Tribute Songs That Aren’t Cover Songs

This was actually an impromptu lesson from the off-the-cuff “Rock & Roll History” class I teach my homeschooled daughter Sally. I explained what a cover song was (Sally already knew), then played her a bunch of songs which weren’t covers at all but whole new songs which were heartfelt tributes to great artists by artists they’d influenced. Didn’t prep for this, just winged it, and came up with oodles.

  1. Remember the Ramones by The Fleshtones (from the brand new album Wheel of Talent, which Sally’s been humming a lot this week).
  2. Mister Ramones by Mr. T Experience
  3. Bo Diddley by Buddy Holly (which of course Bo Diddley wrote, but Buddy Holly honored him with, shifting the subject from first person to third)
  4. Three Stars by Eddie Cochran (about the deaths of Buddy Holly, Big Bopper and Richie Valens)
  5. Pamela by Bobby Fuller (heavily in the style of Buddy Holly, by a devout disciple)
  6. Jackie Wilson Said—Van Morrison; then I played the Dexy’s Midnight Runners version, which is a tribute to Van Morrison paying tribute to Jackie Wilson.
  7. The Late Great Johnny Ace—Paul Simon
  8. Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War—Paul Simon

We didn’t get around to these (yet):

9. Rock Me Amadeus—Falco

10. American Beat—The Fleshtones (the version from the Bachelor Party movie soundtrack, with the long litany of rock greats at the end).

11. Killing Me Softly With His Song—Lori Lieberman (reportedly based on how she felt when listening to a Don McLean song, though “Killing Me Softly” was actually written by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox, and there’s some dispute about whether McLean was the inspiration).

12. American Pie—Don McLean

13. Alex Chilton—The Replacements

14. Paul Westerberg—The Gravel Pit

15. Keith Don’t Go—Nils Lofgren

…and I was just getting started.

In a previous lesson, we’d covered the evolution of Roll Over Beethoven from Chuck Berry to Beatles to Electric Light Orchestra, so I didn’t need to go there this time.

Any you’d care to add?

Rock Gods #295: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

Full house at Hamilton’s—not capacity (300+), really just about a fifth of that. But full. That’s on account of the tables. Long conference tables. Loooong tables. To get up and get a beer was to be a rat navigating a maze.

No rats in attendance, though, unlike many a tribute-band nite at the club. Only accountants. At a conference. Eating lobster; catered by Newburg’s Seafood. And watching the Collated Numbers Band.

We couldn’t last there; we’re strictly no-account. So we fled to the Bullfinch, where a much less interactive, less numerical scene was unfolding.

Gerry Marc Carl and Their Envoy looked up just twice during their hour- long set at the Finch Thursday night. One was literally to swat a fly—Marc did the honors, the other two were jarred by the sudden movement—and once to acknowledge that they were done playing. It was so old school we couldn’t bear it.

Not new-old like disaffected shoegazing, but old-old like getting your head stuck in sheet music and keyboard intensity. The envoy of the band’s name is a series of interconnected synthesizers, with ask the impersonal aspects such an act portends.

That’s OK. We in the crowd kept our heads down too. There were  only 18 of us there, and only four who weren’t related to the bans. So we played poker. It seemed to fit the deadpan mood. We played our hands in tempo to the band.

Count or be counted. Local music by the numbers.


Imminent at area clubs: Earthly Pebbles, Steambed Material and Two Year Drive

(featuring Gale Crater) at Hamilton… A pair of marauding regional cover bands at D’ollaires: Conglomerate Rocks and Mount Sharp… The Bullfinch is open, but doesn’t know who’s playing.

Exclusive! The 2014 Meriden Daffodil Festival Line-up

Again, I am honored to have been granted first rights to reveal the line-up of the Meriden Daffodil Festival. The event is a full-blown springtime community festival, with carnival rides and kids’ activities and pageants and a parade and artisans’ booths and a vast food tent. It also happens to be the biggest gathering of local bands in the state.

Rob DeRosa, who books the acts, knows that this is a special opportunity, for up-and-coming acts as well as for established ones, to play for real audiences (not just friends and family) for real money (not just “the door”) in a beautiful environment. (No offense to Café Nine or Arch Street or other indoor joints that nobly support the local music scene, but you don’t have a pond and tens of thousands of blooming daffodils on the premises).

Rob DeRosa suggests that the talking points this year are:

  1. This is the first time that over half the bands booked are making their Daffodil debut. Given the hundreds of bands DeRosa’s booked for the fest over the past couple of decades, and how many established bands always itch to play there, it’s a credit to him that he still seeks such variety and novelty in the line-up.
  2. Nine of the 35 local bands on the bill are hyperlocal, hailing from Meriden. DeRosa suspects that might be a record.
  3. Numerous winners or nominees from state and regional music awards ceremonies: Jenn Hill was nominated as Best Female Performer in the New England Music Awards. Tracy Walton was a nominee for Best Male Performer in the same NEMA competition.

