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Being a musician boils down to two basic skills: knowing what to play and knowing when to play it. Implicit in the first, of course, is knowing how to play what to play. And getting the second thing right means knowing how to count in ways non-musicians don’t understand, so that when the when arrives you’re already there playing. Or stopping playing. For musicians who mostly play cover tunes, the what and the when of the playing are pretty much already settled. There are variations in phrasing and tempo and chord structure and instrumentation that can alter a song ever so subtly, but for the most part, cover bands stick to the song the way it was written, and the people listening are happy because they recognize the song (Hey! That’s “Sugar Mountain!”) and the people playing are happy because the people listening are happy. Everybody’s happy. Everybody might also be a little bored. But so what?
That’s not to say any of this is easy. Or always tedious. Very good bands build very good reputations playing other bands’ songs. A good version of “Sugar Mountain” or “Straight, No Chaser” generally warrants another round.
Which brings me to BC Fuzzz. BC Fuzzz are ostensibly a three-piece cover band. They play songs by a variety of popular artists from a variety of genres sprinkled with some originals like a lot of cover bands. But there the similarity ends.
BC Fuzzz – Dan Mihuc, guitar and vocals, Bryan Nellums, drums and Tim Beeler or Marco Franco, bass, depending on who’s available – take tunes and run them through an atom smasher, then reassemble them in some sort of improvisation machine. The result is music that makes you lean forward. Forget online brain workouts. BC Fuzzz will open parts of our brain you never knew were there.
“If we’re going to do cover songs, we want them to be ours,’ Mihuc said. “We change the tunes, the chord progressions. Don Henley has this song ‘Boys of Summer’; we do it like an R&B folk tune. I really dig that. The whole approach to the band is to draw the audience into what we are doing. Some of the lyrics will be familiar, but the music and the groove and the approach [are] different. I guess that’s how I try to suck people in. It think it’s a good formula. People come up to me after the show and say I can’t believe that was that song.”
Most people know Beeler and Mihuc from their previous work – Beeler as a member of Fawn Liebowitz and a score of other bands and session work, and Mihuc through the Freak Brothers and his solo stuff. Nellums is relatively new on the scene. He worked with Voices of Unity on their triumphant world tours and did brief stints with the Afro-Disiacs and Elephants in Mud. Franco may not be as familiar a name in these parts as his home state of Michigan, but his reputation is huge. Mihuc says playing with these guys is a guitar player’s dream.
“Tim is one of the most sought-after bass players in town. He’s played with everybody, like all the Sweetwater stuff that’s going on. Any time Sweetwater has a clinic, he gets the call. He’s just a certified bad ass. And then I’m so lucky, Marco is my No. 2 guy. He’s absolutely fantastic. He toured the world with blues acts for probably 15 years.
“Nellums hasn’t really done too much for any length of time. He was just getting established on the scene in 2011, and everyone knew who he was instantly. When we were doing those open mic jams, everybody was like, okay, I want you to play with my band. Everyone was trying to snatch him up. I was lucky.”
BC Fuzzz came together during those open jam sessions hosted by Dave Pagan at the now defunct Mid City Grill. Pagan called Beeler and Nellums, and then Mihuc came on board. They were the backup band for anyone who wanted to play. They would jam whenever no one claimed the stage. After doing this awhile, a thought popped into Mihuc’s head.
“I was like, ‘Guys, we need to do a trio, and we’ll call it BC Fuzzz.’”
Since then BC Fuzzz have started a buzz. I first caught wind of the band a few years ago while sitting at the bar at The Venue (formerly Skip’s) in Angola. A guy I know who knows Mihuc said something was brewing with Mihuc and Beeler. Earlier this year The Venue reignited the legendary Wednesday night blues gigs and had BC Fuzzz as regulars the first three months.
Mihuc is choosy about where the band will play. It has to be the right crowd, the right place. They have four gigs in the next two months, August 22, September 19 and October 17 at Club Soda and August 28 at Nick’s Martini & Wine Bar.
“Basically we only play just a couple places around town,” he said. “Club Soda primarily, Nick’s. We played Ribfest and a couple openings for bars around town. We don’t do a whole lot of regular gigging at regular bars. The 10 to 2 thing kind of left me a few years ago. I get to pick and choose the gigs that I want to play. I’m very careful about that. I only want to play the best spots.”
And the best spots deserve the best music. BC Fuzzz challenge themselves and the audience. For Mihuc, any song is on the table.
“I’m fearless,” he said. “I don’t care. We try to keep each other off balance. We play a Bruno Mars pop tune. Some guys are like, ‘I’m not playing a Britney Spears tune.’ But if the chords are good and you put the time in to put a twist on it and make it your own and it’s interesting, then I think any song is approachable.”