Spiders from Bars. Fusstop. Jimmy Bluffett. Bob Jovi. Cross-Eyed Mary. Rain.
Swan. Gimme Shelter. The Black Dogz. Floyding Around Lyvyn Skynard
If the names of these bands are familiar to you then more than likely you have been introduced to the wonderful world of tribute bands. For the rest of you consider this piece a short of primer on this phenomenon.
First of a definition: A tribute band is a collection of musicians, who for one reason or another, have decided to dedicate their genius and talents to emulating (sometimes uncannily) particular rock, country, rap, you name it, musicians.
Here is your first bit of homework. All the bands above are members of this club. Can you, without looking them up on the internet, link them with the bands they emulate?
By the way,in case you think the above list is in any way exhaustive, let me say this. Au Contraire, Mon Frere. A casual inspection of the internet turned up literally thousands, from every corner of the globe - Italy appears to produce them with Wild Abandon (which by the way, might just be the name of a tribute band). Just in the past week, my little town of Colorado Springs has hosted no less than three: Queen, the Eagles, and The Beatles. Some bands seem to be cloned more than others. There is a rash of bands running around pretending to be Iron Maiden. Go figure. And if you think only dinosaur bands are cloned, once again: Au Contraire. Lady GAGA has her own tribute band. I'll leave it up to you to research the name of that one.
Before we go another step let me state my position unequivocally. I think these guys are a kick in the butt, big time fun.
Okay it's time to go to a virtual concert: For this excursion, I choose the band ZOSO, a Led Zepplin tribute. I went to see these guys about a month ago at Stargazers Theater over on Pikes Peak Avenue. If you haven't made it to this little venue (a restored movie theater) you owe yourself the treat. Anyway, let me give you a bit of my history before we head off. In my youth I actually went to see Led Zep a few times (I suppose this dates me, but who cares?). Loved them. I was heartbroken when I realized I would never have the chance to see Robert Plant and the rest ever again. I went to see them after the album containing the Immigrant Song. If you're anything like me, you've actually sang to opening bars of Plant's scream to this little gem of Rock and Roll ambrosia. Truth is, I know the whole song, but that's a different slice of my personal mania.
Here we go. We're sitting in the audience waiting for the band to emerge. We're people watchers so we witness trepidation at various levels evidenced in the crowd around us. Naturally, we try to interpret this anxiety.
God, I hope they don't butcher Black Dog.
How can they possibly replicate Bonzo's craziness? After all, the man used to play the drums with his fists sometimes.
Will the lead guitar player have a double neck electric and will he use a bow to play it?
As the lights go down and the band takes the stage we are struck with one initial impression, these guys aren't fooling around. They even look like the real deal, down to the faux Robert Plant's golden curls and pretend Jimmy Page's low strung guitar. Life is good..
What will they open with? And then we hear it. "Aaaah a aaaah aaa. Come to the land of the ice and snow...." Oh my God, the Immigrant Song. Everything is perfect. We are forced to sing along, much to chagrin of the folks around us. Off to our right, a lady in long flowered dress high-tails it down to the open area in front of the stage. In a minute, we see her dancing. Forget the fact that she is obviously someone's grandmother. We're talking the Immigrant Song for God's sake.
As the song progresses, Plant does his signature pouty sound effects and gestures. A breathless sigh. A tortured scream. A bowed head over the microphone as if he is praying. Jimmy Page hunkers over his ax tearing into the lead. Bonzo loses his mind on the drums. John Paul Jones remains characteristically stoic as he provides the driving bass line.
The thing we notice and what was always a signature sound of Led Zepplin is that our faux Robert Plant provides the essential dual voices of this legendary band. Going from a soft whisper, he builds to a piercing scream all within two bars of one another.
As the song ends, Robert (God knows what his real name is) thanks us as if we all just did him a favor. Then immediately the band tears into Whole Lotta Love. This is good stuff.
This structure of this format won't allow a really detailed virtual concert, but let it suffice that tribute bands are mandated to preforming the songs we know. Stairway to Heaven is guaranteed. As is Dazed and Confused.
Now let me say this. Not all tribute bands are this good. Some are barely worthy of the songs they're performing. I've seen a few of these as well. Oh well, life isn't perfect. Truth is, I've even managed to be entertained by these.
Second piece of homework, but this only after you've done the first. Go to Google and type in Tribute Bands. I went to a web site that was very educational. I won't spoil it for you by detailing what I found. If you're like me you'll be amazed.
Well, I got to go. I'm heading over to Stargazers to see Long Run. With any luck, I'll be checking into a certain hotel in the Golden State