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‘Boston Does Boston’ has the local scene covered

Among the performers at the “Boston Does Boston” concerts are: Black Thai (pictured), Jenny Dee, and Freezepop.Bruce Bettis

Bands paying tribute to their influences with cover versions of their songs is a practice as old as the ideas of both bands and influences themselves. That's particularly true in Boston, where we've long had an eye on the city's rich musical history, digging into the past for re-imaginings of classic hits. It's become something of a tradition, as we saw earlier this week at the Boston Music Awards, where for the second year, a group of young upstarts and revered local musicians (including Bill Janovitz plus members of Mean Creek, Sidewalk Driver, and the Sheila Divine) came together for a set of Boston-born classics.

But somewhat less common is the concept of current bands playing covers of their contemporaries. That's the idea behind "Boston Does Boston," a collection of 26 Boston acts each interpreting one another's songs. Proceeds from sales of the double CD — which are available for purchase at www.bostondoesboston.com — will go to the Animal Rescue League of Boston. Over three shows this weekend, fans will be able to hear the results, as 15 of the acts involved will play Friday and Sunday at Brighton Music Hall and Saturday at Great Scott.

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The project, helmed by Jason Dunn, of the Boston scene fixtures the Luxury, was a year in the making, he explained. He got the idea from a similar compilation in his hometown of Burlington, Vt., and kept it in the back of his mind for years, until an accident that had him off his feet last winter inspired him to finally make it a reality. "I broke my ankle this year, and while I was laid up I figured I needed something to do where I could do a lot of planning and not actually have to go anywhere. I thought I'd give it a shot and see how many people were into it."

Fortunately, almost everyone he asked jumped on board. The results are as wide-ranging and varied as the bands themselves. "I wanted it to be bands that are active that I knew would do some quality work, and enough of a variety that we could get some really weird crossovers going on," Dunn explains.

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For the most part, he got his wish, with Township putting a classic-rock filter on Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents garage-pop on "Get Away," singer-songwriter Will Dailey mellowing out the hard-charging rock of Reverse's "Bright," and metal scorchers Black Thai grinding through Freezepop's synthy "Less Talk, More Rokk," to name but a few.

"We loved the Black Thai version," Sean Drinkwater of Freezepop explains. "They did interesting things with the structure but kept elements that tied it to the original in a cool way. It's nice to hear it heavy."

That's the one that sticks out for everybody, Dunn says. "That was their first choice. They wrote to me and said 'Can we cover Freezepop?' and I was like, 'Yes. Yes you can.' That was awesome, as was hearing Sarah Rabdau doing Dead Cats Dead Rats. She has this ethereal voice, it's kind of a very rock version of it, but they're straight-up in your face aggro-punk stuff."

Freezepop.Carla Richmond

For their part, Freezepop took on Parks' "Sweater Weather." "We obviously made the tune more Freezepop-like, but not to the point where it was all 'beep-beep-boop-boop.' I liked the idea of contrasting the kind of Bacharach-by-way-of-Beach-Boys chords and doing something more '80s with it," Drinkwater said.

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"Freezepop's cover is by far my favorite on the entire project," Parks' Brian E. King said. "They understood my original vision and influences yet made it their own and even added parts that I love. I subliminally ripped off the melody of Billy Idol's "Eyes Without a Face," and being the '80s connoisseurs they are, they noticed that and rolled with it."

That chain-of-influence and interpretation is what makes the project interesting. Just as Freezepop channel Parks' classic pop-songwriting style into their own aesthetic, the next track finds Parks applying their own formula to Beatlesesque songwriter Corin Ashley — it's like a constantly unfolding telephone game of inspiration.

Jenny Dee.Steve DePino

For some of the bands the choice of who to cover was a no-brainer. While everyone didn't get their first pick, and some had to end up covering bands they weren't familiar with, both paths led to some surprising results. Reverse was his first choice, Dailey said.

"I fought for it. I jumped in early and hung on. I love Reverse. I knew it would be impossible to do them justice and I hate when I tell myself something is impossible. So something interesting was bound to happen. The original rocks so hard, it always reminded me of something off of Fugazi's 'End Hits' or 'The Argument,' a challenging song to deconstruct," he says. "It's never worth covering a song unless you completely put your own spin on it."

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More information:

http://www.greatscottboston.com http://www.bostondoesboston.com


Luke O'Neil can be reached at lukeoneil47@gmail.com.