Returning in glory is Violent Mae, the duo of Becky Kessler and Floyd Kellogg, which did one of their first ever shows under that band name at last year’s Daffodil Festival. The show had been booked as a solo gig for Kessler, who’d been named best Singer-Songwriter in the 2012 Grand Band Slam (aka the Connecticut Music Awards, organized by the Advocate/Weekly chain of papers). Violent Mae, in turn, was named Best New Act in the 2013 GBS/CMA reckoning.

Electronic pop act Fight the Fear won Best Indie Band at the Band Slam/Ct. Music Awards in 2012 and Best Overall Band in 2013.

Which acts will play when, and on which of the three Daffodil Festival stages, will be announced any day now. This is the initial burst of who the bands are. That info and much more will eventuyally be revealed at the fest’s own site, here.

And—cotton candy-stimulated drumroll please—the line-up (in alphabetical order) for the 2014 Meriden Daffodil Festival, to be held April 26 & 27 in Meriden’s glorious Hubbard Park, is….

All Riot. A Meriden band making its Daffodil debut, All Riot is an alt-rock combo consisting of Mitch Guerin, Dan Osto, Nick Allen and Christian Adamik.

The Backyard Committee. Mike Sembo’s Americana collective, playing just before kindred spirit Mark Mulcahy on the Welcome Stage.

Big Fat Combo. Tom Hearn’s punk- and roots-infused bar band to end all bar bands takes life’s indignities (the Hale Bop comet suicide cult; getting banned from Sam the Clam’s bar) into rousing rock & roll ditties.

Boxcutter. Accomplished cover band from Meriden.

The Bird’n’boys. Blues-rocky Meriden-based cover band fronted by Ellen Sackman.

Chico & Friends. Longtime Daffodil staple, hailing from Meriden.

Coconuts. A comedy rock outfit with Meriden roots, making its Daffodil debut.

Steve Elci & Friends. First Daffodil appearance of the celebrated children’s entertainer, whose “friends” (according to his catchy video “Zoo”) include a monkey, a panda and a leopard. Special 1 p.m. Sunday concert for kids.

Farewood. Leah Booker & Lou Lorenzo’s illustrious “ethereal rock” quartet made a comeback in 2012 with its well-received album Wings of Gold.

Fight The Fear. Daffodil debut for the popular, multi-award winning Hartford pop act (formerly known as Lakshmi).

The Foresters. The Bethany-based sibling rock trio has been playing out for over three years, and the oldest of them has now entered his teen years. Time for the release of their first full-length album!

The Gonkus Brothers. Another steady Daffodil booking, a covers a act with Meriden roots.

Good Night Blue Moon. The fascinating folk-pop ensemble returns.

Grand Cousin. There’s almost always a band at the festival representing Wesleyan University’s strident music scene. They describe themselves as “A fledgling Buddhist, an Upper-East-Sider-Gone-Rogue, and the sensitive son of a sitcom legend.” (The last-named, Henry Hall, is the oldest child of Julia Louis-Dreyfuss.) Their dorm-room video for “Camera” is pretty darn endearing.

Happy Ending. Another long-overdue Daffodil Festival debut, Happy Ending is the longtime pop/psychedelic/psychological/political music project of Hank Hoffman (the Wesleyan grad also known for his Connecticut Art Scene blog and for booking the music shows at Best Video in Hamden).

Jennifer Hill & Co. Hartt School of Music grad Hill does “pop with a definite alternative, blues, rock and cabaret influence.”

Kelley & Sean. Return of the Meriden-based Irish music duo.

Lys Guillorn and Her Band. The wondrous singer-songwriter—who plays with Grimm Generation and concocts cool concept shows like “All I’ve Got is a Photograph” when not doing her dazzling solo-act thing—released her second album, Winged Victory, late last year.

Amy Lynn & The Gun Show. A big-deal “Memphis-Motown soul/rock style” septet featuring Meriden-raised Any Lynn Zanetto on vocals, The Gun tours throughout New England, just released a new video for their original tune “Don’t Trip on the Glitter” and is also promoting a cover of the Shangri-La’s “Remember (Walking in the Sand).” The band’s first full-length album will be out around the time of their Daffodil show.

The Manchurians. Longtime Daffodil Fest faves, led by Roger C. Reale (who’s written songs for B.B. King and Edgar Winter, and worked with Mick Ronson). Their sound, reminiscent of British R&B/rock bands of the ‘60s, always sounds spectacular amid the lights and motion of the carnival rides near the big bandstand stage.

