Uncovering the Great Cover-Up

Jamie Hazlett / Sun Star Reporter
April 5, 2011

Temperatures near freezing were a warm welcome to the hundreds of people who flocked to the UAF Pub Saturday, April 2, for the UAF Concert Board’s 11th annual Great Cover-Up. The event, which began in 2000, features local musicians performing covers of bands both famous and obscure and has been a hit with Pub-goers in the past.

Heather Barile, Pub manager, confirmed that the venue normally reaches its full capacity of 205 occupants during performances. Caleb Kuntz, a member of the UAF Concert Board who has been a key figure in organizing the Great Cover-Up in years past and present, said that he spoke with people who waited “several hours in line just to get in” during the 2010 event.

The line for admittance to the 11th Annual Great Cover Up stretches across the Wood Center on Saturday, April 2nd.

Barile’s prediction of a full house was proven correct at 8 p.m. when the doors opened. The regular $5 cover charge for the event did not deter would-be patrons, who formed a line stretching from the Pub entrance to the games area of the Wood Center. Inside, the bar queue quickly approached the stage itself, only shortening as the room neared its limit and the packed crowd settled down with its drinks.

Any illusion of docility was dispelled when the first band began to play. Many attendees danced and interacted with the group, a trend that continued with the successive acts. Those who remained in their seats supported the performers with applause and cries of appreciation following each song for the 11 different groups. The wide range of music appealed to the crowd; people hit the dance floor for covers of “Bohemian Rhapsody” as eagerly as for “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

Jerri Lomax, who works for the Literacy Council of Alaska (LCA) and has been a ticket seller at every Great Cover-Up, explained that all of the proceeds from the event go “into the agency for one of seven different programs.” She estimated that the event brings in about $1,800 a year.

“It’s really special to see how the programs affects people’s daily lives,” said Joy Miller between acts. Miller is an AmeriCorps volunteer with the LCA who helped emcee this year’s show.

Even without compensation for playing, there was no challenge finding performers. “We try to give them [the bands] something small, like a gift card,” Lomax stated, “but we leave it up to them to figure out how to split it.” Kuntz said that many bands inquired about performing “at the last minute” and had to be turned away because the roster was full. “You’ve got to call sooner than the day before,” he advised anyone looking to play in future events.

One group that was able to get onto the stage this year was Character Reference, who covered four songs by Queen. Vocalist and sophomore Chandler Thomas said he thought the group had tried to play last year, but had signed up too late. He added that the Great Cover-Up was their first time playing as a group, as he had just joined the other members a few months ago. “It’s hard [to fit in weekly practices] because we all work,” he said.

Despite this being Thomas’ first public foray into rock – he’s a self-described R&B singer – Character Reference’s performance inspired a group of fans to rush the stage immediately after their final song. Other acts inspired impromptu mosh pits, head-banging, and grinding between Pub-goers throughout the evening.

“There are some great bands this year,” said Donald Crocker, a UAF alumni and employee who has worked five different Great Cover-Ups and was a performer in two more. If the crowd’s continual fervor was anything to judge by, Crocker’s opinion was as correct as it was concise.

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