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Riff Raiders

When you think about cover bands, terms like ‘unconventional’ and ‘left of centre’ don’t usually spring to mind. Cover bands tend to specialise in a bunch of safe rock songs designed to please a specific audience. But Melbourne’s Riff Raiders are a cover band with a difference, as guitar player Marty Powell explains. “We formed this band about a year ago,” he says. “We’d all come from original band backgrounds, and we wanted to do something a bit different. Instead of just being a usual cover band, we wanted to do some seminal 70's hard rock acts, but not all their obvious songs.

“Case in point, [Thin Lizzy’s] The Boys are Back in Town has been done to death, so do Emerald and Cowboy Song and all that sort of thing. Zeppelin, we do The Rover and Misty Mountain Hop as opposed to the more obvious tracks. And we like to give them a bit more respect. I go to a bit of effort with changing guitars and having the right effects and all that. So that’s the idea.”
 
So far, this approach has gained Riff Raiders a very positive reaction. The feedback they’ve attracted reflects the atypical nature of the band. “It’s been very interesting,” Powell says. “People aren’t sure at first. The reaction we’ve been getting has been like, ‘Gee, I remember that one,’ or ‘I didn’t know that they had other songs.’ ”
 
Riff Raiders’ next hometown show will also offer something out of the box. American rock act Cheap Trick are being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, so Riff Raiders are hosting a Cheap Trick themed celebration. To coincide with the induction ceremony, they’ll hit up Cherry Bar to play Cheap Trick’s 1979 live album At Budokan in its entirety, plus extra songs like California Man and Southern Girls.
 
“They were getting acknowledged in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame this year, and for a band like Cheap Trick to get that type of recognition I think is fantastic, and they’re not a band that has many tribute nights. For us it was a bit of an extension to play in that style rather than the classic British hard rock I was just describing. So it’s a really good journey for us.
 
“And we’re playing on the same night as they’re getting inducted in the Hall of Fame. Well, as close as you can between Melbourne and New York anyway.”
 
Riff Raiders generally jam around with the songs they cover, but for the Cheap Trick show they’ll stick close to the original versions. “With this Trick stuff, we’re going pretty close to what’s on the record. Being that it was a live album, there’s probably too many drum solos and all that, so we’ve got rid of that and put a couple of different arrangements in, just to make it a bit more dynamic.”
 
They’ll actually perform two sets on the night, and the second set also fits the theme. “The second set will be other Hall of Fame bands that are already there. So your Kiss and Zeppelin and Sabbath et cetera.”
 
Powell feels comfortable playing the show at a renowned original band venue. In fact, Riff Raiders are one of the very few cover acts to be accepted by the original band scene.
 
“We’ve played there once before with The Lazy’s late last year and that went down well. The other good thing about us is that we’re more than tolerated and allowed to play with original bands. That’s what I always wanted for us was to either give them a go, or just be the fun part of the night. It’s just about getting people out seeing live music.”
 
BY ROD WHITFIELD

RIFF RAIDERS Cheap Trick tribute goes down at Cherry Bar on Saturday April 9. The Cheap Trick set starts at 9pm sharp, Hall of Fame set is 10.30pm.