The other night I went to High Dive to catch a tribute set of my favorite band of all time, The Smiths. The cover set was played by the Ordinary Boys, a band whose only function is to replicate the sound of The Smiths, as well as Morrissey’s solo work (yuck).
I went to the show feeling apprehensive. First and foremost, I normally don’t like going to High Dive — its clean, polished-wood interior and overpriced drinks kill the dingy vibe I crave when catching local or independent touring acts in concert. You can’t smoke inside, and the stage towers above the audience, putting the performers in an awkward, oligarchic position when playing to a less-than-half-filled room, as was the case at the Ordinary Boys show.
Still, I went to the show. A couple of close friends were performing as one of the local openers, so I wanted to show my support. Plus, no matter how I feel about High Dive, I really do love The Smiths. Of course, the Ordinary Boys aren’t really The Smiths.
OK, so the band’s singer, AJ, does a pretty spot-on Morrissey impression — that is, if you close your eyes. I love Morrissey not only for his distinct operatic voice, but also for his onstage energy, sex appeal and bravado. AJ might have spent the last 30-something years of his life perfecting his Morrissey vocal impression, but he certainly didn’t do a good job imitating Morrissey’s distinct stage presence.
Maybe if one were to compare AJ’s stage persona to that of Morrissey decades after his work with The Smiths, the two would bear some resemblance. I could see it in AJ’s receding hairline and puny pompadour, trying, as Morrissey tried in the later years of his career, to recall a style made timeless by a once young, vivacious performer. I could also see an impression of the now-geriatric Morrissey in AJ’s round gut and sweaty button-down shirt.
I get that AJ is older and chubbier than Morrissey was in his prime, but he could have at least tried to replicate some of Morrissey’s old performance tricks. How hard is it to wave around a bouquet of flowers? Unbutton a couple more buttons? Get a little closer to the audience?
Maybe what bothered me most about this performance was just how uncomfortable AJ made me feel. He wasn’t sexy, and it was awkward to watch him try to be. Every so often, he would pull out some half-hearted attempt at sex appeal, matching lyrics to subtle hand gestures that recalled a function of the human reproductive system.
Throughout the performance, he would do things like brush the back of his hand against his crotch, or push the index finger of his left hand into a circle made with the index finger and thumb of his right hand, as if to recall penetration. I was made especially uneasy by the fact that High Dive’s tall stage put me at eye level with the outline of AJ’s flaccid penis bulging through the thin fabric of his tight pants.
The rest of the band had a lackluster performance. I resent the fact that the Ordinary Boys have two guitarists, who stumbled over Johnny Marr’s single guitar parts sloppily and with way too much distortion. The rhythm section failed to keep up the steady, fast-paced grooves that were once played mechanically by Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce on old Smiths records.
In the end, I think I’m simply troubled by the idea of a cover band. As a musician, I am concerned when I think about other musicians who spend copious amounts of time and money on cheap recreations of classic bands. And if this cover-band thing is just a gig meant to make the guys from the Ordinary Boys some extra money, then I must have caught this group at a bad time, because the members played to an empty room — on a Saturday night.
Jeremy Haas is a UF English junior. His column appears on Wednesdays.