What's Your Approach to Playing in a Tribute Band?

Doctorstewie

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Greetings folks, I just got a gig with a really popular tribute band and am considering my approach - musically and gear/presentation wise, and wondered what yours would be.
After discussion with the band, their main aim is for the audience ( who can't get to see the real thing) to be able to close their eyes and imagine they are seeing "their" band: this, I think is a great philosophy: stylistically it needs to be sonically right. As far as presentation goes though they just kind of do what the originals do: turn up in suitable street clothes. What do you fine people do as far as playing and presenting the music and yourselves to a bunch of folks who have come to see you play their favourite band's stuff?
( Please note, I am not looking for a discussion on whether TBs are a good or artistic idea, thanks :) )
 

notINtheband

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Greetings folks, I just got a gig with a really popular tribute band and am considering my approach - musically and gear/presentation wise, and wondered what yours would be.
After discussion with the band, their main aim is for the audience ( who can't get to see the real thing) to be able to close their eyes and imagine they are seeing "their" band: this, I think is a great philosophy: stylistically it needs to be sonically right. As far as presentation goes though they just kind of do what the originals do: turn up in suitable street clothes. What do you fine people do as far as playing and presenting the music and yourselves to a bunch of folks who have come to see you play their favourite band's stuff?
( Please not, I am not looking for a discussion on whether TBs are a good or artistic idea, thanks :) )
I once seen a clip of a Police tribute band that really impressed.
They each really pulled off not only their parts, but the look, the dress, the equipment, the moves, it was the total package.
Now I would have been impressed with just the music being so spot on, but they went the extra mile and I’ve never forgotten them, while I have other very good tribute bands.
If you can make any tweaks to dial in the performance, the music, the gear, I say do it. It will only add to the experience. After all, the audience is hoping for a realistic look, sound and experience. Do all you can. It will be appreciated.
 

Tornado

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I've never been in a tribute band, but my opinion is that getting the look right is important... IF... You can actually pull it off. Otherwise, it's just bad, and you're better off not. I've seen seriously overweight middle aged guys trying to do hair band tributes, and it's just pathetic when your gut is spilling over your spandex or leather pants. The thing is, the bands people make tributes for are made up of older people covering a band that made it big when they were young. Old faces and old bodies have a really good chance of not pulling it off.
 

dcrigger

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I would think my approach would vary depending on the band being tribute-ed. To me - a Devo tribute would be very much about specific parts, while a Police tribute, while still requiring copping a lot of specifics, would still more about "playing like Stewart" than playing this or that specific part that he played.

For me, that would fit into the "close your eyes and imagine you're seeing/hearing the original band" - some bands, I would expect to hear specific parts, while others... specific musical personalities.
 

equipmentdork

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I played a maple Gretsch kit when I played with a Stones tribute(with a UFIP Tiger China), but apart from that, I've played whatever I've wanted and no one has ever complained through my tenure with Beatles and Bowie projects.

In my Beatles band, we are positively OCD with everything being the right key(never detuned) and tempo and vocal arrangement. We don't dress like them. We concentrate on getting as close as we can sonically. No one has asked where the Ringo kit is, and we've been going since 2006 when I joined.

For the Bowie band, I play a few different setups, but always bring my Paiste 2000 Sound Edge hats; they're the closest to what sounds like 602s on a few of the records, a PST Swiss Thin Crash, and my two Sabian crashes, as the bells are awesome.

With any cover material, I get as close as possible, without going insane, to all the signature patterns and fills.

Dan
 

CaptainCrunch

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I've seen a few Beatles tributes that did the whole "moptops and suits" thing, which is fine. I think a Jimi tribute with a white dude doing the schtick wearing a marching band jacket or a Doors act featuring a shirtless guy in leather pants shimmying around could get pretty cringey.

There's a meaningful distinction between "Man, this is a really good tribute act" and "This is somebody's role-play kink and they dress like this at home", and I think we've all seen enough to spot the difference. Unless the getup is very much a part of the act (Devo, Kraftwerk, GG Allin (also please nobody should do a GG Allin tribute band)), I think era-appropriate is a good, safe bet.
 

Tornado

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I've seen a few Beatles tributes that did the whole "moptops and suits" thing, which is fine. I think a Jimi tribute with a white dude doing the schtick wearing a marching band jacket or a Doors act featuring a shirtless guy in leather pants shimmying around could get pretty cringey.

There's a meaningful distinction between "Man, this is a really good tribute act" and "This is somebody's role-play kink and they dress like this at home", and I think we've all seen enough to spot the difference. Unless the getup is very much a part of the act (Devo, Kraftwerk, GG Allin (also please nobody should do a GG Allin tribute band)), I think era-appropriate is a good, safe bet.
I laughed at the GG Allin tribute band. I'm totally doing that if I want to burn every bridge and become a hermit...which I have to admit is a secret fantasy of mine!
 

notINtheband

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You gotta think, playing in a tribute band takes guts. Only those that are really passionate about the band they are paying tribute to would take it on. It takes a lot of dedication to submit oneself to the inevitable scrutiny of equally passionate fans, many of whom are looking for a reason to find faults or inconsistencies in their presentations. I applaud the drive and courage of anyone who pours that much time and energy into it and then walks on stage to be subjected to such scrutiny.
 

