For two years, local rock cover band Playlist has honed a slick and riffy style, working Charleston’s party-animal audience with an actual playlist of fist-raising anthems, goofball New Wave favorites, and cheesy guitar-rock hits from the ’80s and ’90s. Three of the four bandmates — guitarist/keyboardist Jason Cooper, bassist Chris McLernon, and drummer John Befumo — played together in the popular cover band Weird Science. This year, they welcomed seasoned guitarist/bassist Donnie Polk (of the Diesel Brothers, RadioTown, HotShotGun) to the lineup.
Conducting a holiday mini-tour of East Cooper, Playlist performs two sets at Rockin’ on the Point at the Charleston Harbor Resort on Fri. July 3 at 6 p.m., before heading across the Intra-Coastal Waterway to the IOP’s Windjammer for a two-night beach bash. On Sat. July 4, they kick up at 10 p.m. On Sun. July 5, they hit the stage at 7 p.m. Both gigs happen after the bikini contests on the deck.
McLernon filled City Paper in on the latest news:
City Paper: It looks and sounds like Playlist’s new lineup has changed since the band took shape in 2007.
Chris McLernon: Lots of changes for the better. We’ve reinvented ourselves into a leaner, meaner cover band these days, laden with veterans of the local and national music scene. Yes, laden. Then, there are the Playlist dancers who adorn the stage whenever the moment hits them.
CP: Is it true that Playlist plays all of my favorite hits from the 1980s, ’90s, and today — even the cheesy, embarrassing stuff?
McLernon: Can you really call it embarrassing if you’ve made millions of dollars off of it? But yeah, we play it all. There’s no chips on our shoulders. We do this for fun to make a little money — and because we like playing music. So, if they want to hear “Who Can It Be Now?” or “Working for the Weekend,” then so be it. We have to draw the line at Culture Club, though.
CP: Describe the on-stage chemistry between the four Playlisters these days. Would the terms “clamorous” or “effervescent” be inappropriate?
McLernon: Effervescent? Isn’t that the name of that hard rock band with the chick that sings lead? On stage, I would say we’re chemical, maybe even comical. We play off of and along with each other well, but we like to laugh and have fun, too. Our crowd enjoys seeing us have a good time because it translates from the stage to the floor. If we’re having a good time, they’re having a good time. Really, why would you pay money to go see a band that didn’t look like they wanted to be there? We’ve played “Jessie’s Girl” too many times to count, but when the audience hears those first few chords, they lose their freakin’ minds. That never gets old.
CP: With Cooper and Polk on guitar, what songs in Playlist’s playlist feature the most rockin’ “double guitar” solos these days?
McLernon: Playlist’s playlist? Say that five times real fast. The only song we feature a double solo on is “Josie” by the Outfield — a song you wouldn’t think would have a double solo, but it does. There’s always the possibility of adding “The Final Countdown,” but that would be difficult for Cooper to do while playing the keys. We let Donnie have most of the spotlight on the likes of “Jump,” “I Want You to Want Me,” and “Shook Me All Night Long.” Of note, there aren’t any ’90s songs that Donnie solos on; that’s because the guitar solo officially died in 1991. Thanks, Cobain.
CP: Is Befumo allowed to sing songs that weren’t released as “singing drummer” songs?
McLernon: If it weren’t for Befumo, Playlist wouldn’t have four Billy Idol songs in the set list. He’s just got to learn to snarl more and smell worse while he’s singing them. Although, we won’t let him sing “Word Up” by Cameo, which, for some reason, he’s been wanting to do forever. We draw the line at Cameo, too.
CP: Has Playlist ever attempted such a three-night tour of the East Cooper area before?
McLernon: No, and Playlist are professionals, so don’t try this at home, all you kids who got Rock Band® for Christmas. We’ve been in training with the Top Flight Tour Service® in order to maintain our Over The Top On Stage Histrionix® for the Fourth. It’s risky what we’re attempting, but not foolhardy. Fear not.
CP: Who in the rock world seems to be ripping off the now-established McLernon/Befumo rhythm section schtick?
McLernon: Well, who hasn’t really? Look at the things Playlist has had to remove from the stage: I can’t breathe fire anymore, John isn’t willing to pursue litigation against those “drummers” who’ve ripped off his hydraulic drum riser finale, and Donnie and Jason can’t come down on the Cherry Picker platforms without raising their blood pressure into fury levels. Playlist always thinks of the band first, so we can’t selfishly think about what John and Chris have suffered through, mimicry-wise. As far as playing? That Sting-and-Stewart combo owes them a lot. Let’s leave it at that.
CP: At the Fourth of July gig, are there any patriotically-themed rock songs that will make it into the set?
McLernon: Anything with a summer theme will make its way in. “Summer Of ’69,” “Blister in the Sun,” “Anyway You Want It” … staying with a golfing theme here … and don’t forget the on-stage fireworks.
CP: Can you and the band play a special City Paper Fourth of July request? A rendition of either “4th of July” by X, “I’m So Bored With the U.S.A.” by the Clash, “In America” by the Charlie Daniels Band, or “Song of the Patriot” by Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins?
McLernon: None of the above unfortunately, but there is talk about adding “Philadelphia Freedom” by Elton John. The sticking point is that John and Donnie are fighting over who gets to be Kiki Dee, and Coop and Chris don’t have the heart to tell them she’s not on that track.
CP: Donnie Polk on lead guitar: more of a shredder, a noodler, or an arpegiator?
McLernon: A shroodliator.