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Author Topic: ELO cover band in Minneapolis next Wednesday  (Read 5252 times)
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« on: Jan 21, 2005, 03:37 »

This is from the Twin Cities Pioneer Press:

Cover band contest puts the electric in ELO

BY ROSS RAIHALA

Pioneer Press


Jeff Ham inadvertently discovered ELO at the age of 10.

"I was really into Kiss, and I got a poster for my birthday," says Ham. "I assumed it was a Kiss poster, but when I opened it, it was ELO. It was them in concert, holding up their guitars and sweating. I had never heard of them, but I was a kid, so I put it up anyway. I was, like, 'Thanks, I guess.' "

In the 24 years that have since passed, Ham has learned to love the Electric Light Orchestra, the '70s pop powerhouse led by the eternally permed-and-sunglassed Jeff Lynne. Come Wednesday night, Ham and five friends will put that love to the test when they perform as E.L.No. during First Avenue's annual Cover Band Contest.

But re-creating seemingly simple songs like "Livin' Thing" and "Telephone Line" turned out to be more of a challenge than Ham and company had expected.

"We quickly discovered these songs are very complicated," says Ham. "There's so much stuff going on, a lot of parts and harmonies. And the structures of these songs are crazy. Even on the easier ones, Jeff Lynne would throw in something weird."

Ham, formerly of Detroit and Manplanet, has long since kicked around the idea of an ELO cover band with drummer Peter Jelsma. Accident Clearinghouse's David Campbell, a fellow ELO connoisseur, heard about the duo's plans through the grapevine.

"I didn't really know Jeff all that well, but I gave him a call anyway," says Campbell. "I did the contest last year with We're Not Ween. It's a healthy sort of hobby that's a little rambunctious. Part of playing music is having fun doing it."

Ham and Campbell met at the end of November to listen to some ELO and drink some beers. Joined by Jelsma on drums and vocals, the trio tore through "Do Ya" and "Don't Bring Me Down."

"We soon realized we'd have to come up with some funny or well done or particularly impressive way to do this," Campbell says. "And the more time we put into it, the more we realized we needed a bass player who could sing, a keyboard player who could sing and another keyboard player who could sing."

Soon enough, E.L.No. had expanded to six players, including keyboard player/vocalist David Russ, whose first ELO experience took place way back in 1976 when he sang "Strange Magic" for his sixth-grade talent show.

"Everyone started doing homework, listening to the records and figuring out the parts," says Ham. "And it is a lot of homework. But it's listening to ELO, which is not a problem."

Stripping Jeff Lynne's symphonic rock down to its basics turned out to be the key for E.L.No.

"When we started singing together, I thought there's no way this is going to come off," says Campbell. "Sometimes simplicity is best. When there's five vocal parts, it's better to do two really well than have four hitting it close."

Some of the finer details are still being hammered out, including what the band will wear onstage. Jeff Lynne wigs? Leisure suits?

"A friend of mine told me, 'Man, you've practiced more for this band than any of your other bands,' " says Ham. "Yeah, we've put in a lot of hours, but it's definitely not work. It's fun."

And if E.L.No. wins the competition, they're in for a handsome reward, right?

"The winner gets a case of Night Train," Campbell says. "So I don't look at it like an investment vs. reward. You can't. There is no reward. You win a case of Night Train. We're doing this because it's something weird and creative and fun.

"It's a lot of fun."

What: First Avenue's annual Cover Band Contest, featuring E.L.No., Busiest Bankruptcy Lawyers in Minnesota, Mammy Nuns, Plate O' Shrimp, Pound Cake, Lil' Brian Evil and Friends, Little Man, Ol' Yeller, Housebreaker, Mike Suade, the Panty Huffers and Dukes of XTC

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

Where: First Avenue and 7th St. Entry, 701 First Ave. N., Mpls.

Tickets: $5 in advance, $7 at the door

Call: 612-332-1775
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