By Brent Michael, Rock At Night Tampa Correspondent
A disclaimer, of sorts: I’ve known this band for several years now, seen them perform in venues large and small, I’ve also been to see several, if not all, of their side-projects/related projects, know some of their mothers and all their significant others, and even some exes! When I first met them, they were a three-piece! So if it seems that I’ve gone a bit overboard, well, you’ll see why!
Here’s the thing you have to know about the Tampa Bay area: It’s home to a vibrant music scene, including many international artists who have homes here (or did): Jon Bon Jovi, Melanie, Robin Zander, Jon Oliva, Jim Morrison, Robby Steinhardt, the list goes on and on. I’m not just bragging about it, there’s a point to it, it’s like “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” everyone in the music scene knows somebody who knows somebody who would be the perfect _______ for the band you’re putting together. The stories of Undercover Betty’s origins are in the interview, but let’s just say they involve bands and people known all over the world!
But on to the appearance at the State. I arrived early, intending to do the interview prior to the concert. Murphy, and his Law, had other ideas; by the time some technical issues were resolved, the band was ready to play; the space between their performance and that of TEER was probably the shortest changeover I’ve ever seen at the venue, and plans to do an after-show interview fell apart when some band members had to leave before Dokken finished. So the interview ended up being two days later, sixty miles or so north, and included their original (and continuing?) drummer – more on that later – and after the bar closed, so it was about 1:45 a.m. when things got started – and that explains some other things, you’ll see!
The band started out with Connie Bonds (Bass, Vocals) and Rebecca Field (Guitar, Vocals). With the help of John Zahner of Stormbringer they soon recruited Kana Leimbach, and finally added Carol “Corky” Sarao to complete the lineup in 2014. Recently, Wayne Baldwin has replaced Kana as she has been busy with Gypsy Star, but who knows what the future holds?
Anyway, UCB kicked off the night in high gear. Songs like “Change Your Mind,” “Pain,” “Can’t Be You Lover,” and more – all conveniently available from Apple – as well as through an independent distributor, Star1 Entertainment. to get the crowd charged up for TEER and Dokken. And they were, singing along, jumping and shouting, but most of all rapt with attention to the sound of hard rock/meta coming from the stage. It was my first time hearing them do an all-original set, and it hung together quite well, as you can see from the crowd response (including after the show in the lobby, even when Dokken was playing!)
It is quite a different experience being there as a known friend of the band. I’ve shot at the State before, so the people there know me, but it’s different when the band members are running interference for you and I’m not just another rock journalist – I was also recording a video for the band, and taking photos of them and their friends. No standing in line at the front or getting wanded/patted down by security, I came in through the back, brought a load of gear that I stored in the band’s merch area, and generally had the run of the place without much questioning.
I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of Undercover Betty in the near future!