There was the time that ’80s pop star Tiffany took the stage with them to sing her iconic hit “I Think We’re Alone Now”, and the night that Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain played. played a series of his band’s greatest songs at a 500-seat club. .
âIt literally looked like there were 20,000 people at the Mercy Lounge,â says Mike Grimes, co-founder of Nashville’s first pop / rock cover band, Guilty Pleasures. “I am not joking.”
But for every surprise cameo and high-profile gig, there have been dozens and dozens of ‘typical’ nights where this team of accomplished Nashville musicians simply played the songs they know and love, along with their fans – and had an unforgettable time.
That spirit has kept them alive for 20 years, and they will celebrate this important milestone with a 20th anniversary show at Grimes’ location, The Basement East, on Saturday.
Since 2001, Guilty Pleasures has been tackling their favorite hits from the 70s, 80s and peak 90s with a double priority: making each song sound eerily close to the original and making sure the performance is fun, above all, for everyone in the room.
Their approach – and immediate success – unwittingly set a pattern for the countless tribute groups and cover nights that are now a constant on the city’s club scene.
And it probably wouldn’t exist without Grimes’ first concert venue, the Slow Bar, which was one of East Nashville’s few Five Points hipster haunts from 2000 to 2003.
âI had to find ways to fill the schedule,â he recalls.
One idea was for Grimes and his musician friends to form a group with female singers to tackle their favorite hits from their youth.
They called it “Girls, Girls, Girls”, and that first show in 2001 drew almost 100 spectators. It might not sound like much now, but within the comfortable confines of Slow Bar – and at the turn of the 21st century East Nashville – it was a big deal.
At the second gig, they also incorporated male singers and changed the name to Guilty Pleasures. They were greeted by an even larger crowd, just a week after the September 11 attacks.
Soon, sold-out Guilty Pleasures shows were the norm at 500- to 1,000-seat clubs like Mercy Lounge and Cannery Ballroom. These days the group is often found at 3rd & Lindsley or Basement East.
They’ve now lasted twice as long as the 1980s, but in 2021 songs like âFreedomâ by George Michael and âTotal Eclipse of the Heartâ by Bonnie Tyler continue to bring down the house. Despite their nickname, the band also enjoys playing these songs.
âGuilty pleasures is just a name. I mean, if you really wanna do “guilty pleasure” songs, we would do (the 1985 Dream Academy hit) “Life In A Morning Town” all night long or whatever. “
This being Nashville, it’s no surprise that several of these musicians got daytime jobs playing for the original artists behind the hits. Grimes notes that Guilty Pleasures concerts are often two months apart, while “the rest of the time they were playing with the Dixie Chicks and Meatloaf, Michael McDonald and Patty Griffin.”
The same goes for their regular guest singers, like Dez Dickerson, who played guitar and sang in Prince’s band, The Revolution.
Guilty Pleasures is celebrating its 20th anniversary this Saturday at Basement East. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $ 20.