What I hope to accomplish in this series is to analyze, compartmentalize and paint a clear picture of the phenomenon of the Cover Band as career from an anthropological view point. I am not an anthropologist, or an apologist of any sort for that matter and I guess that's what qualifies me. That and my desire/knowledge of music and its extension of the human spirit - I'm fascinated as much as I'm confused by the idea of a professional cover band - and in complete anarchy of the idea of a Tribute band - one who performs solely as another more established band - hence the term tribute.
Is this just musicians cosplaying? What is it?
Some of these groups are doing more than just performing the music - their dressing up and putting on a real show together and taking it on the road as a professional but questionably legit act. Some are doing it in tandem while the original act is also touring and doing it better, younger and doing big business.
If you check the concert calendars of venues around town, you'll find a night or two dedicated to cover or tribute acts: bands paying homage to specific bands or the eras that birthed them.
The appeal to fans is pretty straightforward: Nostalgia, curiosity & well...fun.
These tributes bring bands that have broken up back together or the spirit of musicians that have passed away back to life. People wanna hear songs that remind them of their youth.
In this segment we take a look at already established acts paying tribute to their heroes either as one off, an entire tour to the very unique hybrid types of the unexpected or the just plain weird or undefinable.
Corey Glover & Eric McFadden & friends do Jimi Hendrix - July 18th 2014 - The Gypsy Lounge - Austin, TX
So Corey Glover ( Living Colour) & Eric McFadden (P-Funk) got together to pay homage to Jimi Hendrix in addition to playing original Living Colour & Eric McFadden material. Joined by a few locals Brad Houser ( Edie Brickell and New Bohemians) & Rachel Fuhrer formerly of Austin powerhouse trio Ume together they tore the house down with a wide mix & unique take on the Hendrix catalog.
A testament to the collective output of LC & Funkadelic as how well it seamlessly fit in with the Hedrix ethos.
Earlier that morning they joined Austin's FRINGE station, 105.3! to beg the question - Are you experienced?
Good times :)
Mac Sabbath - September 27th 2015 - Trees - Dallas, TX
The self-appointed founders of "Drive Thru Metal", the band is primarily a parody of English heavy metal group Black Sabbath, utilizing lyricism and imagery centered on fast food.
Musically, Mac Sabbath performs faithful covers of Black Sabbath's songs with only the lyrics humorously re-written and re-arranged.
For example, the band's repertoire includes such parodies as "Pair-a-Buns" ("Paranoid") & "Frying Pan" ("Iron Man"),
Although all of the band's lyrics focus on the umbrella topic of fast food, Mac Sabbath takes a decidedly satirical and condemnatory perspective on the corporate food industry, addressing areas such as fast food's negative health effects and lack of nutritional value as well as genetically modified food, consumerism and low wage.
I first was exposed to Mac Sabbath by my friend & pro wrestler Sinn Bodhi at a party during the Sundance Film Festival earlier that year.
He was wearing one of their shirts & it was so striking I had to ask him about it.
Visually inspired by characters from McDonaldland, they perform in elaborate costuming, the band's line-up consists of vocalist Ronald Osbourne, guitarist Slayer MacCheeze, bassist Grimalice and drummer the Catburglar, alternately known as "Peter Criss Cut Fries".
So going into this show I STILL had really no idea what to expect & I purposely stayed off You Tube as I wanted to see their stage set for the first time with my own eyes.
It was somehow even stranger & more arresting than I had prepared for - While something like this does (& should) lend itself to a healthy sense of unique humor, it was actually so weird that I almost felt uncomfortable, increasingly so that by the 4th song I could feel myself resisting the urge to leave. Now full disclosure, my girlfriend of 3 years had just stomped on my heart a few days before & I really wasn't into laughing at all but I still think their's a valid argument that suggests that kinda like Neil Hamburger, once your in on the joke, it kinda loses it velocity & also kinda like GWAR, after I've had blood squirted in my eye for the fifth time, I'm kinda over it.
So after about 20 mins I actually started longing for the actual Black Sabbath songs.
At the same time, I'm still so intrigued by this band that I'm planning on seeing them again (this time in a much better mood to be sure) as if anything you MUST respect the unique mythology behind it all, the one of kind concept (no matter how unnecessary) & their work ethic.
All of the members of Mac Sabbath attempt to maintain total anonymity behind their characters, refusing to grant interviews. Instead, the band speaks only through their manager Mike Odd, lead singer of the Los Angeles hard rock band Rosemary's Billygoat, who handles all interviews and continually asserts outlandish claims about Mac Sabbath's origins.
