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If you created a list of things St. Joseph lacks, cover bands would not touch the top 1,000. Despite this, two tribute bands have overcome their critics and cliches to pave a new way for local bands in St. Joseph.

In the past, Civic Arena concerts were saved for big national acts. Performers like Kiss and Robert Plant and singers like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson played there. For the first time, it will be nothing but local bands headlining. May 17. How it got to this point is almost a complete accident.

The history of Blue Oyster Culture Club has been well documented in past St. Joe Live articles.

In short, the group, consisting of various local band members, had been playing different theme concerts around town in 2006, such as metal and hard rock cover shows.

Deciding to go for an ’80s movie theme on Halloween 2006, the response from the crowd blew their minds.

“The theme quit changing after that,” vocalist and guitarist Todd Cooper says.

Since then, the band has become a staple in St. Joseph, parceling out their shows at random, with a guaranteed double bill with Dolewite every Thanksgiving at The American Legion.

When BOCC puts on a show, people don’t trickle in. They flock to hear the band’s interpretations of songs like Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” a ha’s “Take On Me,” Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” and many more.

To those who attended BOCC’s show with Dolewite in November 2012, it was apparent they were in need of a bigger venue. Packing more than a thousand people into the American Legion, the venue was crowded, hot and smoky, and the sound was louder than a jet engine in a wind tunnel.

Being asked to play Civic Arena, Cooper says he was blown away.

“My mother took me to see Kiss when I was 10. I remember that night looking at my mom, saying ‘I want to play music in a building like this,'” he says.

Touring the building, Cooper says many people were wondering about the particulars the sound, the lights, the set. He only cared about one thing.

“(The Civic Arena rep) said ‘Do you guys have any other questions?’ and I said ‘Yeah.’ And I kind of stomped on the stage and said ‘How old is this?’ and I think she was worried that I thought it was rickety and I said ‘No, no, no. I just want to know who’s been on it,'” he says, laughing.

To note, the stage is the same one many legends have performed on since the arena opened in 1980.

“Instantly, I just cheesed all over the place. Black Sabbath has played there and Kiss and Waylon Jennings and all these awesome people. That’s kind of my perspective on it,” he says.

Joining BOCC are their touring, rapping brothers in music, Dolewite.

Both began on the same night, with just about the same expectations of failure, or, at the very most, a bland response.

The former lead singer of the hip hop/funk group Planet B, which broke up in 1999, Mike “Sumo” Bransfield heard rumblings of people wanting them to reunite.

Managing The Bone at the time, now known as Kelly’s Pub, he wanted to give the people what they wanted, with a new angle.

“I wanted to do a Halloween show and I thought ‘Hey, why don’t we try this. Get this together, dress like (idiots) and see what happens,'” he says.

Being a club DJ for about five years, Bransfield says they pulled out all of the ’90s hip hop songs that were jackhammered into his brain from their constant rotation and performed them with an unseen amount of energy. It was reciprocated by the crowd.

The story would end there if all they consisted of were a goofy MC and someone to hit play on the instrumentals. But they had a killer group of musicians to back up the sound.

Now, Dolewite tours Kansas City and beyond about 40 weekends out of the year. An employee at Hertz Rental Car on the weekdays, Bransfield becomes “Sumo,” the dookie rope chain wearing, energetic backbone of Dolewite, leading the charge on songs like Jay Z’s “Can I Get A.,” Run DMC’s “It’s Tricky” and House of Pain’s “Jump Around.”

Joining lead MC Mike “MC Vocals” Flanagan, guitarist and keyboard player Tommy “T Spoon” Burnett, female vocalist Melissa “Mo Dolla” Burnett, “DJ Element” Warren Vandever and bassist Adrian “AJ Footwork” Miller, Bransfield and the band are Adidas wearing, motor mouthed balls of energy.

“The fact that we’re typical white guys, you know, it’s fun. It’s silly, it’s comic, but it’s musically impressive enough that you’ve got to take it seriously,” Bransfield says.

Looking back, Bransfield says people didn’t always feel that way, especially outside of St. Joseph.

“At first, going to Kansas City and telling people ‘I’m from an all white rap group from St. Joe, we’d like to play your joint.’ They didn’t take too kindly to that at first,” he says, laughing.

With an impressive and flashy lighting rig, road tested and fine tuned cover songs and mashups, as well as thousands of fans, Dolewite doesn’t see Kansas City venue owners scoffing anymore.
adidas white superstar Dolewite to rock Civic Arena