Tribute Bands: Love 'em, hate 'em, or otherwise?

Nothing beats seeing an amazing band. What do you do if they don't tour your area? Well, for many, it's checking out a tribute.

While it can't beat the real thing, or in some cases it does (deceased, etc.), a tribute can be a fun experience all in its own. Many times, these bands get extremely creative with stage props, song selection, audience participation or even making fun of how dorky they feel acting like someone else.

The first tributes I remember seeing were Elvis impersonators. Who doesn't love seeing a pretend Elvis shaking his hips and singing "Ain't nothin' but a hound dog"??? Ok, so many of us. But, for a true Elvis fan, that's one of the greatest things you can imagine, or one of the worst, or somewhere in between. It all depends on a few factors.


  1. How well did they respect the memories you have of the artist / band? A great tribute not only brings back memories, but enhances / creates new ones.
  2. How well did they perform the songs? They should sound pretty close to the original and not venture into that "unrecognizable" territory.
  3. How well did they perform like said band. Sure, everyone will have their own take on this, but there should be something saying "We're performing as if we are ____" and not just a bunch of guys playing a set or two of covers all from one band.
  4. Are they having fun? Nobody wants to watch a bunch of people on stage that look miserable, so having fun as the band they're imitating is a must.


As you can tell, there are a lot of reasons to love / hate tributes. So what do the bands get out of performing as someone else?

  1. Easy access to a fan base. If you tell people you're a tribute for ____, fans for that band are immediately interested. Heck, even people who aren't necessarily fans can become interested if they have some connection to that band.
  2. Decent pay. That's right, I brought up money. Tributes put a lot of time and effort into becoming the band they want to emulate, and the result should be a monetary reward. If that's not the case, they're doing it wrong.
  3. Ego trips. If you've seen Total Recall (the original, as the tribute to that movie wasn't nearly as good), then you may remember when they said Arnold's character was going on an ego trip - a vacation from himself. Performing as someone else is very similar.
  4. Ability to do several. Unless you're a wildly successful tribute that's touring (Mini Kiss comes to mind), you're probably going to be geographically limited and realistically date limited. If there's an AC/DC tribute performing every weekend, then it becomes stale in a hurry and the fan base runs out. Scarcity is a secret ingredient here, and doing several tributes with your band mates can fill in those performance gaps.
So, why am I talking about tributes so much? If you guessed I'm looking at one, you're right. I am looking at a Maiden tribute right now, with the potential for me to be playing lead guitar. Guess I better get fitted for my Eddie mask. This could either be great, or make you Run For The Hills.

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