Big changes are afoot at the popular An Under Cover Weekend event, in which St. Louis bands perform as national bands, with often dazzling results.
This year, An Under Cover Weekend moves from the Firebird, where it was one of the venue’s signature events, to the new Delmar Hall. It’s the 11th year for the event.
It also moves from September to August. The new dates are Aug. 24-26. Fifteen bands, each adopting the persona of a national band, will perform over the three nights.
“We turned 10 last year, and we’ve certainly lived a lot of life already,” says organizer Michael Tomko. He points out that the event has also been held at Off Broadway and the Bluebird (the old Firebird), so moving is nothing new.
But what Tomko always wanted was for the participating bands to be able to play on one of the city’s prime, Pageant-like stages. Delmar Hall is often considered a smaller version of the Pageant, and it’s run by the same team.
He considers the move a logical step for An Under Cover Weekend.
“Over the years I’ve continuously made a lot of investment in the event, like bringing in massive light shows the last couple of years,” he says. “I’ve been working with bands and coaching them and helping them level up. I always had an eye for this type of stage, and with Delmar Hall, all the stars were aligned.”
When he played in bands, Tomko says, it was always a big deal to play a venue like the Pageant or the Blue Note in Columbia, Mo., for the first time.
“It’s magical to experience that level of production — mixing and engineering, lights, a green room. It’s a unique opportunity for them to play a big stage for the first time.”
When Tomko saw St. Louis band Foxing play at Delmar Hall in December, he realized the venue would be in An Under Cover Weekend’s future. The place was packed, which convinced him a local act could sell out there.
“It wasn’t like a local show where they say, ‘Let’s turn off half the lights,’” he says. “It was given the same treatment the most famous bands are given. And it was great seeing how the crowd and the bands responded. It felt like a good fit — what I always wanted the event to do.”
Tomko recognizes moving An Under Cover Weekend takes away a signature Firebird event.
“As an independent promoter and my having strong ties with the club, there’s nothing about this that reflects poorly on (the Firebird),” he says. “But if you’re gonna put 10 years into planning an event, you hope it’s going to grow. It’s foolish to stay the same.”
As for the new dates, he points out the event initially hovered around Labor Day but would bump up against Pointfest and LouFest, so An Under Cover Weekend moved to later in September. But Cardinals playoff season also was stiff competition.
This year, An Under Cover Weekend brings back theme nights. The three evenings will focus on the 1980s, ’90s, and 2000s, respectively. The event last had theme nights in 2008, when the bands focused on the 1960s through ’90s, and it was its biggest year.
“Four nights and 19 bands was just huge. Four nights were hard to pull off. We dialed back after that. And at the time, I didn’t know the theme was such a key ingredient why it was so successful,” Tomko says.
Tickets for An Under Cover Weekend are on sale now. Submissions for band performances are open through May 7 at undercoverweekend.com.