Normally, the goal of the tribute band is to provide audiences with a reasonable facsimile of the real thing when the original isn’t available.
Take, for example, Over the Garden Wall, which strives to reproduce early-’70s Genesis— a.k.a. the Peter Gabriel era — with absolute precision. Ontario’s Practically Hip has provided a more-than-serviceable presentation of The Tragically Hip since 1997. The whole purpose of the Beatlemania and Rain productions were to re-imagine The Beatles as if they had continued to play live after 1966. And let’s not even start with Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson imitators.
The array of tribute acts is nothing short of a staggering, panoply of music with something for everyone. Morrissey doppelgängers (both in tribute acts The Smyths and the all-Spanish Mexrrissey), ABBA clones (including the seriously great-named Björn Again), Daft Punk doubles, (EDM tributes are very big right now; witness Livemau5 and Calvin Harrison), a Japanese Radiohead (On a Saturday) — the list goes on. Some of them are so good that it’s hard to tell them from the real thing, which is exactly what audiences want.
But then there are the acts that want to add a twist to their tributes.
AC/DShe features five women belting out AC/DC songs. If they haven’t already, they should tour with The Iron Maidens, who bill themselves as the “world’s only Iron Maiden tribute band.” Maybe Joanne Joanne, the all-female Duran Duran tribute, could tag along. Or maybe New York’s Lez Zeppelin (the all-female Zeppelin tribute) could join the bill. Here they are on CBS Sunday Morning.
Cool, right? But once we head into this direction, the tribute band universe soon starts to get very strange. VERY strange.
Take Newcastle, England’s Elvana, for example. They’re a Nirvana tribute band with an Elvis impersonator as a lead singer. We can discuss Rondellus, an Estonian outfit who recorded medieval plainsong versions of Black Sabbath. In Latin, of course. And who wouldn’t want to see Tragedy, a Bee Gees cover band that plays all the songs in the style of metal?
And we’ve only just begun.
Yep, an all-gay tribute to The Thunder from Down Under. Instead of a schoolboy uniform, GayC/DC guitarist Karl Rumpf wears a schoolgirl’s skirt. On any given night, the Los Angeles-based band might perform songs like Whole Lotta José and Dirty Dudes Done Dirt Cheap. They’ve been at it since the early 2000s.
2. Koi Division
What kind of mind comes up with a fish-themed tribute to Joy Division? Give it up for Koi Division singer Howard Hallis (professional name: Ian Clownfish) who fronts a group that wears fish masks in performance. To illustrate how they spin things, they perform Love Will Tear Us Apart as Lures Will Catch Us a Carp. Here’s what they do with Transmission.
3. Mac Sabbath
Prepare yourself for this: a Black Sabbath cover band in which all the members dress up as McDonald’s characters. Consisting of singer Ronald Osbourne, guitarist Slayer McCheeze, bass player Grimilice, and drummer The Cat Burglar, Mac Sabbath runs roughshod over the Sabbath catalogue, converting Supernaut to Supersize and Paranoid to Pair-a-Buns. They get a strange number of big gigs, including England’s Download Festival and Outside Lands in San Francisco.
4. Okilly Dokilly
A bunch of guys from Phoenix felt the world needed a Ned-Flanders-themed metal band. Wait, sorry. They’re the world’s only NEDAL band. Featuring Head Ned out front and backed up by Bled Ned, Stead Ned, Red Ned, and Thread Ned. Since stupid Flanders would never actually be in a metal band, Okilly Dokilly pays tribute to Homer Simpson’s neighbour by quoting Flanders in the lyrics to their original songs. If that sounds appealing, they have a four-track EP entitled Howdilly Doodilly.
Again, not a typical tribute band because they do create their own music. Everything Stovokor does serves the High Command on Qo’noS, the Klingon homeworld. Of course, it goes without saying that their name is taken from Sto-vo-kor, the Klingon name for the afterlife. And naturally, everything they do is sung in its native Klingon.
6. The Ramoms
The most adorable group on this list has to be The Ramoms, a group from the Philadelphia area that plays nothing but Ramones covers. With last month’s debut gig behind them, it’s only a matter of time before their goodness spreads to the rest of North America. It’s probably a little weird seeing them perform I Wanna Be Sedated, but I bet you they do a mean Beat on the Brat.
A little people’s KISS tribute band. MiniKiss has toured the planet and have a giant cult following. Don’t confuse them with their arch-rivals, Tiny Kiss. You can tell the difference immediately because they have three little people fronted by a 300-pound female singer.
Alan Cross is a broadcaster with 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.