Retro festival rocks Uncle Fatty’s Resort

By Luke Wilusz

The spirit of the ’80s was alive last week as Uncle Fatty’s Rum Resort hosted the I Love Cover Bands Winter Music Fest. The festival ran from Jan.  25 – 31 and featured 18 cover bands and seven DJs across two stages.

Brian Galati, co-owner of Uncle Fatty’s, 2833 N. Sheffield Ave., said the bar’s staff got the idea for the festival after booking two well-known cover bands,  Mike & Joe and 16 Candles, for the nights of Jan. 29 and 30.

“We thought it was kind of a cool idea to have bands of that caliber next to each other,” Galati said. “Then we booked a Thursday, and then we booked a Wednesday, and then we figured, ‘Why not just book 20 bands and make it a winter music festival?’”

Other bands booked for the festival included Wedding Banned, Too White Crew and Hairbanger’s Ball.

The festival opened Jan. 25 with a performance by the Cover Kings, which Galati described as a jam band session full of members from several of the bands booked for the festival.

“Basically it’s an open-mic for professional cover band musicians,” Galati said. “They sign up on a list. If they play guitar, they go up there. Another guy from another band’s playing drums. Another guy from another band’s singing. So basically it’s kind of a free forum for all these guys to play together.”

The festival’s turnout pleased Jennifer Remis, who plays keyboard for Hairbanger’s Ball and goes by the stage name “Polly Pantz.”

“It’s exciting to see that the cover music scene here in Chicago is alive,” she said. “People are enthusiastic about it. They come out and they want to party, you know, not only with Hairbanger’s Ball, but with all the great cover bands here in Chicago.”

Remis, a classically trained pianist who grew up in Glen Ellyn, started Hairbanger’s Ball nine years ago with a group of friends she’d met playing venues around the city.

“I just adore that music,” Remis said, explaining why she decided to focus on ’80s hair rock. “It was just a really good excuse to party and celebrate the ’80s hair rock music.”

The band covers artists like Bon Jovi, Poison, Kiss and Guns N’ Roses, although Remis said she particularly loves Van Halen.

“But really, I like it all,” she said. “I mean, some of these songs I’ve played, gosh, thousands and thousands of times, and I still love them. I still turn up my radio when they come on.”

However, Remis doesn’t consider Hairbanger’s Ball strictly an ’80s cover band. Instead, she thinks of it as “a party rock band with a focus on ’80s hair rock,” noting that they also play music by more contemporary artists like Disturbed and Pink.

Too White Crew, who played Uncle Fatty’s Jan. 28, covers artists like Sir Mix-A-Lot, Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys. The lead singer and emcee, C-Note, takes pride in not using any pre-recorded music whatsoever.

Too White Crew meticulously reproduced the original sound of late ’80s and early ’90s hip-hop hits through the use of an electronic drum kit, guitar, bass, keyboards and a turntable, C-Note said.

In addition to running Uncle Fatty’s, Brian Galati founded, an upcoming social network which he hopes will benefit the members and fans of Chicago-area cover bands.

“Right now, if you wanted to find the date or where a band is playing, you’d have to go to each one of their individual Web sites,” Galati said. “Well, [at I Love Cover Bands], when you log on, you’ll see a calendar and it will have every single band that’s playing in the city and suburbs, and in what spot.”

Galati’s goal is to create a community for the bands and their fans to get to know one another, and the festival was just the first step in making that happen.

C-Note noticed that sense of community as he watched the Jan. 25 performance by the Cover Kings.

“There’s a real interesting spirit and camaraderie in the cover band world,” C-Note said. “Everyone there talked, and it’s not like there’s this competitive vibe between us. It’s real friendly, kind of a big family of people that do this music.”

Galati said the I Love Cover Bands network was in the process of being built.

“As soon as it’s done, it’ll be up,” he said. “So we’re hoping within a couple of weeks we’ll have the preliminary stages out with limited features until the whole site gets built. We’re going to release it pretty soon.”