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Iowa Arts (ob)Scene: The world’s only Lil Peep cover band

Lil Weep performed at Gabe’s Iowa City on Saturday, Feb. 16. Contributed photo.
Lil Weep performed at Gabe’s Iowa City on Saturday, Feb. 16. Contributed photo.

What is the standard against which we evaluate the humble cover band? Is the cover band, in all of its corniness and imperfection, ultimately striving toward some kind of heavenly essence of the original? Or, is the cover band meant to revel in its status as a crude simulacrum of its predecessor, emphasizing the uniqueness of those performances forever lost in the sands of time? These are the questions that plagued me in the sweaty, heterosexual swamp on the top floor of Gabe’s Iowa City last Saturday, where vapors from no less than ten different Juul knock-offs in the audience banded together to assault my senses with an odor I can only describe as “dog food beer bong.”

The phrase “dog food beer bong” is not something that comes to mind when listening to Lil Peep, a rapper whose discography oozes restrained emotionality and weaves a perennial longing for meaningful human connection alongside the sense of alienation that many of us with depression are all too familiar with. The phrase is, however, perfectly apt for describing the general vibe of a Lil Weep and the Crybabys [sic] show. An opening cover of “Benz Truck,” entirely performed in a sort of pained shouting, nearly sent me into shock. Lil Weep had successfully eradicated any of the agonized yearning in Peep’s music and replaced it with the terrifying aura of the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket.

This concert had the manic energy of a boys-only frat party at the precise moment when Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode” comes on shuffle. Lil Weep, with eyes nearly popping out of his skull at all times, seemed to have a sort of power over the drunken crowd of University of Iowa business majors and GOTHBOICLIQUE aficionados. During a frenzied cover of “Cry Alone,” I was alerted by my friend that a very affectionate couple to our right was spurred into some lip action at the utterance of the lyrics “I wanna burn my old high school into the ground.”

Even between songs, when Lil Weep’s band attempted to maintain the manic energy with Nicki Minaj remixes and a very reliable hype man, a couple of shirtless men in the front row were drunkenly yanking at the chains keeping the speakers suspended in mid-air. Even the instrumentals were bizarrely disordered, with abrupt DJ scratch effects puncturing the flow of emo riffs like the backing track to a Limp Bizkit single. Indeed, Lil Weep and the Crybabys were definitively more Fred Durst than Gus Åhr.

Despite their flaws, Lil Weep and the Crybabys ultimately won me over. In retrospect, inherent to all of the shouting and chaos was a sort of outpouring of emotion that came from a place of identification and respect, a possible continuation of what Lil Weep may have seen as Peep’s unfinished project.

In the midst of the dog food beer bong odor and drunken make-outs, I felt a sort of kinship with the room when the occasional “LONG LIVE PEEP” was chanted. After all I, like the rest of the crowd, paid $12 to party in homage to a rapper I loved dearly and discover how exactly someone could bear the responsibility of being the world’s only Lil Peep cover band. When it comes down to it, there is something beautiful about being able to lose your mind to a wedding-singer-tier cover of “Witchblades” among others who are as enthralled by the sound of the GOTHBOICLIQUE tag as you are. Yes, a Lil Weep show is agony, but it is also ecstasy.

Lil Weep performed at Gabe’s Iowa City on Saturday, Feb. 16. Contributed photo.
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