The Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro is famous for hosting up-and-coming rock bands, like Pearl Jam and Nirvana before they were famous. But for whatever reason, it’s also becoming a place for cover bands this month — first Who’s Bad (Michael Jackson), then the Last Waltz Ensemble (The Band/Bob Dylan), and then Cosmic Charlie (Grateful Dead).
Laura and I, along with at least half of Chapel Hill High School, saw Who’s Bad Saturday night. I was prepared to use the group’s name in a hilarious pun that plays off the standard (non-MJ) definition of the word “bad,” but unfortunately for that joke the show was good.
To give you some idea of this high-energy performance, the local alternative weekly wrote in its preview, “Two Kings of Pop are necessary, considering the vocal work, costume changes and active choreography inherent in knowing 38 Jackson tunes.” Also, so you know how much dancing even the musicians did, the trumpet player came out with three sweatbands. And the band had just gotten back from Singapore and is about to go on a month-long tour of Europe.
So this isn’t just a group that stole someone else’s work because it couldn’t write its own. The costumes, dance moves and stage presence was all there. I’m a big fan of cover bands (or tribute bands, as Who’s Bad insisted on being called), especially of dead artists since there’s no other way of hearing the music live. And in this particular case, since I would have felt a little weird cheering for the real MJ because of his personal history, it was almost better.
Soon, Cat’s Cradle will revert back to hosting bands I’ve never heard of, only to find out 10 years later that I missed my big chance. Until then, I give Who’s Bad four out of five hushpuppies.