I’ve been kinda live and let live when it comes to tribute bands. Who are they hurting, really? Just because they didn’t write the song doesn’t mean they can’t play it accurately or in some compelling way.
However, the numbers are out of control, and I know it’s easy to spout off about musicians who perform other people’s music full-time. Low-hanging fruit, right? But these bands are setting listeners up for chronic complacency.
There are one-off “tribute shows” that come around once a year, and a lot of local artists get together to play the songs of a beloved musician. Quality and creativity still seem to predominate. Examples include the Dolly Parton tribute, Johnny Cash Birthday Bash and the recently performed Conor Oberst tribute show. Some tributes are monthly, such as the Son House night.
But while looking for some shows to see this week, I stumbled and kept stumbling upon tons of regularly performing, dedicated tribute bands. For now, I’m gonna give a pass to classical, jazz, and the blues, or we’d be here all night.
The following tribute bands (and several more) just played or are about to play in Rochester, so if you wanna go, here ya are. I won’t think any less of you: Big Martha (Allman Brothers); Zac Brown Tribute Band; Eric Carlin’s Half-Dead (Grateful Dead); Nile Singers: Floyd Fest (Pink Floyd); The Lizards (Phish); No Quarter (Led Zeppelin); and Start Making Sense (Talking Heads).
That said, my advice to cover artists who want to get out of this cult of copy is simple: take the lyrics from one song, mash them up with another song, and just rip-off the blues.
Frank De Blase is CITY’s music writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.