Funky Five: Unexpected Covers

Words By Andy DeVilbiss

All Good Festival announced its line-up this week, and Furthur got a headlining slot. Meh. Lots of other good stuff on the bill, but Furthur's not my bag. At least they're not the Dark Star Orchestra. I don't like the Dark Star Orchestra. Some reasons are weather related. It seemed like DSO brought the rain out whenever they played a festival I was attending. It happened enough that we began calling them the Dark Cloud Orchestra.

The rest of the reasons can be summed up quickly. They're a cover band. They have a great gimmick and talent, but they're still a cover band. I generally do not dig cover bands. It takes two midget KISS tribute acts feuding with each other to pique my interest. Yes, that actually happened, and, yes, I wish it had been violently and hilariously settled in the Wrestlemania ring.

But a well done and unexpected cover song? Good gawd, king! It's like someone bust out a pygmy piledriver. It's a move that makes the fans cheer and hoot and leaves an impression. Here's five that have made an impression on me like a top-rope elbowdrop from Mini Gene Simmons.

1. The Apples - "Killing In The Name"

Yeah, I'll give it up for the "Harpua" sammich Phish cover on Independence Day. It was well done, but this is just wicked. It's understandable for a mostly instrumental band to cover a Rage Against The Machine song without a vocalist. It's entirely more ballsy to do so without a guitarist. Even more badass to do it with an unexpected line-up of drums, upright bass, two turntables, and a bunch of horns. Then it takes ballsy badassery to do all that while making it funky without being cheesy. The Apples may be my favorite musical discovery of the past year, and this was the song that got me into the orchard.

2. ulu - "Super Mario Brothers"

Screw silence. A moment of righteous funky noise for the dear, departed ulu. I was a fan from the first time I saw them perform this Nintendo classic. I will always remember their sweaty Thursday night set at the All Good Festival that was held at Sunshine Daydream in West Virginny. A little historical aside... That was the last All Good held in May because it snowed to the point they had to truck in socks to prevent wookie frostbite. On one hand, for May and even for the area, it was cold enough to make you crawl into a tauntaun. On the other, Luke Skywalker remembered to pack socks and shoes.

3. Lefties Soul Connection - "Organ Donor"

A cover of a DJ Shadow song? You're sure that's not backwards? Really? Ok then... My sources have informed me this is not Bizarro World. I was familiar with this version, but it wasn't the version I hoped to find. Another band from the dearly departed file, Addison Groove Project, also covered this tune routinely, though theirs was a cover of the single.

4. Cookin' On 3 Burners - "Cars"

Guitarist Lance Ferguson knows The Funk. When he's not busy strumming for the Bamboos or Cookin' On 3 Burners, he's spinning records as Lanu. A keen musical mind like that knows nothing screams The Funk like... 80's new wave and electronic icon Gary Numan? It works. Especially while driving, so watch it, leadfoot. I also recommend C3B's cover of the Gorillaz' "Feel Good Inc." and really just any of their work in general.

5. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)"

You're out of your element, Kenny Rogers & The First Edition! The random Soul Train dancers really tie the video together, and Sharon Jones absolutely kills it to the point where she oughta be wearing Maude Lebowski's viking get-up like a funky diva. And if you disagree with me, well that's just like, your opinion, man.

Five highflyers bringin' rage in the cage! It's Friday Funk, people. Fun is key, so keep it funky. I'll be seeing Orgone and Dumpstaphunk tonight, two bands who know how to bust out a cover. Rage responsibly. Don't drink and piledrive.


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