DanRH

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I play in a Tom Petty trib band and we have a great following. We DO NOT do the dress up thing which personally I am grateful for. Not a fan of the dress up thing at all... I'd much rather see the Fab Faux play than a Beatles trib band that does the dress up thing. We do our best to get things right musically but I have to be honest, our lead guitarist doesn't play slide which I have a real problem with. I'd say 40% of Petty's stuff has slide. I say, hunker down and learn to play slide. Not an easy thing but it can be done if you put the time in. But alas, it's not my band so I have no say in the thing. Damnit!
 

Heartbeat

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I've played in tribute bands for more than 10 years. My philosophy is, if you're going to do it, then do it right. The key to a successful tribute band is in the details. Really study your parts (this applies to everyone in the band). I first learn my parts note-for-note, usually to the studio versions, since those are typically where the hits came from. If there are songs that fade out, learn how they performed their live endings. If there's a popular live version of a song, maybe play it instead. My Heart tribute played the live version of Little Queen, complete with gong intro. It was a lot of fun.

Next, I get the sound right. If I'm paying tribute to a specific drummer who played on the hits, then I get the gear he used (or darn near close). If I own or can get my hands on a kit in the same color, even better. If the drummer was associated with a brand, then seeing the same brand logos on stage is part of the look. I bought a set of 70s black Ludwigs for my Bad Co tribute, and I already had the Paiste 2002s. To me, seeing Simon's black kit on stage is part of the Bad Co. experience.

As far as dress goes, if there are key members, then they dress fairly close to the original members (our Paul Rodgers dresses like Paul). The rest dress similarly. Nobody has ever worn a wig or otherwise gone overboard, thank goodness.

I'm obviously not a dude and the drummers I've paid tribute to are all dudes. Nobody has ever cared about that, and it's actually pretty unique. I genuinely LOVE those drummers' work (they were my inspiration growing up) and consider it an HONOR to play their parts. That's why I love playing in tribute bands, and that's the attitude all the band members should have (lots of egos in tribute bands, so be careful). Most of all, have FUN.
 

cruddola

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Be truthful to the music. The music is the boss. And pray an ASCAP, BMI or copyright infringement guy ain't in the audience! I've seen and heard of a few bands making money without a clearance on other people's music end up in court. Make sure the band's management gets that clearance. Or you could find yourself with an equal slice of a hefty fine even if you aren't the leader. You played, you got payed and the courts will hold you liable too. Great local Zeppelin tribute band here got shutdown and fined for not having the clearance to earn money from playing Zeppelin music. The fines were divided equally to all four band members. 16 grand apiece! OUCH!
 
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bpaluzzi

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Be truthful to the music. The music is the boss. And pray an ASCAP, BMI or copyright infringement guy ain't in the audience! I've seen and heard of a few bands making money without a clearance on other people's music end up in court. Make sure the band's management gets that clearance. Or you could find yourself with an equal slice of a hefty fine even if you aren't the leader. You played, you got payed and the courts will hold you liable too. Great local Zeppelin tribute band here got shutdown and fined for not having the clearance to earn money from playing Zeppelin music. The fines were divided equally to all four band members. 16 grand apiece! OUCH!
Generally the venue is responsible for paying for ASCAP / BMI, not the band. Were they putting on shows at places that aren't traditionally venues? Or selling recordings?
 

Deafmoon

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If you’ve ever seen The Machine, Pink Floyd Tribute Band, my friends in there look nothing like Floyd members and neither have the stage show, clothes or instruments that Floyd members had, yet they cop every note with the correct feel to the tee. Of course they have been at it since 1987. Now if you look at The Musical Box, Genesis Tribute Band out of Canada, they dress, look and stage show as Genesis did prior to Gabriel leaving. They too are spot on note for note. So all this said, there is no right of wrong answer. Be true to the band you are paying tribute to as best as you can with your total band as one.
 

Doctorstewie

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Thanks for the replies - some really good points. I was already going from the "learn everything note for note" position and go from there ( I had to for the audition ) and that's how the rest of the band approach the tunes. what got me thinking was that about ten years ago I was very briefly in an SRV Tribute act and the leader went the whole hog: same guitar, high action, 13 g strings, amps same hat, scarves, shirts, and as someone pointed out it felt like it was verging on roleplay kink. ( As far as acts like The Musical Box go, I think that their thing was to get as close to the show as possible, so the costume and show thing makes sense )
This band seem very much not like that but I want a happy medium where the audience can see that we respect and love the band who's music we are playing. ( In this case, the Pixies ) Happily Dave Loveridge doesn't seem to be particularly identified with a particular kit ( aside from the red Gretsch he has been playing since the reunion, ) so I figure that gives me some movement there.
I have already asked a lot of questions, and as far as PRS fees go, they are dealt with via venues and/or the agency we are signed with ( some gigs are Tribute Festivals) As has been said: the music is in charge ( something I have always felt anyway )
 

Whitten

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I don't care about the look. I really care about the music and being true to the sound.
I find it funny (and wrong) when the music was originally recorded with big, deep toms and a fat snare (aka a lot of 70's rock), and the drummer is playing a fusion kit (20" bass drum, 10, 12, 14" toms etc). If the music was played with lower volume centre hits on snare (a lot of 70's music) and the drummers is whacking loud rimshots through the set.
I also agree with attention to detail. It amazes me how guys will play a slightly wrong bass drum part which doesn't even sit with the bass. If I am playing a cover song I study the original and practice it to copy the feel and detailed parts.
 

cruddola

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Generally the venue is responsible for paying for ASCAP / BMI, not the band. Were they putting on shows at places that aren't traditionally venues? Or selling recordings?
That's pretty much what happened as I talked to one of their drivers just last night at the gas station. They were doing parties and got a video pulled down. You're right on the money.
 


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