Now in its 16th year, the Christmas Covers Party is always one of THE parties of the year. LeftLion caught up with this year’s organisers (Christmas Covers was started by the band Seachange before being taken on for many years by promoters Damn You! and is now run by a collective of musicians and party starters) – Joey Chickenskin, Scot Lambert and Nick Lawford – to reminisce about some of their favourite memories from the last 16 years.
It kind of goes against the spirit of the covers party to pick favourites but in terms of standout memories:
Elvis McGivern - Always on My Mind/American Trilogy/Burning Love/Hound Dog (2008)
I think that this was the moment when costumes and performance hit the party in earnest. Ross had the Elvis Jump Suit and had studied the moves and you couldn't help but feel like you were actually in Vegas in the seventies. I think it made me feel more affectionate towards late-period Elvis.
The Larry Crywater Rave Explosion - Rhythm is a Dancer/Can't Get You Out Of My Head/Don't You Want Me (2014)
On the whole the participants at the covers party come from rock/alternative backgrounds and usually when they play electronic/pop music the fun is in them trying on that hat which is a joy. LCRX blew everyone's minds by doing it for real and having a 15 minute rave smack in the middle of the show.
Lords - Seven Nation Army (2004)
It's surprising but the bands at Christmas Covers seldom play the big hits of the year even though they'd get a bump from learning a six month old song rather than a six year old song. It was a bold move to cover a huge song and it sounded amazing.
The Jingle Belles featuring Tom C - Addicted to Love (2007)
The band were dressed as the cast from Robert Palmer's Addicted to Love video, and while the Jingle Belles had a wider set, the attention to detail for one song was brilliant.
Rattle - Running Up That Hill/Hounds of Love/Wuthering Heights (2014)
Who has the nerve to not only cover Kate Bush but cover the songs 'straight' without hiding behind an ironic 'take' or camping it up (well, maybe a little)? Rattle expanded their line-up and brought performance and dance as well as completely nailing the songs.
Punish the Atom – Cocaine In My Brain (2002)
Joey Bell has fronted some amazing covers sets over the years [and will be performing again this year as part of Slumb Party] but this was year one and Punish were a fairly new band at that point, who I hadn't seen. They played with the format of the song and it was one of those moments where you think, if these guys can do THAT to THAT song, I need to see what they normally do! Which is a common take-away from the covers party.
The Chronicles of Joey Chickenskin (2002 – 2017)
I was asked to play the first party due to a drop-out (I think I got to play at least one more time due to a drop out, something I find ability-appropriate). I fumbled through a folk version of Public Enemy's Bring The Noise and a couple of others and the whole night was really special. Later on with Theresa from Rattle, our band Burly Nagasaki compered/bookended the show for a couple of years, so we got our friends to make a Big Suit for Road to Nowhere by Talking Heads (from the Stop Making Sense film) and not an Amy Winehouse outfit but an outfit of Amy Winehouse's hair to play Back to Black. While Theresa was putting on fake tattoos in the dressing room, one of the venue's staff came in and was saying 'I can't see anything!' as though we were TAKING DRUGS. I've been to all of the parties however I arrived at the 2013 show shivering from some infection and had to leave in distress and fever while listening to Twenty Year Hurricane covering The Pixies Here Comes Your Man. I missed Kogumaza covering the big B52s songs which was devastating as I'm a huge fan (of both). Now I help organise it and we have a Vanity Project so that none of the other bands have to go first. In reality it's to get to play each year.
Wolves of Greece - New Rose (2002)
The perfect moment when you're at peak drunkenness and a song that you love but haven't heard in years is played with such ferocious love that you find yourself being sick in the toilet when it finishes.
Savoy Grand - I Want To Know What Love Is (2004)
The beauty, the emotion, the lighters in the air. If Foreigner ever heard this version of their song, they'd never play it again, it's like Prince must have felt the first time he heard Sinead. Plus it was in that weird Cave boat club place, what's the deal with that?
I felt sure that Injured Birds did Ghostbusters but it's not on the list, did I make it up? Was that the night with the piñata full of condoms? Did that happen too? Good times.
Savoy Grand - Virginia Plain (2009)
There have been Christmas Covers performances over the years that have opened my ears up to songs I hadn’t really paid much attention to in the past. One of those was Savoy Grand’s version of Virginia Plain by Roxy Music, in 2009. I’d probably heard the song before in passing, but it hadn’t registered. Two-thirds of the way through the Christmas Covers party and with a whole load of booze swimming around inside me, it registered. Big time. All I’ve got to go on is a woozy memory of a thrilling, charismatic performance (with thunderous guitars grooving on either side of the stage) and a distorted YouTube video, but I’m pretty sure I prefer that version of Virginia Plain to the original. Maybe it's because there was no oboe.
The Cusp - Sultans of Swing (2012)
Let’s be honest. Whilst the forces of self-awareness and modesty might attempt to suppress the truth, I would be a shameless liar if I were not to come clean and say that some of the most memorable Christmas Covers performances for me are ones in which I have been lucky enough to play a part. I know, what an egotistical dick. Having spent years playing occasional gigs in apologetic indie rock band Twenty Year Hurricane I had some experience of playing small shows to small numbers of people. Playing to a sold out, rapturous (drunk) crowd, however, was new to me. One of my very favourite experiences was playing rhythm guitar for The Cusp in 2012. Rocking gently in the dark, sweating with fear and adrenaline whilst Matt (Fleetwood, The Cusp) totally OWNED the solo to Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits, was completely awesome. I loved it.
Nottingham’s Annual Christmas Covers Party takes place at the Bodega from 7.30pm on Saturday 23 December 2017. Tickets are £7.50 in advance and are on sale online or in person from Forever Records (Cobden Chambers). Facebook event.
Proceeds will be split between Nottinghamshire Hospice (providing care for patients with terminal and life-limiting illnesses, and their loved ones) and Zephyr's (the new City Hospital support centre helping bereaved parents and families after a pregnancy loss, or the death of a baby or child).