“Fuck you!” he sings. “It’s Friday, I’m in love!”
This year, Cover Me Badd was nominated for Best Tribute Band at the San Diego Music Awards. At the ceremony, Gimbel and his bandmates celebrated their efforts in proper Cover Me Badd style.
They pulled a Kanye.
As nominees were being announced, Gimbel and Zach Goode—who plays in Geezer, one of Gimbel’s many bands— wandered onstage, dressed as old men. Gimbel wore a newsboy cap and tight beige trousers, Goode a long robe and Blueblocker sunglasses. When the puzzled presenter announced 40 Oz. to Freedom as the winners, Gimbel gave her a huge hug, took the trophy and held it aloft triumphantly before members of the Sublime tribute band even had a chance to step up to the podium.
“I would just like to call shenanigans!” Gimbel yelled. “And tell all you kids what I got, because—get off of my lawn!”
Inspired by renowned Mexican Elvis impersonator El Vez, the top-40 radio Gimbel listens to while driving a delivery truck for an audio-visual-equipment company and his own puckish sense of humor, Gimbel specializes in pranks whose punch lines are lost on all but those who get the references. Geezer—which consists of Gimbel, Goode, Dylan Martinez, and Nasr Helewa—slips Pink Floyd and “Pretty in Pink” into Weezer’s Pinkerton. Blasphemous Guitars—Gimbel, Roger Morrison, Jeff Musser, Brad Smith and Scott Hoover—puts Depeche Mode lyrics over Guns N’ Roses riffs.
“I always call it the Dennis Miller thing,” Gimbel says. “He throws out so many random references, but if you get one [you go], “Yeah, totally! The random TV character that no one knows but me!” We don’t really get that obscure, but we love playing to a room of people that don’t get it. That’s so fun for us.
“Turning them around is fun, too,” he adds. “But if we don’t, that’s OK. That’s totally OK.”
Cover Me Badd has its origins at a Berkeley party in 1994, where Gimbel and some friends played songs by the likes of The Who and Nirvana. But the project began in earnest in San Diego in 2000, when they assembled a short-lived boy band to perform Color Me Badd songs.In the years since, Gimbel hasn’t run out of ideas. In fact, he can hardly keep up. In addition to his countless bands (including Rookie Card, his only non-cover band) and his two regular bar nights (Too Cool for Karaoke at The Ruby Room and Musical Pursuit at the Whistle Stop), he keeps a list of more than 50 songs and projects he thinks would be fun: The Violent Feminems. Goth Brooks.
He accomplished one of his most ambitious feats earlier this year, when he put together .38 Specials Education, an 11piece ska band that opened for The English Beat at Belly Up tavern with a performance of The Specials’ landmark 1979 debut, Specials. He recruited friends in the music community, including members of Buck-O-Nine. He put out a call for horn players. And he searched for a singer who would help reflect the band’s multi-racial lineup. “I didn’t want to have a white guy singing reggae,” Gimbel explains.
“For three days, every time I saw a black guy—every time—I’d be, like, Ooh! Do I ask him if he can sing?” he says. “There was a guy with dreads carrying a little case that looked like a mixer, and I was, like, Oh, shit! I was in my delivery van. I almost pulled over.
“I was telling people, ‘This is what it feels like to be a racist. I’ve never noticed so many black people in my life. But today, I see them everywhere! I want to talk to them all,’” he adds. “It was so bad.”
Indeed, Cover Me Badd has been known to offend audiences, however unintentionally. Last year, Blasphemous Guitars decided to stop playing “Killing an Arab,” a song by The Cure that’s based on Albert Camus’ 1942 novel The Stranger, after Gimbel encountered two frighteningly belligerent drunk guys who were offended that he’d sing the song amid today’s Middle East conflicts.
For all of his efforts, Gimbel doesn’t see Cover Me Badd getting as big as serious tribute bands that show up to concerts with their own CDs. He wasn’t disappointed that Cover Me Badd lost at the SDMAs this year; his only regret was not thinking of something funnier to say onstage.
“I should’ve just said, ‘Your award is what I got!’ and ran,” he says.
Cover Me Badd will celebrate its 10th anniversary at The Casbah on Sunday, Nov. 28. Blasphemous Guitars, Geezer, Geezer from the Crypt, The Beatles U.S., District of Rebellion, Lil Strummer Orchestra and Too Cool for Karaoke will perform. myspace.com/covermebadd