Earlier this year, I contributed a short article to the Chicago Reader’s “Best of Chicago” issue about The Flat Five, naming this local group the “Best Cover Band That Plays One Gig a Year.” At least, that has been this group’s performance pattern since mid-2007. Each December, this super group of singers and players convene for one night of performances at the Hideout. This year, that blessed night arrived on Friday (Dec. 10), with two sets at the Hideout. But as it happens, the Flat Five are going to play at least one more show this winter, Jan. 7 at Evanston Space. As I wrote in the Reader, it sure would be nice if that Flat Five played more often.
Who are the Flat Five? Even if you don’t know the band name, you may recognize the names of some of the members: Kelly Hogan, Nora O’Connor, Scott Ligon, K.C. McDonough and Gerald Dowd. For these gigs, Alex Hall ably filled in for Dowd on drums, adding some accordion, too. (Dowd is on tour, so he wasn’t available.) While they all have ties to the alt-country scene, what they do in the Flat Five is more like a combination of supper-club cabaret with rock cover band. Beautiful harmonies and a quirky, smart selection of songs originally written by people such as Harry Nilsson, the Beach Boys, the Free Design, Spanky and Our Gang, XTC alter-ego the Dukes of Stratosphear, the Zombies and Bobby Hebb. (Plus a few songs by Scott Ligon’s brother, Chris Ligon.) The Flat Five practiced a repertoire of about 45 songs this time, and they spread out quite a few of those over the two sets Friday night, with just a few repeats.
As in past years, it was a true delight to hear these voices joining together on songs such as “Sundays Will Never Be the Same,” “Kites Are Fun” and “This Will Be Our Year.” And how many other “cover bands” do a “four-fer” of songs by Nilsson? There was rock, jazz, ballads, country, even a little bit of gospel. And it sounded glorious.
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