The biggest show of the year is hitting The Southern Café and Music Hall on Halloween night, and you probably haven’t even heard about it yet.
“Oh yeah,” said Alex Angelich. “It’s the most fun we have all year.”
For just $10, the Southern puts on what will no doubt be the most star-studded single night billing ever to grace the city of Charlottesville. Bob Seger, Blondie, Huey Lewis and the News, Phoenix, and Weezer back-to-back, dueling across the room from the Southern’s main stage to an auxiliary stage. Weezer, indeed, will be playing its chart-topping Blue Album in its entirety.
It is going to be epic. It is going to go down in local history. It is going to be…completely fake.
Weezer will be impersonated by local upstarts International Friendly. Electro-rock mainstays The Anatomy of Frank will ape Phoenix. Blues rockers Moby and the Dicks will take on Huey Lewis and the News. Luke Wilson, with his band The Dericks, will grunt and rollick as Bob Seger, and Blondie’s catalog will be outright stolen by the Astronomers.
Still, with or without star power, the annual Mock Stars Ball does promise to be a hell of a night. It’s a chance for local bands to step outside their comfort zone and stretch their chops across genres and styles. And by all accounts, the talents that have taken the stage to do so over the past five years have been up to the task.
Truth be told, this year’s lineup is the most star-studded to headline a Charlottesville show since last year’s Mock Stars Ball. Past acts have taken on Radiohead, Neil Young, Queen, Outkast, Spinal Tap, and Rage Against the Machine, among others. The Halloween-themed event, launched by the venue’s founder and former music director Andy Gems, has sold out every year, and other venues across the city have since tried to recreate its unique blend of masquerade ball and rock show, according to Southern spokesperson Lindsay Dorrier.
“It’s hard to replicate that kind of energy that we get between the two competing stages,” Dorrier said. “It’s a cool setup, and the vibe is totally different from a normal show at the Southern.”
Angelich, who plays primarily bass and sings for the Astronomers and has recently been sitting in on Moby and the Dicks gigs, will take the stage as Blondie lead singer Debbie Harry on October 31. She said the success of the Mock Stars Ball depends on the bands’ willingness to nail the impersonations.
“I think it’s really cool how all the bands try to take on the persona,” she said. “All of the bands are performing as if they were the other band, except for this one band, the Sometimes Favorites. They tried to put their own spin on it.”
If you happened to catch the Sometimes Favorites at past Mock Stars Balls, forward your complaints to Angelich, who was a member of the now-defunct outfit. Doubtless, it was their flaunting of Mock Stars conventions that sunk them.
So just how hard is it to take on another persona for one night on the Southern stage? Angelich admits she and the Astronomers have a leg up taking on Blondie—they came into rehearsal already knowing two songs. But Kyle Woolard of The Anatomy of Frank said that he and his mates have a long way to go. Read: they hadn’t learned a single song with eight days to go before show time. Still, he’s confident his band can pull it together and meet the standards they set for themselves by nailing Radiohead last year.
“It was tough, but it was fun,” Woolard said. “We did it down to the very last detail. I even put some scotch tape on my eyelid to look more like Thom Yorke.”
Woolard said taking on another performer’s persona has benefits beyond putting on one night of rocking music. He said The Anatomy of Frank, which is in the process of preparing for a show in Iceland and recording a North American album in the first of seven Sufjan Stevens-esque continent concept LPs, doesn’t do many covers these days. So taking the opportunity to climb into the skin of another rock band teaches you a few things.
“When you’re onstage doing original music, you are yourself, but it’s fun to put on a bit of a front and do some acting,” he said. “It helps you perform better, and learning how to perform like another performer, it will come out later.”
Other than International Friendly’s attempt to recreate Weezer’s Blue Album, expect the format of the Mock Stars Ball to be 30-minute sets from each band, alternating between the two stages. That means each set will consist of somewhere around six covers from their chosen bands. Woolard said The Anatomy of Frank will focus on Phoenix’s hits, and history has shown that’ll likely hold true for all the Mock Stars.
One more thing. If you’re going to the Mock Stars Ball, you’d be wise to consider mocking a star yourself.
“Everyone comes dressed up,” Dorrier said. “You have to wear a costume, or you get shunned.”
Don’t be like the Sometimes Favorites. Don’t get shunned.
Do you have a favorite cover song?
Friday 10/31. $10, 9:30pm. The Southern Cafe and Music Hall, 103 S. First St. 977-5590.