It was a great weekend for live music this past weekend in Columbus. The LC Pavilion hosted it’s first outdoor show of the season – a sold out Hall and Oates – while upcoming UK rockers Wolf Alice delivered a killer set next door at The Basement. So with this kind of national (and international) talent in the Capital City, how did I walk away so jazzed about a local band? And not just a local band, but a local cover band? Wha?
So full disclosure, I’ve never been a fan of cover bands. I don’t think I was ever fully sold on the idea of tribute bands either until I saw the magnificent ZOSO perform Led Zeppelin in a way that, well let’s face it, I’m never going to see Zeppelin now am I? But I digress. I heard via social media that local outfit The Liner Notes were performing Radiohead’s seminal masterpiece OK Computer in it’s entirety at King Ave 5. To say I was intrigued would be an understatement. There are certain things you just don’t attempt to translate, whether due to musical expertise, vocal uniqueness, fan adoration of the album, etc. There are a lot of good reasons not to tackle something like OK Computer.
However, The Liner Notes are no strangers to tackling albums in their entirety, having performed Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush the month prior. And this past Saturday at King Ave 5, they were indeed back to save the universe. I tragically missed Paper Waves and Playing to Vapors, but upon my entrance into the venue, what music is playing you ask? Radiohead. Now, to me, this is ballsy. You’re now giving the audience the direct 1:1 comparison with the original material. But I liked this touch, as if they were announcing, “This is for the devoted, the faithful. Ye shall have a night of Radiohead and like it”. And from the opening notes of “Airbag” until the final ding of “The Tourist” they delivered. Boy did they deliver.
First of all, everyone in the band is clearly an extremely talented musician to be pulling this music off. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to conquer “Paranoid Android” on the guitar and simply given up, but the excellence they delivered with this album goes beyond mere chops. There was love put into learning this album, and not just learning it, but recreating it down to even the tiniest flourishes. I’ve seen Radiohead live a couple of times and watched more than my fair share of YouTube performances from the band, so when deep cut “Climbing Up the Walls” begins and they have the same gnarly synths and robotic voices the band uses live but aren’t present on the album it really drove the point home. These guys had done their homework.
Each member of the group held their own in the material with rhythm section of Chris Bolognese on bass and Jesse Cooper on drums as anchoring the sound. Joe Peppercorn of the Beatles marathon fame performed the excellent keyboard work necessary to recreate this album, while the twin guitar attack of Rob Bradley and Drew Stedman brought the magnificent shimmering guitar sound to life. But of course, then there’s the wild card. The vocals. Could Nate Rothacker pull over that unique Thom Yorke sound? Could anyone? I was beyond impressed at how spot on his performance was, and not just an interpretation, he really nailed the notes and registers.
It’s one thing to hear this music on the album, as so many of us have so many times before, but it’s a true treat to hear it performed in this manner, where the sound surrounds you. To say nothing of hearing deep cuts like “Electioneering” performed. Let’s face it, the odds of you getting that song the next time you see Radiohead play live are slim to none. It was also interesting to experience the full album with a room full of people and see their reactions to it. The B-side of the album, if you’ll indulge my analog analogy, is a bit slower, more menacing and sleepy.
So there was less audience interaction than in the first half, but it felt like the entire room was just locked into it at that point. And after they finished, they jokingly threatened us with an encore of the entirety of The King of Limbs. Instead of we got encore performances of “Everything In Its Right Place”, “The Bends”, “Optimistic” and “Street Spirit”. By the end of the night I was convinced. This was no mere cover band, no. This is something for the die hard music heads, a fantastic and fun experiment in musicianship and more than worthy of your time when they cover Black Sabbath’s Paranoid at Spacebar later this month. I’m sure they’ll pull off Ozzy and Iommi’s sophomore effort with ease. And if not, they can try the best they can, the best you can is good enough.
Videos by Stephen Carney