BY CHRISTOPHER TREACY
Plenty of adolescents have been inspired to pursue the guitar because of Pete Townhsend. But only a few professional guitarists actually end up playing Townshend’s role in a Who cover band, and even fewer are good at it.
Enter Mark Cherone.
As a member of Hurtsmile with his brother, Extreme’s Gary Cherone, he gets to satisfy his ongoing itch to play original material, which has remained his primary musical ambition since attending Berklee College of Music in the mid-80s. This leaves him wide open to enjoy the duo’s other project, SlipKid. Dubbed “A Celebration of The Who,” the brothers Cherone get to channel their heroes with an invigorating showcase of tunes that highlights The Who’s undeniable genius, power, and passion.
Slowly emerging from the pandemic, SlipKid is playing at The Vault Music Hall in New Bedford, MA, on Friday, December 3. Purchase tickets HERE. Johnny Barnes and the Nightcrawlers open the show.
Mark Cherone recently took the time to speak with Limelight Magazine about how this project came to be and what it means to him and his brother.
LM: Do you remember the first time you heard The Who?
MC: I do. I remember. You know, since childhood I’ve grown to love many artists like all of us do, but The Who? The Who made me want to play guitar and be in a band. I saw their movie, The Kids Are Alright, in the theater in the late 70s, I was 10 or 11. A friend of my brother took me. And there it was on the big screen! I just remember seeing Pete Townsend slide across the stage on his knees during “Won’t Get Fooled Again” at the end of the movie, and I just thought he was the coolest person on the planet. I’ve loved him ever since, his whole career, I love his solo albums. I’m just crazy for him, still, and I love The Who. So SlipKid is really a labor of love. I’ve never been in a cover band, only original bands, which, looking back, seems a little odd. I kind of wish I had played in cover bands… maybe it could’ve helped my guitar playing.
LM: So, what were you doing while your brother was having success with Nuno Bettencourt in Extreme?
MC: I was also in a band. Actually, I was in a couple of bands before Gary and I started Hurtsmile with Joe Pessia around 2007. In the time during Extreme’s huge success, I was in a band called Flesh. And Nuno helped us out, helped get our album out. Extreme took us on tour, which was a lot of fun. Then, in the late 90s, I was in a band called Super Zero, which was another great band and fun time. We got two albums out on our own. A Japanese company put out some of our music, so we went over to Japan. And after that, I did another band where I was singing. Since then, I started splitting time between SlipKid and Hurtsmile, since they started around the same time.
LM: How did SlipKid come about?
MC: My whole career, I just dove into the original music thing. Looking back, I don’t know if that was wise, but it’s what I did. Many years ago now, Gary and I talked about doing some kind of Who thing and it just seemed like a cool idea. We talked about doing Tommy, which SlipKid has performed. It kept coming up when we’d see each other. At one point he called and said “Hey, I’ve got a drummer here… come down and let’s run through a couple of songs.” And it just snowballed right away. The very next week, he had a bass player. And the drummer then tells us, “I know a keyboardist that knows all the Who tunes,” and we were like “Get him over here.” So it just came together, and pretty quickly at that. When we’ve performed Tommy… let’s just say it’s a pretty big undertaking. Honestly, I’m not even sure how we pulled it off, but we did the entire thing. The audience seemed to love it and we had so much fun doing it. I really love being in this band.
LM: So, it looks like SlipKid was active for a while and then took a hiatus?
MC: Sort of, yes. This is the second coming of SlipKid. We got started a while ago—maybe 2006 or 2007? I honestly don’t remember, but it was around the same time Hurtsmile started. And we played out all around Boston and the surrounding area. Gary would leave and do Extreme tours and other projects, so we worked around that for about eight years. But then, at a certain point, we took a good ol’ break and we were kind of out of commission for a handful of years. Sometime in 2019, we said let’s try to get this set back up and running and do some shows. We were able to do two shows in January of 2020, and then the pandemic hit, so we ended up taking another year off.
LM: Since this is your first cover band, it must feel completely different to step into somebody else’s catalog. Is it almost a relief? Or, is it more daunting? Maybe a little bit of both?
MC: It’s been interesting and wild. These are songs that we’ve been singing along to, on the radio, in the car, for decades. And then you go to learn the chords and discover surprises like really weird chord changes, and you have to wonder, like, ‘why would he go from here to here??’ But, you have to learn it. I ended up developing an even greater appreciation for Pete’s writing when I had to figure out the chords and pay attention to the arrangements in a new way. A lot of the stuff on the radio is very square—you know, eight measures for this, eight measures for that, eight measures for the other. Pete does these weird nine-measure, ten-measure solo sections, just really odd. We asked each other, ‘should we straighten this out and make it square?’ But we decided to perform the songs as they were written, which has made it more challenging, but it’s helped us with Hurtsmile because we will take more chances with progressive arrangements thanks to learning this material.
LM: How did you go about creating a setlist? I imagine it’s a tough call whether to stick with crowd-pleasers or indulge in deeper cuts that might be more satisfying to you, but maybe not for the audience.
MC: I think we’re such Who fans that we have to kind of ask ourselves, “I love the song, but does everyone else love this song?” except for the most obvious ones. And we do have to stick close to the vest on a majority of the set, so we don’t lose the audience. But we throw in as many deep cuts as we can without being self-indulgent. We decided on a mostly chronological approach. There are a few things out of order, but for the most part, it’s kept chronological, so it shows the band’s musical evolution.
LM: The song “Slip Kid” was originally written as a vague warning about the music business, amongst other things. Was that the context in which you chose the band name?
MC: No, not really. It was an aesthetic choice. It’s the sound of it, the punchiness of it. I don’t think we brought in the lyrical content of that particular song, but we’re aware of the band’s rebellious edge. We don’t even call it a tribute band, we refer to it as ‘A Celebration of The Who.’ We go up there and we try to channel the visceral piss and vinegar of The Who without smashing our instruments, you know? More than imitating or paying tribute, we’re celebrating this incredible catalog of music.
The Vault is located at 791 Purchase Street in New Bedford, MA. The venue is set within a former bank building featuring original vault doors and a truly historic feel. Patrons have raved about the superior acoustics and intimate setting.
Please note that one MUST BE 21 or OLDER with Valid ID for Entry.