Power Ranking The THON 2018 Cover Bands
To keep the dancers entertained for 46 hours, THON weekend is full of events — the Pep Rally, the Kids’ Talent Show, the line dance, and more. But all those events still only fill a fragment of THON weekend. So how does THON manage to keep the entire weekend booked up? You guessed it: countless cover bands.
As one of the curators for the 2018 THON playlist and a noted THON cover band critic, I decided to determine which cover band is the THON cover band to rule them all. Who among these bands had the best rendition of “Sugar, We’re Goin Down?” Which interpretation of “Don’t Stop Believing” inspired the BJC to sing about a certain small town girl living in a lonely world the loudest? Who, pray tell, really convinced the dancers that we were at least halfway there with their cover of “Livin’ on a Prayer?”
To figure this out, I sat through cover band after cover band until the all lyrics to blink-182’s “All The Small Things” became permantly cemeted into my brain. Even if I personally did not write the band review, it is likely I was still there for the performance but passed it off to another Onward State staff member because I was overwhelmed by the cringey middle school memories inspired by five Fall Out Boy performances in a row. I judged each band on three criteria: song choice, audience reaction, and technique/style. Here it is, people, the definitive power ranking of THON 2018 cover bands.
Note: MisterWives was not included in this power ranking because it is not a cover band.
10. Mountain Road
If you’re a lover of country music, you probably hate this opinion. I’ll be honest, putting this band in last place had more to do with my distaste for country music than anything else. But let’s be honest: Country music has always been something that people either love or hate. The decision to perform a set list that only contains country songs isolates at least half of the audience right away.
As I was writing the band recap, I found that I didn’t even recognize most of the songs. To be completely honest, the only one I was completely sure of was “Wagon Wheel.” You could catch me during this performance desperately asking the Onward State GroupMe if anyone knew what song was playing (no one did).
To make things even worse for this struggling cover band critic, it was difficult to even Google the lyrics because I couldn’t really tell what words they were saying. Additionally, this group had a pretty unfortunate time slot and people were clearly hitting a slump.
The reason this band takes the #9 spot is a combination of the audience reaction and the technique. First off, this band was EXTREMELY loud. As a matter of fact, this band inspired one of our staff writers to track how loud it gets in the BJC during THON. Unfortunately, this performance wasn’t part of that study (I wish it was, though, because I’m eager to know exactly how much hearing loss I sustained).
Additionally, this performance took place pretty early on Saturday morning, which is when the BJC is usually at its emptiest during THON weekend. The combination of dancers and spectators hitting their first slump combined with the volume made the experience the slightest bit uncomfortable.
Don’t get me wrong — I actually really enjoyed their set list. They chose some songs that aren’t typically done by cover bands but are still popular, such as “Sorry Not Sorry” by Demi Lovato, “Love On Top” by Beyonce, and “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse. But at the end (or beginning?) of the day, the Taylor Tote Band was just too loud at a time when most people in the stands were feeling tired.
This performance earned the number eight spot for similar reasons to the Taylor Tote Band — it was too loud. While the set list was good (they did the classics like “Livin’ On A Prayer” and “Mr. Brightside” as well as some unique choices like “Raise Your Glass” by P!nk and “Ride Wit Me” by Nelly), the Red Hotts left our ears ringing.
This band did fare a little better because they had the crowd on their side — the BJC actually tweeted that it hit capacity during this performance ahead of the much-anticipated Pep Rally. As the BJC was filling up, people were happy to bop to the popular jams, even if it was too loud.
This is where the rankings start to get really close; at this point, little differences in the set list start to make or break a cover band. The reason SouthPaw takes the number seven slot, though, is because their set list didn’t include many risks. Although their time slot wasn’t long, it seemed like some of the songs they played were serious repeats from other bands.
I will always love the iconic “Mr. Brightside” and personally enjoyed the band’s technique and style — at one point, the guitar players delivered a rendition of “1985” while lying on their backs. However, one can only listen to “Dirty Little Secret” and “Ocean Avenue” so many times before THON begins to feel never-ending.
6. Burn Unit
Burn Unit takes the number six slot simply because their set list was a little more diverse. Although I probably enjoyed SouthPaw’s technique and style a little better, a cover band lives and dies by the songs they choose to cover. Therefore, Burn Unit fared a little better in this power ranking.