Chicken for the Slaves
Brand of Doom
Lord of the Swirl
Zipper Up the Uniform
Cherries are Fruits
Ellismania XI w/ Tigerbox - October 9th 2015 - Hard Rock Hotel & Casino - Las Vegas, NV
This will require some unpacking - I was in Vegas for entirely different reasons (reuniting my mother with her birth family for the first time, a big deal you'll hear about later as I'm currently in production of a documentary on said subject).
Ok, so I always stay at the Hard Rock when I'm in Vegas & knew my mom would enjoy it.
As we are checking in, I see in the back splash behind concierge a running advert for something called Ellismania using an appropriation of Metallica's instantly recognizable Ride the Lightning motif that naturally caught my attention.
Call me square, but I had no idea (& still really don't) who Jason Ellis was.
Since then I learned that he hosts a namesake show on Sirius XM, he's bit of an everyman, former MMA fighter & lover of mayhem.
I'm friendly with Joanna Angel & the Burning Angel crew & know that they have made several appearances on the show.
It's that heavily tattooed, lover of Jackass stunts, celebration of bad decisions kinda thing.
So what is EllisMania? From what I can tell it’s a series of fights between the likes of celebrities, radio personalities, MMA Fighters and even listeners.
While this might of only mildly interested me & given why I was in Vegas I had much bigger fish to fry but then when I ran into Brant Bjork, drummer for desert legends & MY FAVE BAND EVER Kyuss, & found out he was playing in a makeshift band with Ellis' crew called Tigerbox & they were gonna rock it later that night by the pool, it now had my undivided attention.
I honor my family responsibilities first naturally (& by this time I could really use a break anyway) so I headed back over to the hotel to pick up my tiket at Will Call that Brant was so kind to leave for me.
I also discover that B Real from Cypress Hill is gonna headline this shit later too so added bonus. I grab a drink and head for the stage.
It was kinda exactly what you would expect in a sense - You know how these days most radio station crews have their "own band" and when the station has their yearly bash, that "band" opens the show with covers conducive to the stations's format, however, this is the only gig that the "band" plays all year? That's what this was - Still have no idea how Brant is involved either than he's just a cool guy that's probably is friends with these guys.
It was exactly what it should have been, friends getting together to play their fave songs for fun in a completely non-serious format.
It certainly didn't hurt also that high-profile go-go dancer/adult entertainer tattoos enthusiast Malice McMunn & company were rawking the stage along with them bringing a genuine sense of debauchery & that anything could happen. All the reasons you start playing music in the first place right?
Good times -
Steel Panther - March 16th, 2017 - House of Blues - Dallas, TX
Ok to keep the theme of debauchery & tribute acts going, to those not already initatited, let me introduce you to Steel Panther.
Now, I've written about the Panther of Steel at least twice a year every year this decade (& already once this year) but I'm including them here because they fit the bill of what we are examining, & I just saw them a few weeks ago & have a story to tell.
The most important reason I'm including them is because as far as I know besides Weird Al, they are the only tribute act to transition to being successful making original songs while maintaining their own unique schtick of an exaggerated on-stage personae that parody the stereotypical 1980s "glam metal" lifestyle.
However, these guys after langering for years doing the gimmick on Monday night residencies in Hollywood are straight up legitimate, doing big business, playing huge festivals & their own sold out tours, releasing albums of new original music including the just released Lower The Bar that was even featured in a national Best Buy ad.
The albums are great fun of well written but hopelessly filthy songs that are difficult not to enjoy especially if your a perpetual teenager like me that grew up loving Motley, RATT etc.
They still throw in the occasional cover or two (& recently in Vegas it was back to mostly covers oddly) but the songs are bombastic and designed to be performed & their unhinged wild live shows where parody & reality become blurred as while at it's core, it's taking the piss out of the cartoonish excess of the 80's Glam Metal scene while simultaneously not only endorsing it, but at time completely indulging it.
A staple of a live Panther show is when they bring a group of all-too eager girls on stage to either perpetuate or live the myth of the Sex/Drugs/Rock N Roll ethos.
Ok so here's a funny story, you can see her in the below pic (she's on the far right end....as a late arrival) but at this show I took along an adult performer friend of mine as my "date" - I thought "hey who better to take to see Steel Panther than a porn star?".
She performs under the name Domino & appeared on a recent episode of our weekly TrickyKid Radio Podcast .
