Yacht Rock Revue’s super sounds of the ’70s and ’80s back at Belly Up Aspen
The smooth sounds of Steely Dan, the Doobie Brothers, Kenny Loggins, Hall & Oates and their vintage ilk get a loving, polyester-clad sendup from Yacht Rock Revue.
The Atlanta-based cover band that’s become an unlikely sensation and been selling out theaters across the U.S. and made its Aspen debut in February.
Yacht Rock Revue returns to Belly Up on Thursday.
The band draws from a catalog of about 250 songs they’ve perfected, by singer Nick Niespodziani’s estimation. He defines “yacht rock” as the polished and soulful brand of mostly West Coast rock stretching from 1972’s “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” up through some early Madonna songs, with high watermarks like Toto’s “Africa” and Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen” in between.
“The music is very Aspen-y to me,” Niespodziani said early this year. “I love that city and the vibe there — kind of an upscale vibe but free-flowing, which describes our music very well. I think it’s going to be a good fit.”
Indeed, based on local concert bookings, yacht rock never went out of style in these parts, where Hall & Oates and Michael McDonald both played enthusiastically received festival shows last summer and where Kenny Loggins has long been a regular.
Of course, John Oates, the half of Hall & Oates that called Aspen home for decades, is a hero to the Yacht Rock Revue members and to Aspenites. And three years ago, Yacht Rock Revue got to take the stage with him on a music cruise hosted by the band Train.
As Niespodziani recalls, the cruise director couriered a note from the band to Oates inviting him to sit in with them on “She’s Gone” during a poolside set on the ship. Oates took them up on it.
“He was pretty skeptical at first, you know, because we’re wearing all this polyester and he’s like, ‘Are these guys making fun of me or are they into this?'” he recalled. “But he’s just he sweetest guy and we did it with no rehearsal. It was so much fun.”
The band tries to strike a balance between parody and homage, playing up the ridiculous clothes and overdramatic dance moves of the era while earnestly honoring the songs.
“Musically, it’s a total homage,” Niespodziani said. “We’re very serious about the music, down to the smallest minute detail. What we try to do, in terms of making it fun for the audience, is not to take ourselves too seriously.”
The band got its start at a club in Atlanta, where Niespodziani and his bandmates had a residency. They played straightforward original indie rock, but also put on themed cover song nights. They started doing sets of ’70s soft rock they dubbed “AM Gold,” which found a following and took off. And when they discovered the brilliant parody web series “Yacht Rock” online, they adopted the name.
This started a bit of a rivalry between the comedians of “Yacht Rock” and the Yacht Rock Revue, which played out on Twitter. They now coexist peacefully, according to Niespodziani: “We both keep the yacht rock fire alive.”
[Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story was published in the Aspen Times in February]