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Punk Rock Cover Band Brings Their Fun & Zany Show to the Showbox Market, by Holly Homan

Thursday May 4 I had the esteemed privilege of seeing punk rock cover band Me First & the Gimme Gimmes. Me First, for those of you unfamiliar with them, are a punk band who turn non-punk songs into punk songs. “Songs like Leavin’ On A Jet Plane,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” etc.

Jay Bentley on bass, Spike Slawson on vocals (of Swinging Utters) Joey Cape rhythm guitar (Lag Wagon) Dave Raun (Lag Wagon) drums were in this incarnation. The band has had rotating members depending on availability, and has in the past included members of NOFX and Bad Religion.

The band came on stage wearing matching outfits consisting of white denims and turquoise satin shirts. Spike wore a white blazer over his shirt. Spike was also quite the showman. With his tongue planted firmly in his cheek he introduced almost every song by saying, this one’s a cover. They opened with “Summertime” (and the livin’ is easy) and followed that up with “Leavin’ On A Jet Plane,” all done in high speed punk. Other songs included “Who Put the Bomp” (in the Bomp, Bomp Bomp). As Spike explained, “We’re a band that does covers. No, scratch that. We’re THE band that does covers. He also kept changing the band’s name. One time he introduced them as Benny Hurstad and the Jammie Jammies, covering songs and making them better (can’t disagree there).

Before lighting into the old John Denver song, “Country Roads,” Spike proclaimed John Denver as a great American and a pretty good pilot (tasteless but funny). For a few songs Spike picked up the ukulele, or as the bass player described it, a tiny guitar and told the audience to put your tiny hands together and clap. Chris then took a full beer bottle and used it as a guitar slide (he does this in Living End concerts also).

Spike took to ribbing Barry Manilow (to celebrate his recent revelation that he likes the beans and the franks) before lighting into a punked up version of “Mandy.”

They also played several songs off their new album Rake It In, which Spike described as their greatest hits AND misses and then called the band Patty Hurst and the Chim Cherries.

They ended their set with the old Stone Ponys song “Different Drum” before leaving the stage. When they returned for the encore it was at first just Spike and his ukulele where he performed a beautiful version of the Kinks’ “Something Better Beginning.” It sounded perfect with a ukulele and Spike sang it just as it should be sung. It was as if he was paying homage to the godliness of the Kinks and to lampoon Kinks’ songs would be sacrilegious.

After that the entire band returned to the stage and played the Beatles’ “All My Lovin’” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” done punk of course. This was one fun show. Spike is an excellent showman, full of energy and humor and the rest of the band knew how to have fun too (particularly bass player Jay). The show had been sold out for some time.

Playing prior to Me First was and LA outfit called Pangea. I really liked them. They were very upbeat with hooky guitar licks and two party harmony. The highlight of their performance was a punked up cover of the Cranberries one and only hit “Zombie.” They even joked about having written that song. They made it better, turned it into an honest rock song as opposed the the overblown pretentious drivel the Cranberries produced.

Starting the evening was a band called Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds. These guys played a sixties psychedelia sound somewhat reminding me of Velvet Underground. They were a tight unit, but over all their stage presence seemed lacking spark.

– All photos property of Holly Homan, all rights reserved.

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