Soapbox: In Fond Tribute (The precarious reality of seeing a good cover band)
Dave Brock, Wild Child
July 3, 2010 –The Whiskey A-Go-Go on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip is packed to the rafters. They still have rafters at the Whiskey, just no go-go girls. They’re gone. The majority of the great rock groups of yesterday are gone, too—like the Jim Morrison-fronted Doors who were signed in this very room nearly half-century ago. But, wait, the music coming from the stage sure sounds like Jim, Robby, Ray and John. Witness the specter known as Wild Child, the veteran Doors tribute band who has been together three times longer than the original group.
“I’m 18 and obsessed with the Doors,” quivers a young, inked L.A. woman. “This is the 39th anniversary of Jim’s death. It’s the next best thing to being there in ‘67. ‘Cause it’s really about the songs, man.”
Dave Brock’s got Morrison’s cadence, quirks and vocals. In fact, close your eyes for a moment and you’ll think it’s the real deal.
A tribute band selling out the Whiskey nightclub is one thing. How about a high-grossing arena tour of Europe? They’re called Musical Box, a Peter Gabriel-era Genesis tribute outfit from Canada that is so popular and revered that Gabe himself loaned the Box a variety of costumes he wore onstage during the archetype’s visionary Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour in the mid-‘70s?
Or what about Benoit David, the lead singer of Close to the Edge—a Canadian Yes tribute band—becoming the actual lead singer of Yes four decades after their formation?
At The Waterfront Concert Theater in Marina Del Rey, Calif., Cubensis performs every Sunday night. Proclaiming themselves an “amazing, evolving re-creation of the Grateful Dead experience,” their sets are Dead-like in length and freeform presentation. To get a glimpse of a Dark Star or a whiff of Sugar Magnolias, the tie-dyed faithful find their way to the Westside and groove like it’s the real thing (ditto for fans of the much praised Dark Star Orchestra whose “Jerry” recently began playing with Phil Lesh and Bob Weir in Furthur). If you thought Garcia’s spirit didn’t hover over yacht clubs and seafood eateries, then think again.
Anyone heard of Nearvana? They nail the grunge standards even though “Kurt” isn’t left handed. Cities across America have their indigenous versions of Poisoned, Fan Halen or Blonde Jovi. Well, maybe not the latter—at least by that exact moniker—since the original New Jersey heroes showed their magnanimous nature by filing a cease and desist against the girls. Guess their cock-rock homage was giving more than love a bad name.
There are cases these days where the cover bands outperform the groups they’re covering. Anyone who saw the Australian Pink Floyd’s remarkable rendition of The Wall was gifted a concert memory so genuinely and hypnotically Floyd that 30 years down the road when they’ll their kids that it was the real Pink Floyd that they saw. Who’s gonna argue? Waters and Gilmour will be rickety old Englishmen who still loathe one another and we’ll still want the music. We will always want the music.
“What used to be a Monday or Tuesday night amusing booking has now moved to prime time Friday and Saturday night headline status over original-only material bands,” says Canyon of Dreams: The Magic and Music of Laurel Canyon author, Harvey Kubernik. “And, remember, every legendary rock group in history started somewhere doing covers.”
Are tribute bands just a response to our current nostalgic culture or are they a new way of combining different sounds from the past and present into a musical symphony of sorts? Iconic music is eternal and perhaps tribute bands compromise the original group’s melodic immorality. Joplin, Morrison, Hendrix and even the sardonic southpaw, Cobain, all perished young—each embodied the fleeting notion of time and the ephemeral musical prowess of the past.
There’s a big crowd at The Waterfront tonight. It’s Friday and that means the finest ‘80s cover band in town, Spazmatics, is burning down the house. Their “Come on Eileen” is downright rapturous, bringing the room to its collective, sing-a-long feet. Everyone is ecstatic because who’s going to book a Dexy’s Midnight Runner comeback tour in 2010? “I’m talking to Wild Child about coming down here to the beach,” offers proprietor Chuck Colby. “I mean, Morrison did spend a lot of time in Venice.”
Beth Hart shares the opening track from her latest album, Bang Bang Boom Boom, live at Relix.
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Duane Trucks is happy to announce his new project, King Lincoln. Watch them perform “Coffee” live and acoustic at Relix’s Online-Video Coordinator’s loft in Williamsburg.
Here’s another song from Crystal Bowersox’s new record All That For This, live at Relix.
WYATT share a song in the famed Relix boiler room.
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Australia’s Alpine recently made their NYC debut at the Relix office with this song from their new album A is for Alpine.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
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