By Matt Crowley/The AS Review

The Underground Coffeehouse Concert Series will be bringing a new mix of artists through Bellingham this week.
Local cover band SpaceBand will play at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 4, in the Underground Coffeehouse. Led by vocalist Brian Hillman, SpaceBand covers a variety of bands and artists, focusing mostly on R and B and hip-hop from the ’90s to the present.

“We really wanted to attract a different type of crowd,” said Lora Mednick, assistant coordinator of the Concert Series. “Having a band like SpaceBand is pretty atypical of the Coffeehouse. We wanted to mix things up.”

According to their MySpace, SpaceBand has been playing shows since 2002, constantly adding new covers to their repertoire.  In addition to playing their own shows, they have opened up for major touring acts in the past, including 2 Live Crew.

“They do a lot of local shows, so we thought it would be good to have them here,” Mednick said.

SpaceBand covers songs from Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” to Ice Cube’s “Today Was a Good Day.” On first listen, it’s easy to characterize Hillman in the same vein as Ben Folds when Folds covered Dr. Dre’s “Bitches Ain’t Shit:” the goofy-white-guy meets ’90s hip-hop always-worth-a-chuckle cover. But don’t get me wrong, SpaceBand is serious and once you really start to listen, you can tell. Sure, it’s always funny when a white guy in a jumpsuit gets on stage and sings Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” while the whole crowd sings along. But when the band busts out a funky, guitar-heavy rendition of R. Kelly’s “Ignition,” it’s genuine and really good.

Hillman is joined onstage by drummer Todd Templeton, bassist Aeden Hunter, and guitarists Charlie Elmore and Baron Kim.

Later in the week, at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 6, the Coffeehouse will host Seattle-based band World History, which will be joined by opener Mon Cheri.

Mon Cheri hails from the opposite side of Washington in Spokane. Influenced heavily by acts such as Rufus Wainwright and the Beatles, Mon Cheri is set in the adult-alternative genre represented by bands such as Blind Pilot and Stars. Hopefully that didn’t turn off half of you reading this, because Mon Cheri walks the walk and talks the talk, having received glowing reviews in multiple music publications and an award for Spokane’s Best Band in 2008 from a Spokane-based music Web site. Their most recent album, “Color of Love,” was released last spring.

World History, comprised of Neil Campau and Jamie Menzel, will bring a lighter sound to the Coffeehouse with acoustic, lyric-driven songs about long-forgotten historical figures. They have been covered by several music publications, from Seattle’s the Stranger to Simple Folk Radio, which is based in Brighton, U.K.

“We wanted to bring in some bands from Seattle that people are starting to hear about. We try to have our shows be comprehensive in some way,” Mednick said, adding that both bands sounded excited to play with one another.

Campau provides the majority of the vocals for World History, complemented by delicate guitar picking so isolated that you can feel every twang and squeal of the strings. His voice is instantly recognizable and hard to describe at the same time. At times you may be reminded of Andrew Bird, Charlie Fink of Noah and the Whale (in “The Exile of Dick and Minna”), Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum (in “Mustafa Kemal Ataturk”) and Jens Lekman (in “Maria Francesca [in mono]”). That’s not to say that Campau or World History as a whole aren’t unique. They are quite good and Campau’s voice is incredibly likeable and comforting while at the same time powerful, almost as if it is ready to burst open at any moment. Menzel provides a well-orchestrated backing to the songs, while also lending her voice in a few of them.

World History is currently looking for a label to release their recently completed album and is planning a six-month tour for late 2010.

As always, the shows are free and open to the public.