It's humiliating to admit this, but if you were at SPACE last Saturday you probably agree: a fucking cover band just restored my faith in rock and roll.

The growly Seattle rapper and friend-of-Portland Astronautalis, backed by a crew of local rockers (ex-Gully, Haru Bangs, etc.), gave startling, snarling life to Joe Strummer and the Clash. In doing so, they broke the preeminent only-play-the-hits rule of the party-night cover set (there were deep cuts and no "Should I Stay or Should I Go" or even "Rock the Casbah"), caused a young zombie to get so intensely randy she couldn't not grab Strummer/Astronautalis's thigh, another guy to stagedive, and paid the band the ultimate tribute: they made the audience understand why the Clash were so important and propulsive in the first place.

The evening's other acts were all better-than-solid. Shawn Saindon (with backup players from his group Jack Tar) took a band with limited appeal, "Pretty in Pink" scribes the Psychedelic Furs, and impressed with their sheer, full-bodied chops. Sydney Bourke, the Debbie Harry of Marie Stella's Blondie, managed the odd feat of nailing her most challenging selection, the historic rap from "Rapture," bounding into the crowd without missing a note or beat. If a touch more jangly than necessary, Dead Man's Clothes were a persuasive Joy Division, particularly thanks to Don Dumont's stellar impression and awkward walking man routine.

The much-ballyhooed, night-capping surprise performance managed to remain one until the paper planes started flying and Sontiago hit the stage (and a specially-installed swing) as M.I.A., clad in appropriately obnoxiously-patterned tights and equipped with choreographed dancing. Sound problems excepted, she killed it.

And, about the costumes: gold stars to "alphabet soup," "Olivia Newton John-in-Xanadu," and "dude with the giant cartoon head seemingly without eyeholes." Wes Anderson-inspired partygoers: there were too many of you.

  Topics: New England Music News , Music, Joe Strummer, Joy Division,  More more >
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