Let’s Get Cynical About: Tribute Bands

Having worked at York venue The Duchess for a little over a year now, I already feel like I’ve seen enough tribute bands to last a lifetime – and I find it sad, almost depressing even, that these shows are generally better attended than the majority of other gigs than we put on. Are people’s musical horizons are so shrouded in the fog of nostalgia that, instead of watching a new or established artist play their own material, they’d rather watch a bunch of grown men live out their rockstar fantasies? If so, it’s a disheartening fact – but unfortunately, in such trying economic times, tribute acts are bread and butter shows. For example, The Complete Stone Roses -making a living by ruining any appreciation you may have had for the band and their music, but consistently pulling 300+ punters a show. Or UK Guns ‘N’ Roses, who proved quite adequately that G’n’R’s back catalogue consists of chugging, neuron-deficient rock and flaccid ballads, interspersed with the kind of guitar solos that sound like the futile wanking of an impotent man – and even with somewhere between 150 and 200 attendees, it was easily more populous than any of that week’s preceding gigs. And don’t get me started on the prog-rock bands…

For tributes to now-defunct bands, there is at least the justification that people aren’t going to be able to see the actual band play live any more – but to be honest, I’d wager that half the time you’d be better off listening to the CDs. However, tributes to bands that are still currently in existence have no such justification. Who needs a shit Green Day or Foo Fighters tribute? Those bands are going to tour again soon enough, why listen to some chancers murder their songs? You can argue that it’s a cheaper and easier alternative to the real thing, especially in the case of the U2 tribute we had in recently – but if you like the band that much then surely it’s worth forking out for their shows, rather than watching some twat in a cowboy hat and shades prance around pretending to be Bono? I’ll admit that there are rare cases when a tribute band can add a little extra to the source material – for example, Japanese Beatles tribute band The Parrots were entertaining, if only for the fact that they kept mis-pronouncing words. And The Hamsters at least interject their tribute to Hendrix and ZZ Top with interesting facts and anecdotes.

But overall, I find that tribute bands only serve to tarnish my opinion of their source material – which is why I’m somewhat relieved that I’m planning to be out of the country when a Joy Division tribute act hits The Duchess. Sometimes, the best tribute that these bands could pay to their heroes would be to shut the fuck up.

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