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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Fold, Spindle, and Mutilate Everything

Being in a cover band is tough.

Wait a minute, I’m not sure they call them cover bands anymore. Fine people are still out there playing other people’s music for fine audiences, I’m sure of that. My own children do that. But the industry has shifted quite a bit to semi-impersonations. Tribute bands are thick on the ground at the state fairs and so forth where my kids have performed. They get paid more than cover bands, and hold the top slots. The last time my kids played at the Fryeburg Fair, the headline act at night, the big show, was a Billy Joel tribute band. I think Elvis impersonators began this trend, but it’s metastasized all over the musical map now.

I’m not sure I’d cross the street to hear Billy Joel, never mind a Billy Joel tribute band. But regler folks want to hear familiar, popular songs performed just like the originals, and tribute bands fit the bill. It’s like the menu at McDonald’s. It never disappoints the customer. It’s a disappointing substitute for food, don’t get me wrong, but the customer knows exactly what they’re going to get, and how much it’s going to cost, and how long it’s going to take to get it served, before they even pull into the parking lot. McDonald’s is a 50’s drive-in tribute restaurant, I guess.

Man, I like bands like the aptly named Cleverlys. They fold, spindle, and mutilate songs, and make them fresh and funny and interesting. I’d have said interesting again, but I’m not sure they were all that interesting in the first place. Just popular. Anyway, performers have to give the audience a compelling reason to look at them. You can manage it by being great musicians, or being lively, or being good-looking, or being funny. Luckily for the Cleverlys, three out of four of those things is more than enough.

2 Responses

  1. A very good friend spent his career traveling the world playing with some of the biggest acts in music. After several years touring with a former member of a mega band, he left, and said what a grind it was to play in a “tribute band,” with the same setlist, played the same way it was recorded, every night.

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