocketship—HLB banters well, engages everyone they meet, laughs, jokes, and obviously enjoys the hell out of what they're doing up there. And the audience (at least on this evening) loves them unconditionally for it.
The second thing you need to know about HLB is that they are horrible. With a couple of members who have been playing their instruments for less than six months, almost everything musical about the band's set was off-par. There was a lot of 4/4 time, a ton of simplified, stripped down rhythm parts, and the band is fronted by a guitar player who was delivering a roughly 1:1 right chord/wrong chord ratio.
Which makes for quite the conundrum. Did anything in the above paragraph effect how much the collected crowd enjoyed the show? It certainly didn't seem to. Did anything in the first paragraph alter in any way the aural assault that was HLB's set? Again, no.
As a firm believer in the notion of people doing what they love, I'm all for HLB and their shows. They're all learning, they already have a great stage presence, and with practice they'll get better. They're fun, and I bought a t-shirt as a show of support.
But as a firm believer in the notion that raising the quality of the product on Des Moines' stages is good for the health of the scene as a whole, I really wish they'd spend the next six months learning in the garage and not doing it on stage. I know it's fun to be up there, and it's great to get the visceral reaction, and yes, the crowd of the night was very supportive and fun. But learn your chords, get a quality singer and become more proficient with your instruments, and people may start loving your shows because of the music, and not just the novelty.
After Hot Lady Band finished their set, the evening was headlined by Cover Grrls, and the difference couldn't have been more apparent. Where HLB stumbled through a limited variety of songs (they covered Coldplay at least twice, and were stuck fairly solidly in the '90s), Cover Grrls gave the audience a set that covered 60 years of songs and the band crushed each and every one of them. Here is a cover band that not only knows their material inside and out, but has a full-on understanding of what to do with their instruments. Speaking of...
Instruments I have now seen Rae Fehring play with my own two eyes: Guitar, bass, keys and drums. She might play saxophone and glockenspiel as well, I just haven't seen it yet. On top of which, she sings like an angel. In short, while there are better singular musicians in this town, there may not be anyone around who's as diversely talented as Fehring. Everything she does, she does well, and she's the clear anchor of Cover Grrls.
None of which should detract in any way from what the rest of the band brought to the table. Betsy West held down timekeeping duty admirably, and while I've heard guitarist Jenny Kohls play along side Fehring in The Honeybees, this was the first time I've seen her able to let loose and thrash out an electric solo, and she's upgraded my perception of her abilities from “solidly competent” to “really underrated.”
But there's one member of the band deserving of special note. Fehring's daughter Hannah handled bass duties for the evening, and all you had to do was witness her blistering the bassline to Michael Jackson's “Billy Jean” to see that she wasn't just a charity addition to the evening's fun. The kid can flat out play. I don't know if she's going to be a permanent member of the lineup or not, but she's definitely picked up a new fan, whatever she winds up doing.
HLB and Cover Grrls are both obviously ways for their members to have some fun. The members of Hot Lady Band clearly know their limitations and don't have any delusions about themselves. And Cover Grrls is a way for four wickedly talented women to have some fun and play some songs that everyone knows. And I hope I see both acts again. Cover Grrls are just so good, it would be a shame to miss them, and Hot Lady Band are so damn fun to watch, that I sincerely hope they keep improving, and become equally fun to listen to.