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Undercover Cover Band Blues

When I joined the Fading Captains as their bassist, a strange year in my life began. We played Guided By Voices songs exclusively. The band is pretty well known in the underground indie-rock circuit but relatively unknown to those whose musical tastes are formed by commercial rock radio, MTV, and Super Bowl halftime shows.

We performed at parties, clubs, and anywhere people would have us. We had the quaint little turnout of friends who would nod along, clap at the end of songs, and yell out requests, but for the most part, those who attended our performances had no idea we were a cover band.

People would come up to us after shows and say, "I really like your songs." We'd tell them, "Well, they're not our songs. They're songs by a band we really like called Guided By Voices. Didn't you hear us announce that during the set?" And then they'd say something like, "Divided By Choices?"

We could do all sorts of funny things that mainstream cover bands can't do. Occasionally we'd tell the audience something like, "Danny [a member of the Fading Captains] wrote this one..." We'd get a little snicker out of this, as the majority of the crowd would be clueless. I wanted to take it as far as giving fake explanations for song titles. For example, we covered a GBV song called "Wished I Was a Giant," and I wanted to explain it as being a song about a Smurf who wished he was Gargamel.

One time we were playing a set, and an irate guy in a Grateful Dead T-shirt came up to us and told us to turn it down because we sucked. This was the angriest Deadhead I've ever seen in my life. He was asking us who our sound engineer was (this wasn't exactly Madison Square Garden), and then he tried to walk up to the PA and turn down the sound himself, which of course didn't happen.

We played a late-night set at Chasers for the guitarist of a band that played before us. When he left, we played for the bartender, who couldn't see us but clapped after every song. We still jumped around on the stage. It was pretty much a practice with two free beers.

When Robert Pollard (the songwriter behind GBV) started the band in Dayton, Ohio, in the mid '80s, he stopped playing out live after a handful of shows. In later years he claimed that the people in Dayton "didn't get it."

Though Pollard wrote and recorded songs in his basement that came to be considered underground classics, our experience with the Fading Captains proved that Guided By Voices is something that most people will never get. We retired from playing live after a short run.

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When I joined the Fading Captains as their bassist, a strange year in my life began. We played Guided By Voices songs exclusively. The band is pretty well known in the underground indie-rock circuit but relatively unknown to those whose musical tastes are formed by commercial rock radio, MTV, and Super Bowl halftime shows.

We performed at parties, clubs, and anywhere people would have us. We had the quaint little turnout of friends who would nod along, clap at the end of songs, and yell out requests, but for the most part, those who attended our performances had no idea we were a cover band.

People would come up to us after shows and say, "I really like your songs." We'd tell them, "Well, they're not our songs. They're songs by a band we really like called Guided By Voices. Didn't you hear us announce that during the set?" And then they'd say something like, "Divided By Choices?"

We could do all sorts of funny things that mainstream cover bands can't do. Occasionally we'd tell the audience something like, "Danny [a member of the Fading Captains] wrote this one..." We'd get a little snicker out of this, as the majority of the crowd would be clueless. I wanted to take it as far as giving fake explanations for song titles. For example, we covered a GBV song called "Wished I Was a Giant," and I wanted to explain it as being a song about a Smurf who wished he was Gargamel.

One time we were playing a set, and an irate guy in a Grateful Dead T-shirt came up to us and told us to turn it down because we sucked. This was the angriest Deadhead I've ever seen in my life. He was asking us who our sound engineer was (this wasn't exactly Madison Square Garden), and then he tried to walk up to the PA and turn down the sound himself, which of course didn't happen.

We played a late-night set at Chasers for the guitarist of a band that played before us. When he left, we played for the bartender, who couldn't see us but clapped after every song. We still jumped around on the stage. It was pretty much a practice with two free beers.

When Robert Pollard (the songwriter behind GBV) started the band in Dayton, Ohio, in the mid '80s, he stopped playing out live after a handful of shows. In later years he claimed that the people in Dayton "didn't get it."

Though Pollard wrote and recorded songs in his basement that came to be considered underground classics, our experience with the Fading Captains proved that Guided By Voices is something that most people will never get. We retired from playing live after a short run.

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