Local bands and rock legends gathered at Pearl Street Warehouse on Tuesday to celebrate Elvis’s birthday and to hold a benefit for the Love Hope Strength Foundation. The foundation, created by three-time cancer survivor Mike Peters of The Alarm and named after one of the band’s songs, raises awareness about and gets people on the donor registry for bone marrow transplants. During the show, staff from the foundation were on hand to help people sign up for the registry.
Local band Lubbock Soundcheck opened the concert with the classic Elvis song “That’s All Right.” The singer and bass player switched places, and before playing “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” they explained that it was adapted from a Bill Monroe B-side with a time different time signature. The singer and bass player returned to their original places, and the band played “Mystery Train” before finishing their set with “Little Sister.”
The guitarist and bassist from Lubbock remained on stage, and they were joined by a new drummer and a special guest: former Massachusetts senator and current ambassador to New Zealand Scott Brown. This group called themselves “The Deplorables,” in reference to Hillary Clinton referring to calling Donald’s Trump’s supporters “a basket of deplorables.” Brown was cool and approachable. Before the show, I asked him about the familiar quotation on the back of his black t-shirt: “Fear not death, for the hour of your doom is set and none may escape it.” I later identified the source as the Volsung Saga, and Brown gave me a firm handshake. This group played The King’s “Burning Love.”
The stage cleared, and Mike Peters took the stage, performing solo with his acoustic guitar. Peters is the lead singer and guitarist of The Alarm, a Welsh alternative rock/New Wave band founded in 1981. The band opened for acts like Bob Dylan and U2, and reached #6 on the UK Albums chart in 1984 with Declaration.
Peters opened his set with “The Stand,” a song influenced by the Stephen King novel. Before playing “Love Hope and Strength”—the song that gave his foundation its name—he spoke about Elvis’s Welsh heritage. Peters explained that the surname Prestley comes from Preseli Mountains, a range of hills in southwest Wales.
Peters continued his set with “Walk Forever By My Side.” Introducing “Stay Alive,” he said “Where I come from, we celebrate, because we love to feel the rain in the summertime.” Peters played a topical song, “Gone Elvis,” before finishing with the Alarm’s biggest, “68 Guns Will Never Die.”
Next up was local ska band Free Lobster Buffet. Lead singer Joan Bishop was a ball of fire, especially on her original song, “Who Needs a Man?” The free lobster was just an appetizer, though, to the night’s main course, Blue Oyster Cult lead singer and guitarist Buck Dharma. Dharma was the main attraction for many in the crowd, like Cheryl Peterson, of Seattle, Washington, who flew in to see Buck and to visit her granddaughter. Peterson, the self-proclaimed “#1 fan” of Blue Oyster Cult, has seen the band perform more than 140 times over the last four years.
With Free Lobster Buffet as his backing band, Buck paid tribute to Elvis with two songs, one well-known and one more obscure both written the songwriting duo of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. The well-known “Viva Las Vegas,”surprisingly, barely broke the top 30, while “(Marie’s the Name of) His Latest Flame,” was a top 5 hit. Just for Prestley alone, the duo also had a #1 in “Surrender,” and “Little Sister” reached #5.
After recognizing the King, Dharma brought out his better half, Sandy Dharma to play some BOC classics. Dharma’s unmistakeable guitar riffs rang out on “Burnin’ For You” and “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”
Psychedelic rockers Vanilla Fudge, still going strong since the ’60s, were the last act of the night. The emcee told the audience that when the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Band, Vanilla Fudge had the #4 record in America. When Led Zeppelin formed, they had their first touring gig opening for Vanilla Fudge.
Vanilla Fudge’s repertoire consists of unique arrangements of popular songs. They began with a haunting rendition of the Zombies’ “She’s Not There.” The next song they played, the Doors’ “Break On Through,” appears on their latest record, The Spirit of ’67. “Take Me For A Little While,” written by Trade Martin and originally recorded in 1965 by Evie Sands, appeared on the band’s self-titled first album. They dedicated Rod Stewart’s “People Get Ready” to Martin Luther King, Jr, and played “Season of the Witch” and “Shotgun” before Buck Dharma and Scott Brown joined them to close the show. Together, the group played a rocked-out “You Keep Me Hanging On” before returning to the King with “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock.”