There is no chance the thought hasn’t crossed your mind at when you’re watching a cover band: What if the real stars went up on stage and started playing their songs alongside the little guys?
But this is real life. It would never happen. Not to people who aren’t, say, multibillionaires who pay The Eagles to open for them.
And it definitely wouldn’t happen in some rinky-dink bar in Maine. No way, no how.
Except on Friday, when it did.
“This is definitely the coolest thing to happen to anyone in Portland, Maine,” says Jake Wolk, a drummer who had his sticks borrowed for a few minutes by his favorite band on Friday. “Except for maybe seeing Stephen King in Dunkin’ Donuts or something.”
This weekend, a temporary Spoon cover band was playing a set at a nearby dive called Empire. They were set to play two Spoon albums—Girls Can Tell and Kill the Moonlight—in full, next door to where the real band had a show.
Then, after the end of “Small Stakes,” the first song on the second record, the cover band’s frontman, Jeff Beam, looked down and saw Spoon’s frontman, Britt Daniel, in the front row. The real band watched their cover band play a full set in a bar known more for its dumplings than its music.
Then Beam asked the audience a question: “Does anybody here know any other Spoon songs?”
So Spoon got on stage, grabbed Beam and Co.’s gear, and played a couple of their songs. Spoon’s keyboard player, Eric Harvey, even played a little with the cover band.
“Yeah, it actually happened. As a high schooler, you dreamed about that stuff. You’d hope to become their contemporaries one day. It’s still crazy that it happened,” said Beam. “And it’s because they were cool enough to go out on a limb and just do this.”
Spoon played “Monsieur Valentine” and “Jonathan Fisk” in front of fewer than 50 people at a random bar in Maine. And to do it, the band had to keep fending off their tour manager, who wanted them on the bus to head to a show in Delaware the next day. But Spoon kept pushing back.
Daniel even wanted the cover band to go up and redo the parts they missed earlier on, but there was a problem: They were in Maine.
“Portland is a 1 o’clock bar closing situation,” said Beam. “It could’ve gone much later than it actually did.”
The whole thing almost didn’t happen. Far from being a longtime, all-out Spoon cover band, the local guys are or have been members of Beam’s very real indie rock group. Wolk, the drummer, used to play in the band before he moved to Boston to go to law school.
“Initially, I thought it might be the dumbest thing in the world to play—especially literally next door to the place they were playing their show. I could see how, theoretically, a band might see it in a not good-natured way,” said Wolk. “But a lot of big acts forgo even coming up to Portland, even though it’s a really good scene. So it was our way of thanking them for not bypassing the state.”
So the one-night cover band got to work last week putting out fliers on the street and setting up a Facebook page. A couple of people asked the real band if they were heading to the show afterward, and those people reported back to the cover band that actual Spoon did not, in fact, appear to be pissed off by the request.
“All of us weren’t really, viably imagining them coming,” said Wolk. “But we were walking through every hypothetical of how Spoon might stumble across our show, and this was the total best-case scenario for us.”
Beam was shocked anybody showed up at all, let alone the band.
“A lot of people would be like, ‘$5? Fuck that!’ I’m not spending that on an afterparty,” he said.
Now people are asking Beam’s indie rock group if they’ll do this for every great band that swings through town. Will they learn 23 Wings songs for when Paul McCartney comes to Portland? (The answer is a tentative no, by the way.)
But it’s good buzz for Beam’s group, which he got to talk up with Daniel and the rest of Spoon before they were shooed onto a bus to Delaware and then to Montreal. And the Spoon vs. Spoon set made Portland the coolest indie rock city in the world for a minute, by way of Beam’s guitar.
“It feels like a one-time deal, for sure,” said Beam. “Not everybody’s as cool as Spoon.”