Friday, 1 May 2009

Covered in Glory: A Tribute to Tributes

So you've accepted the painful truth. You want to form a band but haven't got the talent or drive to write your own material. It's ok, I respect your honesty. But what next? The answer, quite simply is...form a tribute act.

That's right, covers bands are the last remaining hope of the wannabe rock star and a tried and tested route to the stage and shining lights back room of a pub. So, to help you on your journey towards mimicking your idols in a not-at-all fetishistic kind of way, here is some expert* advice:

You've accepted the inevitable, now you need a new goal. The first step is to pick the band you want to tributalise. But this is not as easy as it sounds. Choosing a popular band, like The Beatles say, may bring in scores of punters, but on the flip side, may also leave you open to the most extreme prejudice, abuse and possibly violence seen outside the penal system. Pick an obscure personal favourite and, well, who knows what could happen. 

The safest option is to decide based on your probability of success. If you want to be Led Zeppelin, but can't master the first chord sequence in Wonderwall, then think again. If you want to be the Ramones but have the voice of Kathrine Jenkins, again, try something else. If, however, you can play a few Smiths tunes and have a yodeling mate with a get the idea.

The Name
Key to any tribute band's success is the name. If walk into a venue and a tribute band with a hilarious name is playing, you will go to see them, it's practically the law. It is also your primary marketing tool. Somehow, if the name is good people automatically assume that the band will also, by extrapolation, be good. "What creative and insightful minds they must have!" they say in awe.

So, think hard. Past favourites have been AC/DShe, Bjorn Again, Fred Zeppelin, The Clone Roses, etc etc. But you can do better than that.  My personal fave is the MeatLoaf tribute called MaltLoaf. Get this right, and you're half way to success.

The Look
Once you have a name, you need the look. This can go one of two ways. Surprisingly well, or really, really shit. On past form, expect the latter, but for best results aim for the former. Have they got an idiosyncratic hat? Are they famous for a certain outfit? Do they have characteristic movements or a unique bodily feature? Whatever ever it is, copy it as best you can. And this goes for all band members (if you have any). Although any Def Leppard tribute acts, may draw a line at amputating their drummer. 

The Sound
This is probably the least important aspect of being a tribute act, but still you've come this far, why  not give it a go. Step one is the singer. Without this you are merely a live karaoke machine without lyrical prompts. I suggest singing in the shower every day (and night for you clean types), because then you can blame the awful monotone warbling on the distortion caused by the water and steamy air. 

Once the vocals are cracked, get your band together and practise. The key word in that sentence is  'together'. It's no use learning all your parts separately and rocking up to the gig to play. You will undoubtedly sound like discordant avant-garde  jazz, despite trying to emulate The Beach Boys. 

So there you have it, you're a tribute band. Now you can sit back, relax and think about why on earth you thought it was a good idea in the first place. Enjoy your meagre earnings, disinterested audiences and sweaty dives, you are well and truly a rock star.

*A lie

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