Covered in glory

Three groups pay homage to their favorite acts

By Jonathan Perry
Globe Correspondent / May 7, 2010

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

  • E-mail|
  • Print|
  • Reprints|
  • |
Text size +

There’s a reason the world is full of cover bands that ape acts like AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses. Their sounds are ripe for imitation, and cover bands take pains to reproduce the songs accurately so that fans get an affordable illusion. Paying tribute to one-of-a-kind artists with idiosyncratic albums, however, is a bit more challenging. But over the next week, three local acts are giving it a shot, covering work by Todd Rundgren, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Lindsey Buckingham.

Road to Utopia: A Tribute to Todd Rundgren
Despite the eclecticism that has marked his 40-plus year career as a musician and producer, Todd Rundgren’s biggest hit and claim to fame remains his sweet 1973 pop ballad, “Hello It’s Me.’’ It was also the song that first hooked future Jiggle the Handle guitarist Gary Backstrom.

“Every time it came on the radio, it would put me in a trance,’’ Backstrom (right) remembers. “It was a song I could never turn off.’’ But it was a friend and roommate (who happened to be the tape archivist for Jiggle) who drove Backstrom to devotion. “He put me over the edge. He had seen [Rundgren’s prog-rock band Utopia] numerous times and was a huge fan. Living with him I got to plow through all of those albums. I couldn’t stop. It was like an addiction.’’

Tonight, Backstrom leads a nine-piece band in tribute to Rundgren’s records, covering every aspect of the singer-songwriter’s career, from his earliest days fronting the Philly power-pop outfit the Nazz to his years with Utopia, to his lengthy solo catalog.

Planning the concert and preparing such varied, musically sophisticated material took a year, says Backstrom. “During rehearsals, at the end of the night, everybody looks like I just hit them with a stick,’’ he says with a chuckle. “I feel bad. I think people thought the songs would be a little easier.’’

Tonight at 8 at the Regent Theatre, Arlington. All-ages. $15.

Neutral Uke Hotel
It wasn’t long after Shawn Fogel worked on the recording project “The Beatles Complete on Ukulele’’ that he hit on a similar idea involving the instrument: performing the songs from Neutral Milk Hotel’s 1998 masterwork, “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.’’

“It’s one of my favorite records ever,’’ says Fogel (right), whose guitar-pop outfit Golden Bloom sounds nothing like NMH. “And the album doesn’t just have fans. The people who love that album are obsessed with it.’’

It wasn’t until he listened to the album in the back of a tour bus with his pals in Guster after a show at UMass-Amherst that the work registered. “It was unlike anything I had ever heard,’’ Fogel recalls. “I was blown away. It wasn’t like any music I was listening to at the time.’’ Much like Amanda Palmer did last year when she enlisted students at her alma mater, Lexington High School, to stage a production of the album, Fogel’s recasting of “Aeroplane’’ on ukulele seems as ambitious as the album itself.

“I think its easy for people to look at it and say, Oh, it’s a gimmicky, shtick-y thing — and it’s not,’’ Fogel says. “One of the things that makes the ‘Aeroplane’ album incredible is the layered production and all the really fuzzy distortion and tape loops, and the nonpolished nature of it. But under all of that, these are unbelievable songs. That’s the goal of the project: to strip these songs down and get people in a room to share their love for this album. If everything goes well, it’ll feel like a campfire singalong.’’

Tonight at 7:30 at Arts at the Armory, Somerville. Sold out.

The Lindsey Buckingham Appreciation Society
“We’ve been threatening to pull this together for years,’’ Tony Goddess says with mischievous glee. The singer-guitarist is talking about both the formation of the Lindsey Buckingham Appreciation Society and the group’s live tribute to the Fleetwood Mac mastermind’s experimental opus, “Tusk.’’ Arriving on the heels of Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 blockbuster, “Rumours, the double album “Tusk’’ was regarded as everything from a cocaine-addled exercise in self-indulgent superstardom to a brazenly brilliant artistic statement. It was an album loved and hated. It is Goddess’s hands-down favorite.

“Oh yeah, that’s a massive record for me,’’ he says. “That was a huge influence for [his now-defunct ’90s Boston band] Papas Fritas. When you listen, you think, This record is crazy. Half of the record was home recorded with Lindsey singing, kneeling down on the floor in his bathroom with a mike, because he likes the way that sounds.’’

“ ‘Tusk’ was the most out-there record made by a major act on a major label,’’ says Goddess, who plays guitar with Jenny Dee and the Deelinquents. “There isn’t a normal sound on it. But I think people just saw it as a flop.’’

Next Saturday’s Lizard Lounge show is the first of only three scheduled performances in the Northeast for the six-piece Appreciation Society, which has a website ( where fans can obsess over all things Lindsey. “I always thought [‘Rumours’ and ‘Tusk’] were a yin and yang,’’ Goddess muses. “ ‘Rumours’ is perfection, and ‘Tusk’ is process.’’

May 15 at 8:30 p.m. at the Lizard Lounge, Cambridge, with St. Helena, This Blue Heaven, Old Jack. 21+. $12.