The Skipperdome rocked with a cacophony of British Invasion sounds this past Saturday night. Not so much cannons and musketry, but lots of electric guitars and wailing vocalists. WMNF's first ever installment of The British Are Coming began as the daydream of a pair of 'MNF DJs before slowly building momentum to a full-blown multi-band tribute concert paying homage to the 1960s music that came out of the UK and swept into American airwaves in the 1960s.
"Laurie Lou and I have always been a fan of that [1960s British rock] music, then she put a bug in my ear about doing a British Invasion show," WMNF DJ Flee explained. "When we booked this venue, we got it going as soon as we could."
Flee and Lou would have preferred to have thrown the party in 2014, marking the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles' debut on the Ed Sullivan Show — an event widely considered the launch of the British Invasion — but Skipper's wasn't available at the time. When the June 13 date opened up, Flee jumped to secure it and started organizing the show. "We know a lot of local bands and we picked ones that fit [the genre]," Flee said.
Flee and Co. compiled a list of '60s bands they'd want to hear and made phone calls from there. Participating groups selected artists from the list, which were eliminated as they were chosen. "Then it really took off," Flee said, noting that the everything on the list was claimed but bands were reaching out and hoping to get booked. "The (Rancid) Polecats called, saying they wanted to do The Kinks."
It showed, as The Vodkanauts negotiated through swinging versions of "It's Not Unusual," "Delilah" and "She's a Lady," each with its own built-in transition to the next song. From the set's start, the crowd was brought to a excited apex and a buzzing, humming interlude going into Delilah working everyone up to hand-waving and singing along to "Delilah's" refrain.
Wilcox and Company opened with "I Can't Explain," followed it up with "The Kids Are Alright" and "So Sad About Us." The patently recognizable songs and Wilcox's giant, windmill swipes of the guitar brought the crowd back to full throat sing-alongs until they wrapped the set with "Substitute."
Little Sheba lead singer Ari Little delivered one of the night's most entertaining tributes and a rocking, modern fusion of the two acts. First, Little strolled onto the stage in throwback fashion — black-and-white checked '60s mod-style mini dress with matching headband. Her deep, sultry vocal quality proved a nice lovely feminine for those of Them's (male) lead singer, Van Morrison. "Bright Lights Big City" was followed by "Baby Please Don't Go" and topped only by was is arguably Them's best-known cut, "Gloria." Little brought a healthy dose of soul to the performance and offered a kinky twist on the lyrics as sung from the female perspective. "We really like Gloria and Them, we were glad they were still available," Little said. "There were a few bands left [to choose from] but Them really fits us, they're more what we normally play - it was not much of a stretch for us."
Flee, who played emcee for the evening, led the people who remained in a Mojo Gurus chant to draw the band back onstage for an encore, which they happily delivered in "Paint it Black," a wildly-appropriate finale for a Saturday edging towards midnight.
Tropical Heatwave aside, tribute shows have always been WMNF's bread and butter, and the raucous crowd who landed at Skipper's showed their appreciation for this rather special edition one while also contibuting to WMNF's summer membership drive. There are talks about a redux, The British Are Coming II. I'll keep my fingers crossed, and look forward to the next tentatively planned tribute, to Frank Sinatra in December