"HI! Join me, Frank Cyrano, and some of your Byfar favorites as we join the Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra's amazing Rock & Roll Circus for one night only, tomorrow, October 15th, in Arlington's own Regent Theater. We'll performing a favorite Byfar Hour routine before your very ears and eyes in between amazing sets of rock and roll, including the Beatles' "Abbey Road" in its ENTIRETY. Live! The doors open at 7:30, and you won't want to be late!"
I heard them perform at tonight's dress rehearsal/press night for the first time and I was completely blown away. The URO is a group which would technically be called a cover band, but by god they transcend that phrase because they do it right. I'll give you an example:
The late and very sadly missed Brad Delp, formerly from the band Boston, last fronted a band called Beatlejuice which specialized in performing live versions of Beatles studio tracks. That is, the sound they performed for you live, on stage, sounded as close to what took the Beatles numerous takes (and other post engineering wizardry) to get on recorded media. They were playing live versions of studio tracks every night. That is no small feat.
You should have heard their Strawberry Fields Forever. Should have just heard it, man. (Beatlejuice still tours if I recall correctly, so I guess you can.)
I mean, there are plenty of cover bands, some just barely hanging out in small dives (who can honestly do quite well when they're sincere; I made the acquaintance of two guys in central Florida this year who just played for the hell of it and damned if it didn't sound good over $1.50 drafts) and others which just play whatever the hell the front man likes and you better know your Moody Blues, dammit. But Beatlejuice, and the Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra as well, reject the notion that all you need to make covers is a good fake book and a drummer who can sort of kind of do the fills well.
Instead, what these discriminatin' cover/tribute/(there needs to be a better word) groups recreate the music. For as reals as they can get. This does not mean they're doing an exact imitation -- their Beatles songs, for the most part, are completely free from Liverpudlian accents. (Though some backup vocals just sound better when they're nasally and Northern, and the URO makes it a point to include 'em when needed.) When they do David Bowie songs, you don't get a Bowie soundalike, but you get someone with the vocal intensity and just right vocal range for him. Their final encore song at the dress rehearsal tonight was Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain", and my god but if Sal, one of ten vocalists singing that evening, didn't channel Lindsey Buckingham's intensity and anger in his "And if you don't looove me nooow" parts.
I think I might have mentioned they're good. And you should hear their Strawberry Fields Forever. You should just hear it, man.
When accuracy does count, they are spot-on musically. The drummer, who I presume is right-handed unless I was looking at it wrong and I might coulda been, had Ringo Starr's fills down flawlessly. (The thing about Ringo was that he was a left-handed drummer playing on a right-handed kit, so he had to come up with these fills he could start with his strong hand... which naturally is the weak hand for righties. Can be difficult to play. At least, that's what I remember from Beatles Rock Band.) The URO drummer got to the drum solo during the second half of Abbey Road and we cheered for him.
The most amazing part about the drummer is that, when the band shifts from group to group, he just slides right into the style of whatever drummer is needed: from Ringo Starr to John Bonham for some Zeppelin to Keith Moon when they get into the Who. Amazingly versatile, and just a little bit of a showboat. He does a snare roll, then flips his drumstick in the air during the second verse of Killer Queen. (Oh, and one of the guitarists has that Brian May sound down like nobody's business. Glorious.)
Meanwhile, there's a ton of people on stage in varying forms of dress, almost equally split male-female, so there'll be somebody there you'll enjoy looking at no matter what. And they're dancing, and singing in incredibly tight harmonies, and it's great.
I was backstage with my Byfar Hour cohorts working on the sketch script when they came in to do a final warmup. Someone went searching for a D and finally found it, and they launched into a chorus of Fat-Bottomed Girls, with exactly tight Queen melodies (albeit with a slightly different arrangement for more voices.) Those of us observing wisely as a third-party refrained from singing along, knowing that what we were here for wasn't to throw that high harmony on top, like you do. But that was okay, because they all hit the harmonies so fine and so sweet, all you could do was just listen along in admiration and appreciation. Lordy, it was sweet.
Meanwhile, one of the vocalists is in a cast because he broke his ankle, yet he still manages to rock out. That's love of the craft right there.
Anyway, we performed last year's "Marblehead Murder Mystery" slightly altered to be a dialogue for two with sound effects from a third, owing to cast availability. It was politely (all right, it was well) received, T.F. Guy did a wonderful job with the sound effects, and some folks were laughing throughout which made me feel good. We were even sought down in the auditorium later on by two younger fans who really wanted to let us know how much they enjoyed the Byfar Hour comedy. I mean, I think one of 'em jumped two rows of chairs to get to us. That was... really flattering, to be honest. Hooray for accessible comedy! They'll be in the audience tomorrow night when we perform at their opening night show. The full Byfar cast required will be peforming, including Tom Champion as Boris Karloff, and it's going to be incredible. Gang, let's make sure we sign some autographs for 'em.
So if you've got nothing going on tomorrow night, and you're near Arlington, I sure hope that you have plans now. And if you are busy tomorrow night, they're gonna be doing this kind of thing for the next few Saturday nights, so you've got plenty of options available. And please, for the sake of us fine fun artists who like to do awesome, do try to shatter those preconceptions of Arlington being beyond the Berlin Wall that is the Mystic Valley Parkway. It so is not, Arlington's a lot closer than Davis Squarians often think (I've been guilty of thinking that myself) and that intersection is so not Checkpoint Charlie. Although it really is annoying. But you'll make it through just fine, I swear! Or take the Shortcut near Johnnie's Foodmaster!
The Regent's an easy five-ten minute drive up Mass Ave -- you drive Mass Ave a lot, don't you? -- and it's even on several bus lines, including the 77, which goes by so frequently Elwood Blues would hardly notice it if he lived nearby. And there's decent parking around if you do insist on driving. So do come on down to see the URO, and to see us, if you can. You're going to have so much fun it's worth crossing that line what reads "Here There Be Dragons."
Because they're \m/ DRAGONS OF ROCK. \m/
PS. You better take an extra pair of socks with you, because they're going to rock the first pair off. Maybe even the second. Bring a few rolled up into little balls, just in case.
This, by the way, marks the point every production cycle when things officially become Fun. There may have been struggles before, and there may be struggles later, and I may not exactly have loathed every second of work attached to the project beforehand -- this Fun demarcation point is positive all around. It's the part where I start telling myself "This is what I do. I do this." and then do it with a grin on my face. We've got an amazing show this year, I really hope you can be a part of it, and now we start yammering about it quite a bit.