It’s worth noting that this group is comprised of artists who also split their time with other State College bar bands, like Velveeta and My Hero Zero. Burn Unit had a bit of a rough time slot, but the crowd seemed to react to them better than some of the bands early Friday morning. Burn Unit included songs like “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” by Eurythmics, “American Girl” by Tom Petty, and a few lines from the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme song.
One again, here we have a situation where a band comes out on top simply due to a little originality. The Brass Cadillacs hit the BJC with a throwback Ska set and played some classic jams. Before you claim that an Ska set is too niche to earn the number five spot, remember what this band up against.
After listening to more than 10(!) cover bands in a single sitting, you begin to go a little crazy. Thus, a Ska band begins to seem like a breath of fresh air after you’re hit with six renditions of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” in six hours. The Brass Cadillacs ultimately won me over because I enjoyed the “15 minute power hour” of early 2000s hits from Jimmy Eat World, Yellowcard, and Fall Out Boy in contrast with unique selections like “Take On Me” by Aha and selections from “The Lion King” soundtrack like “I Just Can’t Wait To be King.”
4. 3AM Tokyo
To be honest, I really enjoyed 3AM Tokyo’s performance. Their set list was pretty diverse — but wasn’t so diverse as to alienate people in the crowd. While the group did not actually perform at 3 a.m. (which is disappointing, but I suppose not their fault), they did get a pretty good time slot — Friday night. Because of this, the crowd still had a lot of energy to rock out to their rap, pop, and rock performances.
3AM Tokyo played the cover band classics (“Sugar, We’re Goin Down” and “Seven Nation Army”) as well as some rare cover band performances of rap hits like “Rolex” by Ayo & Teo, “Broccoli” by D.R.A.M., “Black Beatles” by Rae Sremmurd, and “Congratulations” by Post Malone. They also performed a tribute to Justin Timberlate, which felt appropriate right after the Super Bowl.
3. The Rockets
Depending on your music taste, placing The Rockets in the third slot may seem like a controversial opinion. But let me tell you — in the moment, I was absolutely living for this band. Their set list was easily the most unique in my humble opinion. After getting the performance started with jams like “Mr. Brightside” and “Timber,” things got wild.
Not only did the male leads deliver a wonderful rendition of “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” by Shania Twain, they also threw curve balls at the BJC by performing “Gold Digger” by Kanye West followed by some Disney covers, including “Part Of Your World,” “Let It Go,” and “Hakuna Matata.” Alongside the traditional cover band songs like “Shout” by the Isley Brothers came covers of songs from the movie “Grease” such as “You’re The One That I Want” and “Summer Nights.” As The Rockets ended with the truly iconic “I Believe I Can Fly,” it was obvious the spectators were enjoying the performance.
2. My Hero Zero
My Hero Zero earned the second spot in this power ranking because they pulled of a marathon set right after the THON Pep Rally, which is a tough act to follow. Additionally, My Hero Zero earned points for their set list, which was one of the best.
There was something for everyone in the audience as My Hero Zero delivered renditions of songs from very different genres, including Britney Spears jam “…Baby, One More Time”, “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys, All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled, “Crazy In Love” by Beyoncé, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses, “My House” by Flo Rida, and a touching rendition of “Fix You” by Coldplay to close it out.
Another factor that put My Hero Zero in spot number two: the fact that they played one of the greatest songs ever written, “Africa” by Toto. Since My Hero Zero performed right after the Pep Rally, The BJC was still pretty full and the audience seemed to enjoy the performance.
1. Go Go Gadjet
Honestly, you should’ve seen this one coming — there’s a reason Go Go Gadjet has had the final cover band time slot booked for years now. They had a truly diverse set which switched from rap to pop to rock. Not only did Go Go Gadjet perform the staples like “All The Small Things” and “Don’t Stop Believing”, they also pulled out some truly unique covers to THON weekend like a clean version of “Bodak Yellow” and a trumpet solo to the tune of “The Final Countdown.”
At this point, the BJC had reached capacity for the final four hours of THON and the crowd was super energized ahead of the final total reveal. Without a doubt, Go Go Gadjet earned the top spot in the battle of the cover bands.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.
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About the Author
We dance in 275, Penn State!
We dance in 275, Penn State!
Underwood is bringing her “The Denim & Rhinestones” tour to Happy Valley next spring.
“Jana Marie Foundation harnesses the power of creative expression and dialogue to spark conversations, build connections, and promote mental well-being among young people and their communities.”