When the band called for girls to come onstage she tosses me her phone/smokes/wallet & heads for glory (hole).
She is so smokin hot that naturally singer Michael Starr noticed her in spite of her being the furthest from him and suddenly she had his undivided attention. He brings her to the mic and does the usual what's-your-name-honey routine. When she responded with Domino, Starr announces that he's gonna be "ordering some Domino's tonight!" Classic
To double down on the dysfuntion/debauchery she returns from the stage, the show ends soon after and she actually asks me to help her find their bus. I get her within sight of them, give her a good luck and I don't see her for the rest of the night. Good times :)
It Won't Suck Itself
Party Like Tomorrow Is the End of the World
Let Me Cum In
Turn Out the Lights
Girl From Oklahoma
17 Girls in a Row
Death to All but Metal
Echo in the Canyon w/ Beck, Jacob Dylan, Fiona Apple & more - October 12th 2015 - Orpheum Theater - Los Angeles
Ok so now for something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT hahaha - I had gone to LA for biz after Vegas (see above) when this unique concert Echo in the Canyon arranged on relatively short notice to mark the 50th anniversary of the release of The Byrds’ debut album, Mr. Tambourine Man, the 1965 record that first brought attention to Hollywood’s burgeoning folk-rock scene.
The lineup alone was enough to get me there, not to mention I've always wanted to see a show at the Orpheum Theatre & my then girlfriend of three years LIVES for this kinda stuff and though she wasn't with me on the trip I kinda felt I needed to go in her place.
Jacob Dylan, son to Bob & The Wallflowers leader sounded clear and confident during two sets as a charming and garrulous host onstage, in distinct contrast to his notoriously laconic father.
The two shows were filmed as part of the promotion surrounding the Echo in the Canyon compilation, which was scheduled to be released next year and features remakes of songs by groups who were part of the era’s fabled Laurel Canyon music scene.
Jacob Dylan & Regina Spektor
For a brief but magical spell in the mid-1960s, Los Angeles was the center of the rock & roll universe. The British Invasion had already crested, and the public consciousness hadn’t yet shifted north to San Francisco for the Summer of Love. Garage-rock bands like The Seeds and East L.A.’s The Premiers and Thee Midniters were still thriving, but the Sunset Strip was starting to be taken over by a new breed of folk-influenced musicians, many of whom settled in Laurel Canyon. Although it’s hard to imagine today, rents in the area were low enough to attract rising musicians like Joni Mitchell, The Doors and Frank Zappa, and the hilly neighborhood offered the illusion of being a sylvan escape from urban Hollywood.
Ads for the Orpheum concerts listed well-known figures like Beck, Cat Power, Fiona Apple and Regina Spektor in addition to Dylan, but it might have been more accurate to bill the evening as a night with Jakob Dylan and friends. As Dylan and his backing band performed all the songs, the other singers popped in for a couple cameo appearances apiece.
As it was, there were several interesting collaborations on Monday night, even if it wasn’t always clear if the entire affair was merely an exercise in sentimental, easy nostalgia or represented a sincere attempt to re-create the sense of community that once existed in Laurel Canyon.
The mood shifted again when Fiona Apple strolled out, wearing a sleeveless, floor-length black dress, and dueted dreamily with Dylan on The Beach Boys’ In My Room.Their languidly enchanting version floated in the large theater with an idyllic, almost-tropical coolness. Apple and Dylan followed with another country-flecked Byrds song, It Won’t Be Wrong, which jangled airily and was pumped up by circus-y keyboards.
With its tall walls and high ceiling, the Orpheum can have a muddy, echoing sound, but Cat Power’s tremulously soulful vocals cut through the murk like a beacon on a candied remake of The Association’s “Never My Love.” Dylan took back the reins for an unexpectedly stately version of The Monkees’ “She,” although the tempo dragged a little. It was a bit of a kick to hear Dylan take on The Monkees, a band that was rarely taken seriously in the ’60s, as well as bring things full circle by covering The Byrds — the band that rose to prominence with versions of songs by Dylan’s dad. The enigmatic Power, dressed down in dark pants and a black shirt, returned for a moment to purr The Turtles’ “You Showed Me,” giving the already slinky melody a newly mesmerizing spin.
“It is Monday evening, after all,” Dylan mused before Beck, Castrinos and Spektor joined him for a pleasant if unremarkable encore of the Mamas and the Papas’ “Monday Monday.” Like most of the night’s covers, the remake was sweetly sung and generally faithful to the original version.