I've written about cover bands before. I've written about Steely Dan before. Last night, I combined the two, and the experience brought a powerful joy to my heart.
The band, of course, was No Static, New England's preeminent Steely Dan cover band. They aren't your typical backyard musical tribute. No Static has ten members, including two saxophonists, a trumpeter and two backup singers. Maybe the lead singer doesn't actually sound like Donald Fagen, but I don't think anyone on Earth could recreate his distinct tones. Either way, they're not trying to replicate their heroes like Matt Ryan and Bruce in the USA; they're just looking to play some good Steely Dan. And in that noble crusade, they succeed.
It wasn't just a night of "Reelin' In The Years" and "Do It Again." We got "I.G.Y." and "Green Flower Street," two fantastic tunes from The Nightfly, Donald Fagen's solo album. We got "Glamour Profession" from Gaucho, "Doctor Wu" from Katy Lied and "The Fez" from The Royal Scam (a personal favorite that I thought no one else in the world liked).
They also mixed in some crowd favorites: "Black Friday," "Peg," "Black Cow," and a half-dozen other songs that Dan fans love and normal people would pause during and remark, "Wow, this is Steely Dan?!" Every time a well-known tune came on, a few brave souls would wander onto the dance floor at Johnny D's and groove. It wasn't always pretty, and the Dan isn't always the best music to dance to, but we all appreciated the effort. Sights like that are why God invented cover bands.
It was also great to have the same 40 and 50-year-old people come up to me and my friends and remark, "How do you know all the words?" A Steely Dan cover band show is admittedly not where you'd expect to run into a bunch of guys in their mid-twenties, especially when those guys know every song the band is playing, but Steely Dan appeals to everyone; you just have to down a six-pack and accept them into your lives.
But maybe the most interesting part was seeing my friend Chris's eyes light up at the start of every song. His dad is a huge Steely Dan fan, so he grew up listening to them every day in the car and around the house. He doesn't actually remember the songs word for word, but he recognizes them right off the bat and he can belt out the choruses like clockwork. I imagined the songs reconnecting him with his childhood, reminding him of wonderful moments from the past. Or maybe he was just rocking out like the rest of us drunks. Either way.
And of course, No Static was happy to indulge its raucous, lubed-up crowd with a stirring encore. busting out the hit song...well, I actually can't remember what they played for an encore. That's what happens when you're at a bar for three hours. But considering that those three hours were packed with tip-top, nonstop jazz-rock, I'm not complaining. No Static, indeed.