Mark Mulcahy. The former leader of one of Connecticut’s most important bands, Miracle Legion began a successful solo career in the mid-1990s. A family tragedy caused a years-long hiatus broken last year with a Daffodil comeback followed by shows at major rock festivals here and abroad. A new album, Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You, came out last fall. You can hear an NPR Fresh Air interview with Mulcahy here.

Mercy Choir. Paul Belbusti’s prolific band makes its Daffodil debut. The New Haven-based multi-instrumentalist songwriter has released a slew of recordings in the past year. The four-song EP PPIANO came out just last week (digitally and on audiocassette, preceded in November by His Noiseless Ball, His Boxwood Rattle.

The Mighty Soul Drivers. A relatively new R&B/Memphis Soul act on the scene, one which is made up of numerous bar band veterans and one which made the finals of the CT Blue Society’s 2012 Blues Challenge on their very first time playing out. The Mighty Soul Drivers have a couple of members in common with River City Slim & The Zydeco Hogs, who are also playing the Daffodil Festival this year.

The Mighty Sparrows. One of the many bird-named schemes of longtime music scene fixture James Velvet (co-host of WPLR’s Local Bands show). These bands and shows vary based on size, volume, venue, line-up and acousticity. The Sparrows (aka The Lonesome Sparrows and The Acoustic Sparrows) consist of Velvet (who sings, plays guitar and writes songs), guitarist/violinist Johnny Memphis, drummer Johnny Java and mandolinist/dobroist/banjoist DickNeal.

Oh, Cassius. The gamechanging duo of established solo artists Meredith DiMenna and John Torres. They won “Best Other” at the 2013 Connecticut Music Awards.

The Paul Brockett Roadshow Band. Not for nothing do these guys’ name and logo mimic “Pabst Blue Ribbon.” Based in New London, this is a downhome rootsy country rock act you’ve be privileged to run across in a roadhouse.

Pocket Vinyl. Daffodil debut for this compelling pianist/painter duo. While Eric Stevenson plays and sings, Elizabeth Jancewicz creates an original artwork onstage. The couple (who are married, and have released three albums) auctions off Elizabeth’s fresh painting at the end of each show.

River City Slim & The Zydeco Hogs. Making a return to the Daffodil, with River City Slim and Andy Karlok pulling double duty at the festival this year as members of Mighty Soul Drivers.

691. The Meriden-based cover band (specializing in Motown) returns.

Greg Sherrod. Is it possible that this local R&B vocalist legend and Café Nine “blues boot camp” leader has never played the Daffodil Festival?

The Stray Dogs. This aggregation of The Meadows Brothers (Ian and Dustin), Eric Lichter and James Maple has backed singer Kerri Powers and have a long list of band credits amongst them. Not quite as stray as they once were, they make their Daffodil debut.

The Summer Edeen Band. This young singer-songwriter and Lyman Hall school field hockey star won a talent competition at the Durham Fair, been championed by Meriden-based songwriter Gary Burr and recorded in Nashville. With a band behind her, Edeen makes her Daffodil debut.

Them Damn Hamiltons. There’s only one Hamilton in the eerie, soft/loud/subtle/slamming ensemble Them Damn Hamiltons: guitarist/mandolin and banjo player Dan Hamilton. Four bandmates—Jeff Chen, Futoma, Mik Walker and lead vocalist Parker Hu—provide a wide range of “dark folk” sounds, including acoustic cello and electric bass. Daffodil debut.

Tracy Walton. Yet another Daffodil debut, of New England Music Awards nominee Walton, who began in music as a bassist in punk bands and eventually found jazz calling to him. Later he fronted the rock act Black Lab Project. Walton’s put out two solo albums in the past three years.

Violent Mae. Becky Kessler and Floyd Kellogg developed their singular duo sound during downtime when on tour with producer/musician Kellogg’s band I Scream You Scream, and especially when Kellogg produced what was intended to be a solo album for Kessler (who’d led a popular band in North Carolina before moving to Connecticut to work on an organic farm). The supposed solo album became the duo’s debut disk instead. Likewise, Kessler was booked as a solo artist for last year’s Daffodil Festival, but the gig became one of the first official Violent Mae shows instead.

Next Get to the Point!: March 3, 2014 at Cafe Nine

Here are some of the folks presenting at our next Get to the Point! literary shindig, 8 p.m. March 3 at Cafe Nine (250 State St., New Haven Ct., 203-789-8281):

• Theater director Mary Lee Delaney.

• A playlet by Susan Cinamon.

• A cheery new story from Christine Jewell.

• The return of Lys Guillorn.

• Jeffrey Thunders of the Lost Riots.

