We hear it every year. Another damn cover band won the Whammy for Performer of the Year. First, it was Freak Brothers. Then it was Plow’s turn to dominate, followed by Brother, Kill the Rabbit and now, Cougar Hunter. All of those bands originally became popular by playing other bands’ songs. That’s typical for Fort Wayne, they say. Except, this time, apparently, “they” are wrong. Though you’ve heard all the songs before, according to the band members, the songs Cougar Hunter play aren’t other performer’s songs; they’re Cougar Hunter originals.
“We don’t play cover songs,” said guitarist Ripp in an interview a few weeks ago. “I don’t know why people think that. We wrote all of the songs we play. Us and nobody else. Those bands from the 80s? They stole them from us. But now, finally, we’re getting our due recognition.”
The story of Cougar Hunter is a bizarre one, to say the least. Some might even say it was invented, completely made up.
But spend some time with these guys and you almost start to believe that they believe what they are saying, far-fetched or not.
Though no one remembers the exact year, sometime in the late 80s Ripp, Denim Dan, Le Tigre, Diamond Drake and Big Bone Malone came together from all over the world with one goal in mind: to conquer the music world. Those plans changed quickly when the money, never plentiful to begin with, ran out. Knowing there was no way they wanted or were going to get actual jobs, the fivesome signed up for a cryogenic study at a top-secret scientific facility. The study was supposed to be short-term and relatively un-invasive, enabling the band to earn enough cash to be able to finance their first album, the album that would finally make them the superstars they were destined to become. Unfortunately, shortly after being frozen in their respective pods, the study (just like the band; recognize a theme?) ran out of funding, and the research facility abruptly closed down. This left the band literally “frozen in time” for a couple of decades.
The band’s manager, unable to figure out where the band members were, despite searching for several minu ... er, days, decided to cash in on the opportunity and sold all of Cougar Hunter’s songs to Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi, Europe and the like. Those bands turned Cougar Hunter’s songs into instant hits, taking the credit, money and stardom that came with them, all while the real creators of the music, Cougar Hunter, were chillin’ in a cryogenic capsule somewhere in the middle of Indiana.
Fast forward to the present. The pods, inexplicably still in working order, were discovered a few years ago by a team of Boy Scouts on a camping trip. Using an untested method, called “the unplugging of the pods,” the scouts brought the band members out of their icy state and unleashed them on an unsuspecting world. Now hell-bent on claiming the glory that should have been bestowed upon them years ago, Cougar Hunter are out to conquer the music world once again, or, at least, our corner of it.
Since recovering from their ordeal, the theatrical quartet have made short work of getting their name in front of the public. With a list of almost 100 well-known songs that capture the essence of the glam rock era from whence they came, Cougar Hunter have emerged as one of the must-see acts on the local scene. Music venues and bars that support local music – and even some that don’t – nearly come to blows as they try to book the band for multiple nights in order to draw Cougar Hunter’s legions of thirsty fans into their establishments.
The proof? It’s only March, and the band has very few dates open on their calendar for the rest of the year. That’s a band making noise on the scene, covers or not.
“We get all the shows because other bands aren’t as cool as us,” said Ripp in a rare moment of clarity. “They don’t wear spandex.”
Given this backstory and their current status at the very pinnacle of the Fort Wayne music scene, it’s no small wonder they were voted 2012’s Performer of the Year by whatzup readers.
In addition to Performer of the Year honors, Cougar Hunter, the band that Whammy presenters Jack Hammer and J.J. Fabini said made the C2G Music Hall stage smell “like hair spray and your mother,” also won the Whammy for Best Cover Rock Band and Best Live Performer. Though noticeably annoyed at winning the Best Cover Band award, Denim Dan was grateful for the other awards.
“These are our songs. We wrote them. People need to understand that. We are not a cover band. On the other hand, we are extremely grateful and honored to have won these awards. We couldn’t do it without the fans. Our fans are the best in the world … and they know how to get us the best deals on Aqua Net.”
What’s in the future for Cougar Hunter? Well, obviously there will be a lot of shows and a lot of opportunities for people to see one of the most unpredictable and potentially offensive live shows around today. The band members continue to “remember” songs they wrote years ago, adding to the catalog of songs that can be enjoyed and potentially creating a unique listening experience every night.
But the band’s biggest goal once again comes from the warped mind of guitarist Ripp, who was conspicuously absent from the Whammy night festivities. It’s a lofty goal and may take a few more years and, perhaps, payment from a few more scientific studies to accomplish.
“We want to make enough money to buy spaceships that will take us to shows on other planets. We want to conquer the universe, one cougar at a time.”