Blind Pig hosting local bands' tribute to legendary Velvet Underground
How else to explain the number of artists clamoring to get on the bill for VU Fest, a tribute show, of sorts, scheduled for March 2 at the Blind Pig.
“People have been very excited to take part in it,” said Dave Sharp, the local bassist and bandleader, who is putting the show together. “We’ve had three rehearsals so far and they’ve been a blast.”
Sharp and Ohio-based drummer Chuck Mauk will serve as the backline throughout the show, as other artists rotate through, offering their own, unique takes on the Velvets’ unmistakable catalog.
Sharp said he hatched the idea for the show—based on the popularity of past tributes to Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash—during a recent drive up north for a gig.
I was listening to (the VU album) ‘Loaded,’ which I hadn’t heard for a long time and each time a song came on, I was like, ‘This is a good song,’” he said. “And they just kept coming.That’s when I got the idea for the show, because I know a lot of people—and particularly musicians—are really into them.”
And he was right.
More than 20 artists are on board for the gig, including Saturday Looks Good to Me frontman Fred Thomas, producer-artist Jim Roll, FUBAR singer Sophia Hanifi and her guitarist-husband David Keeney, and local guitar sliner Brian Delaney (Bluescasters, Vibratrons), among many others.
“The cool thing is that people are finding their own ways to interpret these songs,” Sharp said. “For instance, Alex Johnson (the founder of the Ann Arbor Music School) is doing kind of a David Bowie-like thing on ‘Waiting For My Man,’ and some other guys are doing a more Lou Reed solo version of ‘White Light White Heat.’”
Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com file photo
The band never sold many records while it existed in the 1960s and early 1970s. However, its importance as swelled as bands like REM championed its legacy.
“As I learn this stuff for the show and go back and listen to it, it’s pretty simple music, but the attitude is great,” Sharp said. “It has this, like, this New York City kind-of creative attitude.”
Artistic expression and free interpretation are the name of the game for this gig, Sharp said. To that end, he’s also enlisted local muralist Mary Thiefels to perform live painting on stage while the musicians are playing.
“I want to evoke sort of a downtown Factory vibe,” he said, referring to the studio/hangout of the Velvet Underground’s patron and producer, Andy Warhol. “I’m definitely telling people that if they have ideas to bring them out.”