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Run4Cover is Still Going Strong after 24 Years

Oct 24, 2016 11:00AM ● By Jordan Venema

It's Gonna Move You

November 2016
By Jordan Venema

KnownIf you’re reading this article, there’s a pretty good chance you’re from the Visalia area, and if you’re from the Visalia area, you’ve probably heard about Run4Cover, the 10-piece cover band that regularly rocks the Central Valley with a range of hits by artists as diverse as Aretha Franklin and Justin Timberlake. What you might not know is that the band has been jamming for 24 years, and with the same lineup for more than a decade.

“Here’s the thing,” says Mike Wilson, Run4Cover’s guitarist and founder. “I’m almost 64 – I’ll be 64 in a couple weeks. When I was 30, I never thought I’d be playing at this age.” Yet playing is what they do, and with gusto.

“I never thought it would last 24 years,” Wilson concedes. “Most bands can’t stay together for 24 months, even 24 weeks.”

Run4Cover has been fronting the same lineup for 11 years running, and Wilson credits chemistry. “We’re just a really well-oiled machine right now.”

That chemistry is palpable whenever the band takes any stage large enough to fit all their moving parts. The mostly Visalia-local musicians represent three vocalists, a bass, two guitars, drums and a three-piece horn section.

With so many variables between them, they keep their equation simple. “Every song has to dance,” says Wilson. “Basically, we’re a dance band. We measure our success by whether or not people are dancing. That’s our barometer. I mean, I’d love to play the Beatles all day, but they don’t dance.”

The Beatles may not be on Run4Cover’s set list, but they do have a catalogue with more than 340 songs. “We have five lead singers, so we play almost any genre,” says Wilson, excepting heavy metal or rap.

Wilson may not be a fan of most contemporary bands, but Bruno Mars, “he’s the real deal,” says Wilson. He’s also a fan of Justin Timberlake and Maroon 5, and not surprisingly, these bands belong to their playlist.

Though Run4Cover eschews overly processed music, Wilson sometimes finds himself surprised by what actually works – or what doesn’t work. CeeLo Green’s “Forget You” was a surprise. “Oh, this isn’t going to dance,” Wilson thought, “and then it dances great.”

He says with a laugh that he’s made some pretty great mistakes, telling the band it would work, “this will work, this will work.” And then it just doesn’t.

Then there are songs like “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” by Wang Chung. “When I was in my last band we would play that and the place would go nuts,” Wilson says. “So I brought that to Run4Cover, and we played it like four times and the floor would empty. I’m still surprised by that.”

“Then there are those slam dunks that we know will get people dancing, like Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing,’” says Wilson.

The band has opened for James Brown, The Temptations, Doobie Brothers, and Huey Lewis and the News. But none meant so much to Wilson as when they opened for Chicago.

“When I was a teenager and playing in rock bands, Chicago came out in my junior year in high school,” says Wilson. “I heard those horns and thought, ‘What is this?’ It was totally different. I had their posters on my wall, saw them six times in concert, then all of a sudden we’re opening for them. I couldn’t sleep I was so excited.”

Even in an era of DJs and iPads, Run4Cover continually manages to pack a venue, playing across genres and generations. It surprises Wilson that what began as a potential side gig has turned into a “fun science to keep that dance floor full.” Even as his 64th year approaches, “this is the busiest year we’ve had in 24 years.”

Wilson admits they’re older than most rockers (though he points out some notable exceptions, like Sir Paul McCartney), but there’s no talk of quitting. And why should they? “Playing live is so much fun,” says Wilson. “I’m with my friends, I still get a rush. I can’t explain it. I just look forward to every gig and it’s still fun.”

And that, really, is the final say.

“If it stops being fun, then we’re done,” Wilson concludes. “Or if, and God forbid this ever happens, we become a joke. You know, those old guys, they can’t do anything,” he says. But if he ever really wonders, he need only refer to the band’s barometer that measures a good time: the dance floor, where whenever Run4Cover takes the stage, you can guarantee a high-pressure system moves through, and gets people moving. • Find them on Facebook