Killing Them Loudly

When Tributes Attack

Saturday night at Press Box, a divey Anaheim sports bar. Occasion: Headbanger's Ball No. 6, a convergence of assorted, alleged tribute bands. The all-girl wait staff wear tight, breast-enhancing tops with black-and-white referee-stripe patterns—if Hooters had farm team, Pressbox would play single-A ball. An autographed, framed, cobweb-choked photo of Karl Malone sits perched over the fish tank near front door. Crowd: Lots of fringe jackets, Harley shirts, headbands and actual, unironic mullets.

First band: Sabotage, a Black Sabbath tribute act. The singer models Ozzy's leather-fringe vest from the early '70s, while the guitarist has the Tony Iommi look right down to his shaggy locks and thick, '70s gay-bar moustache. The hair on all four members look like wigs, giving them a certain Doug Henning flair, only not dead. Behind the drum kit is a huge, spangled white cross, so gaudy it looks purloined from Paul and Jan Crouch's yard sale.

The band rattles through a classic Sabbath oeuvre—"Iron Man," "War Pigs," etc. When they announce they only have two songs left, a drunken cretin in back yelps, "NO! TEN MORE!" A poor waitress looks sad and depressed, as if being held hostage in Hessian Hell. We order beer and pizza just so we can tip her.

A break, then someone screams, "Are you people ready for some fuckin' Queensryche?!?" It's Prophecy, a Queensryche tribute. The singer does passable job aping the real Queensryche singer, all shrilly and high-pitched, a combo of Geddy Lee and a castrated ferret. Several people in the crowd are playing air guitar to the music; at least two of them are using pool cues to accomplish their mission. One guy slinks off in corner to play air drums. A man by stage performs interpretive writhe. The singer blurts, "We're sponsored by Budweiser, so drink Budweiser and shit!" The band never performs Queensryche's big-hit power ballad "Silent Lucidity," but the guitarist does climb on a tabletop to play a vomitous solo.

Next: Nightmare, an Alice Cooper tribute. "Alice" comes out in full regalia of top hat, runny black mascara and horse whip and pleads for people to come up to the stage— "C'mon, let's raise some hell!" Two people do, but both suddenly make a break toward the kitchen instead. Repertoire: "Under My Wheels," "Lost In America," "18," "Welcome to My Nightmare," blah-blah-bleah. "Alice" sounds more Peter Lorre than Alice Cooper and looks more like Weird Al. For "shock" effect, "Alice" drinks from a gas can and tongues a toy doll. The guitarist plays solo on his knees and sports a strategically ripped T-shirt conveniently accenting his hardened nipples. Witty banter: "Wake up, Anaheim! C'mon, Anaheim! Lemme hear ya!" Interpretive Dancer Guy hooks up with a chubby blond chick who thinks she still fits into her Spandex club pants from 1987. They make out during most of the band's set, pawing each other's freshly moistened loins.

Last: Pump, an Aerosmith tribute. "Steven Tyler" looks suspiciously like "Alice"—same leather pants, same black-mesh shirt. He does a decent Tyler imitation, especially the way he clutches the scarf-adorned mic stand. "Joe Perry" looks like Joe Perry, with flesh-exposing open shirt and Gibson guitar. "Mama Kin," "Eat the Rich," "Toys In the Attic," etc. During "Walk This Way," the audience alcohol intake reaches maximum effect, as eight to 10 people fall over one another trying to touch "Steven Tyler" as if he were STEVEN TYLER and not "Steven Tyler." Inexplicably, at 12:45 a.m., a just-married couple in full bride and groom getups appear in the back of the club, apparently neither lost nor repulsed.

We leave.

 
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