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Second Set: This LucaBrasi is set to swim with U2

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 6, 2012 - At what point does a “tradition” fully qualify for the term? Let’s randomly say that six years marks that magical point at which an annual event is truly a “tradition,” a number that qualifies An Under Cover Weekend as exactly one of those.

But what if you’ve never been? Even if claiming to enjoy local music? And for that matter, enjoying a little bit of the cover band magic, too? Sounds like a closed mind is at work here.

Maybe so. But here’s my story: Since An Under Cover Weekend began with a two-night stand at Off Broadway in September 2007, my assumption was that the event was primarily geared toward hip, young bands having either: a lark at the expense of the band they were covering; or a lark at the very St. Louis tradition of cover bands. The facts that these nights have routinely sold-out and that a wide selection of solid groups have taken part did little to dissuade my theory.

My head was set. And doing actual research, in the form of the going to the shows, was beyond my grasp.

LucaBrasi, though, is pretty much selling me on a turnaround in my thinking.

An American Band

The members of LucaBrasi are an interesting mix. Some have kids, some don’t. Several have other bands on the side, though that’s not universally true. Most play cover music, in some of the biggest names in town, but that’s not an absolute.

In fact, over their half-decade together -- time enough for dozens of shows and two records – the band has played things relatively close-to-the-vest, doing original music and generally not aiming into some type of crossover, hybrid world of originals and covers. Since beginning, the group -- bassist Josiah Werner, vocalist Matt McInerney, drummer Mike Jost, guitarist Jerry Jost, keyboardist Bill Reiter -- has decided that it would practice as often as weekly, write songs that satisfied themselves first, and would leave most of the “business” of the music industry to someone else.

This was a band built for fun and creative satisfaction.

“We play every Wednesday, if we can,” says Jerry Jost. “It’s our Wednesday night. None of us plays golf or has a poker game. We practice, then we go to the bar. It’s what we do.”

And for the past weeks, the members of the group have put aside their own pursuits to hone in on a band that they agreed would be fun to tackle at An Under Cover Weekend: none other than U2. While most groups attempt to keep a tight lid on preparations for the event, LucaBrasi (attempting to win me over the cause) had me by practice last week, while it was honing six-songs into a very tight, very right setlist. The building they rehearse in is owned by the Jost’s family and is also the practice space of The Urge, a group that contains both Jerry Jost and Reiter.

In this old metal works on Bates, near Grand, everything’s pretty much right for a band to rehearse. Groups can go loud here, without too much worry of alarming the neighbors. There’s enough room to stretch out, if extra players are needed, or staging is being factored in. There’s electricity, of course, a useful thing for keeping the amps loud and the beers cold. What that power usually is not used for, though, is air conditioning and after an hour, or two, of rocking, the musicians in what McInerney calls “the rock spot” can get a little warm under the collar.

Last week, I arrived just as the group was working on the first track of their Friday night set, “Where the Streets Have No Name.” What was obvious from the first moment was that this is a band of considerable musicianship. While it might not be fair to single out any one player on any one track, “Streets” does call on a really familiar series of guitar parts from The Edge, and Jerry Jost is obviously up to the challenge. That’d prove true throughout the set, with McInerney facing the other key role, that of iconic, vocalist Bono.

Asked during a short break if he felt any pressure, Mike Jost was quick to say “No, I don’t. The pressure’s on The Edge and Bono. I’m just in the back, y’know? These rehearsals have been a lot of fun.”

Jost added that he grew up playing alongside his only brother, Jerry, and that “Sunday Bloody Sunday” may’ve been one of the first songs he ever learned.

McInerney said that playing the music of U2 was a natural for all the band members: “They wrote the songs that you think you could do it. Whether that meant putting on the Bugle Boy jeans and going to that party, or whatever.”

The setlists were hammered out over a series of emails. Jerry Jost said, “a million possibilities existed,” but they settled on six, with one track in reserve, in case of an encore.

While not giving too much away, there is the need for a horn section and at least one track falls outside of the “big hit” category, a direct appeal to the died-in-the-wool, true U2 fans. The one thing they all decided on, though, was that the early period was going to be the one explored, nothing “after Bono lost the mullet,” as one member noted.

Before the bar

Last week, the band’s their weekly cool-down was at the Southtown Pub, one of a small list of weekly, post-practice destinations. They went after going through their set several times, working in the horns, making sure that they had everything in place.

The practice was, as usual, an affair that mixed in the serious with the playful. McInerney deserves to have a microphone, as he stays in an entertaining zone the entire night; when not singing, he’s cracking jokes and keeping everything loose. He’s generally “on” without trying to be.

About 10 bands have been working diligently over the past few weeks, assuming that they’d play to a packed house at the Firebird on either Friday or Saturday this weekend. For LucaBrasi, stage time is 11:50 p.m. on Friday night, in the headlining slot.

While I won’t be able to attend, I’ve been converted to the AUCW cause. And to the belief that LucaBrasi, if so inclined, could cover anyone it would choose. A fine band on its own, a cover band of some great skill. They’re going to kill it, this new tradition. Guaranteed.

The Firebird, firebirdstl.com

(314) 535-0353

2706 Olive, 63103

Sept. 7

  • LucaBrasi – U2
  • Volcanoes – The Killers
  • Humdrum – Beck
  • Animal Empty – PJ Harvey
  • Aquitaine – Oasis

Sept. 8

  • Via Dove – Aerosmith
  • Dots Not Feathers – Michael Jackson
  • Palace – ABBA
  • Last To Show First To Go – Neil Young
  • Arthur and The Librarian – Simon & Garfunkel