This is not a tribute


For some reason, I feel compelled to devote time and energy to the subject of tribute bands – a niche of live music that really doesn’t normally interest me and has no relevance to me as it’s not a representation of incoming talent. With the greatest respect to these bands, as good as what they provide might be, I want to hear what the likes of Iron Witch and Zillah have got coming next, and not how good an impression of Phil Lynott a Thin Lizzy tribute act can do.

What has stirred the hornet’s nest, so to speak, is my own gullability. I was drawn in by my local rock bar, The Parish in Huddersfield, putting out a status on Facebook asking how many people liked TURBONEGRO. The post got a fair few appreciative comments with one or two people perhaps wondering and suggesting The Parish were about to announce something big. I certainly did, I’m embarrassed to say. I wish I hadn’t.
Maybe it was the fact Wheatus had just played there. Maybe it was because they’d had big acts in the last year or two. Maybe its because Turbonegro, much as I love them, haven’t had as great a profile in the last couple of years as they did around the middle of the last decade, owing to ill health and the departure of frontman Hank von Helvete…to scientology. I’m fully aware they did recruit ex-Dukes of Nothing singer Tony Sylvester to replace Hank and they’re doing the festival circuit this summer in support of new album ‘Sexual Harassment’. But I could dream. Aside from the aforementioned Wheatus, the venue had recently lured Ginger Wildheart and Fleshgod Apocalypse among its big names to perform there. Surely, surely this was going to be the epic announcement the tease suggested.
Not so. Instead, what was announced was Turbonegra, ‘the world’s number 1 all-female Turbonegro tribute!’ Several people appeared to like the announcement, others said they’d be on it in a shot. Out of respect I declined to comment further simply as I didn’t want to appear to be criticising the venue’s booking strategy (which I have no say in at all), and wasn’t intent on upsetting good friends with my brutally honest assessment.
Which is as follows: Aside from the irony of an all-female Turbonegro tribute potentially singing songs such as ‘Denim Demon’ and ‘I Got…(which I’m sure isn’t lost on them), I really don’t see the appeal. I’ve already seen the previous incarnation of Turbonegro three times, once at the Cockpit in May 2005 which I remember very well due to being on the verge of fainting from sheer sweat and heat exhaustion. That will probably be the Turbonegro experience for me that will never, ever be topped. But more importantly, the real Turbonegro are still very much active – why would I want to see a tribute act when I can wait for the real thing to come around again? And why would I want to tarnish such a memory by watching a band who, as good as they might turn out to be, will never be as good as the band they are imitating?

TURBONEGRO: THE REAL THING

Surely that’s a conundrum that most music fans that live in towns that bands don’t visit very often face. Do you save your money for the day your favourite band announces a tour within accessible reach? Or do you take a wild stab at that really similar sounding tribute act who play the area often? Who knows when Kiss will be back around town? The temptation to instead see Kiss Alive! Or Hotter Than Hell, for example, will always linger for those wanting a Kiss experience but not wanting to fork out the high prices the real Kiss charge. But again, I was lucky enough to see Kiss when they performed at Donington in 2008, an experience I will never, ever forget as long as I live. I even have the copy of the show on CD if I ever get reminiscent.

I’m not a rich guy. I’m comfortable but that’s through hard work and prudent financial sense. I’ve saved for the gigs I want to go to and more often that not, get the necessary bang for my money. I will never disrespect what bands like Turbonegra, Limehouse Lizzy, Hotter Than Hell, Slack Babbath, Motorheadache, Live/Wire et al do, and one day, my opinion may shift. But, while their heroes/heroines are still going strong, I’d rather sit back and wait. I’m not going to regret missing any tribute. I might regret it if I didn’t take my chance there and then to see the real thing live while they were in the UK, or while they were going. Fair enough if the actual band you’re aping isn’t around any more. 101% Pantera is one good example, considering the real Pantera will most likely never perform again owing to Dimebag Darrell’s death. Even then, I’d never feel desperate to want to go and see them.
Maybe I’m being a prude. Maybe I’m losing sight of the fact that a tribute band isn’t really going to make a lot of money out of their fan service, and that what they do is something they do well. Putting the effort in to be their heroes, performing to a range of spectators, not all of whom will regularly chuck themselves into a moshpit and more than likely have only the most passing of interests in rock music. More likely than that, they probably just want a good time, and who can blame them?
I’d love for people to chip in with their opinions. It’s not the most pressing of topics on a blog that is constantly championing fresh new bands. But I personally feel I needed to put it out there, because my own gullability certainly set me up for disappointment – disappointment at which I needed to vent.
Peter Clegg
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2 thoughts on “This is not a tribute

  1. Yeah, I'd rather see underground bands and support them. Tribute bands do have their place and it's a cool way for the players to show their passion for a band and for the fans to get their fix.But the underground bands are more important to music right now. They're playing a totally new game and it's better we support those new bands looking forward, than those tributes looking backwards and legacy bands unable to write good music anymore or arguing over contracts. They are an embarrassment.

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