Posted by Pat Baxter on 07/30 at 01:39 PM
It was near-perfect weather at Tussey Mountain for this week’s Wing Fest. A reasonable 78 degrees, not too much humidity, and a smattering of clouds highlighted the pre-sunset sky—a great scenario for enjoying both potentially delicious chicken wings and live music. After waiting in a long, but fast-flowing line I was led into the field/hill where the wing-off and live music was happening. Wegman’s, Major League, and Bonfatto’s dueled it out for the hearts and minds of wing lovers. On stage, the Insomniacs kicked things off for the musical portion of the entertainment. They were the precursor to My Hero Zero. I’ll touch on the Insomniacs later on, but will focus on My Hero Zero as they were the headliner for this event.
In a town full of cover bands, My Hero Zero is perhaps the very definition of a “cover band” playing it safe with a set that would statistically appeal to the broadest audience possible. The result can be summed up in three words: top forty haven. Still, when done right it could pass for something worth watching. Sadly, that wasn’t much the case last night.
It was a slow start from the get-go as they opened with a series of songs without so much as brief pause in between. Starting off with Smash Mouth’s ‘All Star,’ lead vocalist, Jason Olcese, sounded thin moving through the lyrics. The rhythm section lacked personality as they plodded their way through the chord changes. Sublime’s ‘What I Got’ followed by Tom Petty’s ‘American Girl’ was a clear indication that My Hero Zero wasn’t going to break out of the top 40 mold any time soon. This is probably the 10th time I’ve heard a band play ‘American Girl’ in as many days (I suppose because it’s a favorite among State College residents). Their rendition went OK.
But that was your basic set-list pattern: two to three songs from ’97 – ‘02 or the present, followed by one somewhat thematically out of place tune from the late 70s or 80s. Of course, if this is the kind of music you enjoy then you probably would’ve liked what this band offered. But it didn’t resonate with me. I really didn’t see the difference between listening to this band and listening to your average iPod in shuffle mode. And the fact that they moved from one song to another uninterrupted, it punctuated the juke-box feel to their performance.
But alas, that is the world of cover bands, and since at this event most people are mainly interested in the chicken wings, the beer, and shooting-the-breeze, this is what you get. They did pick things up in the second half, adding a touch of irony to their set with ‘Replay,’ ‘500 Miles,’ and ‘Don’t Stop Believin.’ And as they brought more energy into the music, I began to hear a little more soul to their instruments. Lead guitar player Greg Folsom has talent, and kept his solos composed—resisting the urge to overdo it. But overall, the show wasn’t very memorably.
The Insomniacs had a much better showing. Though they too are a cover band, they at least broke out of the top 40 bubble, choosing such songs as ‘London Calling’ from the Clash, Radiohead’s ‘Paranoid Android’ (notable for its uncommon 7/8 time), and Weezer’s ‘My Name is Jonas’ (for me a nostalgic song bringing back memories from my youth). They also had more of an edge and passion to their sound. In particular, lead vocalist Brian Bumbarger was spot on in his interpretation of the melodies. It left me wondering why they weren’t the headliners and My Hero Zero the opener.
Music aside, the Tussey Mountain’s Wing Fest Challenge itself was a nice event. The chicken wings were quite good (although I didn’t agree with the winner of the challenge: Major League), and it was a beautiful night to enjoy time with friends. Next week looks promising with the Earthtones headlining. And if the chicken is as good next week as it was this week, I’m likely to head down again.
My Hero Zero:
Jason Olcese - vocals, guitar
Greg Folsom - guitar, bass, vocals
Mike Lee - bass, guitar, vocals
Matt “Zippy” Zelenz - drums, vocals
Brian Bumbarger - vocals
Chris Hescox - guitar
Erek Kapusta - keys & guitar
Dave Skipper - bass
Author: Pat Baxter
Bio: A native of Pittsburgh, Pat Baxter is now working for WPSU/Penn State Public Broadcasting in video on-demand and multi-media. He enjoys playing guitar and bass, listening to music and watching films. He likes listening to grunge/alternative rock, experimental and prog rock, and jazz/fusion. His favorite rock bands include the Smashing Pumpkins (1990s era), David Bowie, Talking Heads, King Crimson, Buckethead, Frank Zappa, Mars Volta, David Torn, and the Cure.
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