• Writer Seth Osborne, who will celebrate a birthday on the week of the show.• Ina Chadwick and Duncan Christy, with a story and a song.

• Skilled self-analytical memoirist Saul Fussiner.

• The ever-comical Craig Gilbert

• David Pilot, perhaps with Steve Bellwood.

• Hopefully Sara Russell again!

• The usual fairy tale and myth.

• Your host, Christopher Arnott


… and more to be announced! (Those interested in presenting may contact Chris Arnott at

(Note: the previously announced Bruce Tulgan has injured his hand and will be unable to join us this month. He’s hoping to make it in May.)

No cover charge. Wonderful bartending by Margaret. A nice night out by any standards.


Watch this space

I wear a pocket watch now, as an accessory for my iPhone. It’s like living in two centuries at once.
But there’s a practical reason. I wear overshirts and jackets and vests, and that’s where I keep my phone, in outer pockets of outerwear.
It slips out of those pockets. A lot. But that’s the absolute best place for my phone. So first I just made sure I had a sturdy cover on the thing so it wouldn’t break: the leathery wallet-like Book Book cover. Then I jam a little memo book next to it in the pocket. Still, occasionally there’d be a phone spill. So, when I was on a field trip last month with my daughter’s tag program to the museum of natural history in New York city, and saw an inexpensive souvenir pocket watch in the museum gift shop, I bought it and clipped it to my phone case.
I’m more bound up in chains and such now, and look like a steampunk than the plain punk I often resemble.  But I have no fear of pickpockets. And , between phone and watch, I always know what time it is.

Rock Gods #294: Adventures in Our Little Music Scene

L’il Yvette, whose name is often misconstrued as Lilly Vet (or worse) in the local media, wore, by our count, seventeen scarves to the Thursday show at Hamilton’s. The mostly retired R&B vocalist did half a dozen songs backed by the exemplary cover band Loos & Tite.

Scarves were L’il Yvette’s style long before they became associated with hippie ‘70s rock stars. She wears them not as glad rags but as a field of color and light, veils upon veils. Her songs can be like that too. Not “Sassy Broad,” of course, the regional hit with which she opened her set, but “Big Brute” is a sensitive song about the threat of romance,  and “Ginger” is a spicy tune about living one’s life to the fullest.

When she sang about Salome, however, it got a bit obvious. Not to mention rather embarrassing. Even Loos & Tite looked the other way.No, she wasn’t stripping. She was doing that dippy scarf-juggling routine that bad magicians do to fill time. Worse, she wasn’t doing it to the beat of the song, and it even messed up her timing when she had to jump back into the vocals.

Scarves are fine when your neck is cold. Or when you want to cover up a hickey. Or when you want to escape from a second-story window. Can’t think of any other thing scarves are good for. Can’t think of one.

Better distractions: Ties for Tots benefit (so kids can dress up for job interviews) at Hamilton’s, with 2 Dogs Works, White’s Family, Special Italian Dishes, Tripe, Ocean Fish and The Tomlinsons. Some of those are one-off local-supergroup ensembles; if we’d been more observant of the Hamilton’s scene in recent months we could tell you which ones…. Could I Have Lupus and C Something Essay Something at the Bullfinch… An evening with 498,632 Wins and Blast of Hydration at D’ollaires. Acoustic numbers.

Next Get to the Point! show at Cafe Nine: Monday, Feb. 3 at 8 p.m.

There once was a Get to the Point!

It was held at the Café Nine joint

The host is named Chris

Who leaves you with this:

“We do hope we won’t disappoint.” 


Our 15th monthly foray into storytelling, literature, spoken word and, as they say, more.


This month:



• our old friend Craig Gilbert!

• Fairfield-based storyteller Ina Chadwick.

• Duncan Christy, with a comedy song.

• Saul Fussiner with another of his mesmerizing autobiographical essays.

• Katro Storm, getting interviewed about his new art exhibit at Gallery Howe.

• The everpopular Sara Russell, with poetry.

• fiction writer Michael Lara

• The indescribable Steve Bellwood

• The sonorous David Pilot

• Music from Kyle Flynn.

• Craig Gilbert!

• Your host, Christopher Arnott


…. and a fairy tale. And a myth. And ONE HUNDRED LIMERICKS!

And some unexpected surprises.

(If YOU want to come share something, get in touch!


Now let’s repeat that initial come-on:


Get to the Point!

8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 3, 2014

Cafe Nine, 250 State St., New Haven

(203) 789-8281

No cover charge.

Deceitful Recipe

Sally created a prank pizza last week. It totally fooled Kathleen, especially in the dim unlit kitchen when she came home from a long day and night of classes. It’s a sugar cookie, with chocolate sauce for tomato sauce, chocolate covered blueberries for olives, and chocolate crumbles for cheese.