Boys Play Girls at Hugh's Room, January 18. Tickets: $10-$12. Attendance: 180. Rating: NNN
boys play girls is a clever gen-der-bending concept dreamed up by local musician Michael Johnston: rocker dudes, experimental jazzmen and folk daddies play covers of tunes written by chicks. The trick is to avoid letting the concept become just a cute gimmick. The men who impressed at Hugh's Room last Saturday were the ones who reinvented the songs, adding new layers of meaning.
Moe Berg shuffled onstage looking like the consummate emo-boy with his cardigan and hunched-shoulder gait. But the sniffly singer's self-effacing banter complemented subversive covers of tunes by late-60s pop tart Susan Jacks (of the Poppy Family). Focusing on the slit-your-wrists lyrics at the heart of the saccharine melodies, Berg reworked the songs with dissonant minor chords and a flat nasal delivery.
Reid Jamieson's set demonstrated that the adorable frontman of now-folded local outfit Alvy is one of the most underrated talents in town. Fresh-faced covers of Carole King/Gerry Goffin-penned faves showed off Jamieson's resonant choirboy voice. His earnest take on Natural Woman blew the roof off the house.
Former Blue Rodeo keyboardist Bob Wiseman played pretty, haunting versions of alterna-rock goddess Liz Phair's stripped-down songs, bolstering his beautifully understated set with violin, mandolin and saw and the vocal stylings of Three Gut belter Gentleman Reg. In contrast, Michael Johnston's homage to Joni Mitchell came off as contrived theatrics.
Skydiggers Andy Maize and Josh Finlayson did Chrissie Hynde with drunken delight. Slurring his speech slightly, Maize attempted Hynde's kohl-eyeliner rock-chick sex appeal, although his hip gyrations were more chicken dance than table dance. Greg Keelor wowed the crowd with effortlessly poignant, rootsy revamps of pure pop ditties like I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself.
The only representative of the estro set, MC Stella Walker, was a lowlight. The classical chanteuse and sometime stand-up relied on lame jokes and stupid sight gags to waste time between performers.
The script gets flipped when Girls Play Boys hits Hugh's Room Saturday (January 26).