For many, January is a time to look at the inner self and find ways to improve.
Kings Barcade in Raleigh bucks that tradition this year, forcing local music lovers out of their self-obsessed winter cocoons. The venue has moved its annual Great Cover Up concert series from December to January and stretched the event into a four-night festival of good tidings that will help those in need.
The Great Cover Up was conceived by Kings’ owners and some of their musician friends after brainstorming on ways to help local charities. The owners are also local musicians with deep community ties, and were aware that many people in North Carolina were in need.
“Basically, 1999 was our first year of existence, and Hurricane Floyd hit that fall,” recalls Steven Popson, co-owner of Kings and former member of indie noise rock band Polvo. “We wanted to do some sort of event that would raise money, and we bounced around a few ideas, and a friend of ours that was in a local band (Jason Wright of the band Apollo Creedence)
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kind of floated the idea of having local bands cover their favorite musicians. The concept was to keep it short and fun for those performing, and the idea of the Great Cover Up has just evolved since then. It’s always been a charity event, and it’s just become an annual event that has taken on its own life and rhythm since that first year.”
Originally intended as a fun weekend for musicians and fans, the Cover Up has proven such a popular local musical draw that Kings owners are expanding the run time for the first time in a decade.
“The big change this year is that we are going to begin on Wednesday and play for four nights, because of the ridiculously high amount of participation requests that we got swamped with in the last six weeks or so,” Popson says. “It’s always been Thursday through Saturday, and we’ve just relied on word of mouth through the community that we have added the Wednesday night show. The requests from bands were just so overwhelming this year that we were on the fence about adding that fourth night, but we finally decided to pull the trigger on it and just bill it as a ‘bonus night.’ Thursday through Saturday will still be called Nights One, Two and Three. In theory we would like to keep it to three nights, but if the interest is there for Wednesday, we might have to look at that going forward. Over the years it’s always ended up pretty perfectly where every band in town will say that they want to do it, but after a few drop out at the last second for whatever reason, we have always ended up with the perfect number of bands to fill three nights.”
Greg Rice, a long-time Triangle musician and member of popular local rock band Terry Anderson and the Olympic Ass-Kickin’ Team, says that for many musicians in the Triangle, the event’s popularity can be attributed to the work of the Kings owners.
“Kings has always had a real community clubhouse kind of feel, and this event brings out everyone for a great party,” Rice explains. “The Cover Up performances are often by groups that usually aren’t in bands together, so it’s a little bit of a balancing act, of playing someone else’s music with new people. Also, as much as they can be, the performances remain a secret until Kings draws the curtain on performance night. That spontaneity is a huge part of the fun.”
The charity aspect can’t be overlooked when taking into account the number of local musicians who look forward to the event each year. For many, this will be the largest impact that they can make to help those in need.
“The proceeds going to charity is icing on the cake for this event,” says Rice. “As a musician, it is a way to give something back to the community while having a great time. The Cover Up is a hugely popular, multi-night event, so to me, providing this charity event each year says a lot about the kind of club that Kings runs.”
When not answering the call of yet another local band interested in performing for this year’s edition of the Cover Up, Popson continues to prep the club for what is sure to be a four-day packed house. Reminiscing about the events of the past, while catering to its immediate future, Popson believes the move to January will work out for the best.
“The first year the interest level from both musicians and crowds pretty much stamped it as a great event, and by the second year, the interest was so high we had to begin a second night, so we knew right away that it was something that people really enjoyed,” Popson says. “We used to run the event on the first weekend of December, so it always felt like a good way to begin the holiday season. Now that it’s in January, it feels like a great way to begin the post-holidays and just have a weekend of fun.”
CORRECTION: Jason Wright of the band Apollo Creedence was incorrectly identified in previous versions of this article.
Who: The Great Cover Up
When: 9 p.m. Wednesday; 8:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
Where: Kings Barcade, 14 W. Martin St., Raleigh
Cost: $7 Wednesday; $10 each night Thursday-Saturday (proceeds go to charity)