Nottingham’s annual festive charity bash, the Christmas Covers Party, celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year, taking place at The Bodega on Saturday 17 December. We chat to organisers Simon Aldcroft, James Vyner and Joey Chickenskin about the history of the event…
Firstly, for those who are unfamiliar, what is the Christmas Covers Party?
Joey: The Christmas Covers Party usually involves bands who play the covers better than the originals; ramshackle, loving “best shot” attempts; faithful interpretations; and mind-blowing re-imaginings. It’s a wonderful night which proves that music is the (Christmas) gift that keeps on giving.
What was the purpose for Christmas Covers originally?
Simon: It came out of the Why Can’t We Just All Get Along nights that myself and James put on monthly in 2002. The simple idea was to extend this for a Christmas edition. A chance to cut loose, to have some fun and not take ourselves too seriously. We thought covers would be the most fun to do.
James: What struck us immediately was that, back then, we did all take ourselves seriously. The music that we were making was earnest and we were trying to make something special, so with Christmas Covers we could just have a lot of fun. That slight pretentiousness fell away and everyone could just be silly. You realised that everyone who was involved loved music and wanted to enjoy themselves, and that was so much easier when you were working with other people’s songs.
What are your earliest memories of the Covers Party?
Simon: My overriding memory from the first Covers Party was that this was really going to work. The original venue for the Covers Party was Junktion 7, it was packed and there was such a brilliant range of covers.
James: At the second one, Junktion 7 was rammed, and the crowd were going nuts! The Chemistry Experiment were performing and it was the most noise I’ve ever heard a crowd make at a local band. I remember standing at the side of the stage thinking, ‘We did this.’
This event is a chance to cut loose, to have some fun and not take ourselves too seriously
What is your favourite memory of the event?
Simon: Savoy Grand doing I Want to Know What Love Is at Britannia Rowing Club encapsulates my favourite approach to Covers: when a band takes a song that you might not expect and completely owns it, making a brilliant version of it in their own image.
Joey: I loved that too. And for my fiftieth birthday, some friends covered Joey Chickenskin songs. It was a huge indulgence but made me eternally happy.
There have been some pretty amazing costumes over the years. What is your favourite?
Simon: We wore hazmat suits and face masks as Don’t Panic in 2019, with our nuclear apocalypse-themed set. This was just before COVID and it feels weirdly prescient, in hindsight! It was certainly a lot easier to get hold of PPE than during the pandemic…
Joey: Still fresh in my mind from the 2021 party that we had to postpone until Easter this year was Alex Hale suddenly appearing in a full Shrek costume for his band, The Shrek Pistols.
Which charities has the event supported over the years?
Joey: In 2006, Damn You! - who were running Christmas Covers by then - made the excellent decision to start using it as an opportunity to raise money for charity. First it was for Cancer Research, then Macmillan and Shelter, and for the last few years we’ve concentrated on local charities – Nottinghamshire Hospice, Framework, Zephyr’s, Notts Refugee Forum. Christmas Covers has raised over £24k for charity over the years. Everyone takes part for free, and The Bodega doesn't charge anything – so everything raised from ticket sales and the raffle is donated to charity. For this year’s event we will be supporting Nottinghamshire Hospice and Framework again. We are also raising money for The Brain Tumour Charity in memory of a good friend of the Christmas Covers Party, Duncan Vaughan.
Christmas Covers has raised over £24k for charity over the years. Everyone takes part for free, and The Bodega doesn't charge anything – so everything raised is donated
If you could pick anyone to perform at the event, who would it be, and what song would they cover?
Simon: My all-time favourite band for covers would be The Afghan Whigs, who definitely inspired the Covers Party idea, and I’d love to see them do their version of When Doves Cry.
James: From the dead, it would have to be Prince, covering whatever he wants to!
Joey: I would like Pearl Jam to cover Hippychick by Soho just to watch them realise that they accidentally ripped it off for Even Flow.
How did you select the line-up for the 20th Annual Christmas Covers Party?
Joey: As this year marks two decades, James asked if he could contact members of the bands who played the first couple of parties. The line-up is made up of members of those bands, and members of bands who have played the later parties over the years, including Simmo from Damn You! who organised them for many years. The bands performing are Seachange + Friends, The Grave Architects, Clambake, Burning Man, Sofftness, Dead Mint, Poxy Music, Vanity Project, and myself!
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