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Photo by Tenaya HillsWe had been enjoying Pat Benatar's Friday-night set at the tiki-bar-meets-truck-stop Marlin Bar for half an hour before we noticed the tall, thin, blond woman standing in front of us. Dressed in black, sporting feathered hair and platform boots, and clutching the latest copy of the Weekly, it wasn't hard to recognize who she was. Giddy and awestruck, I pushed my friend Janine in the woman's direction. She hesitated, taking a sip of courage from her whiskey-Coke. "Go!" I commanded.
Gingerly tapping the woman on her shoulder, Janine asked, "Excuse me. Are you Stevie Nicks?" She nodded yes. We swooned.
Of course, she wasn't reallyStevie Nicks, and we weren't really at a Pat Benatar show at Marlin Bar. Rather, the woman standing in front of us was the lead singer of Sea of Love—or, as I prefer to call them, Meetwood Flack—a Fleetwood Mac tribute band from the Valley, and we were catching the tail end of a set by HeartBreaker, the only "officially recognized on Benatar.com" Pat Benatar tribute band in Orange County. Sharing the bill with the two bands that night was Heartless, a band in tribute to—wait for it—Heart.
Now, a quick search on Ticketmaster.com reveals that the real Pat Benatar's next show is a 60-bucks-a-pop gig in July at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY. Fleetwood Mac are coming to the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in June, where front-row tickets will set you back $125. And if you haven't seen Heart since, oh (insert your own Ann Wilson/fat belt comment here!), then your chance is coming up in August at Humphrey's Concerts by the Bay in San Diego. It'll take 68 bucks.
Best of all, the three concerts can be yours for just $253—plus, a wee surcharge, a few plane tickets, and a couple of hours sitting in traffic.
Or you could pay $5, as I did Friday, and rock out in tribute.
My experience with tribute bands had been limited to a night spent at Alex's Bar in Long Beach with the Ms. Fits, LA's ever-so-popular Misfits tribute band. Friday night's bands, however, were different. They were shtickless, note-for-note, spot-the-fuck-on covers of songs both popular and obscure.
Waiting for HeartBreaker to wrap up their set, I kept repeating Benatar's killer half-operatic/half-shrieking final refrain on "Heartbreaker" in my head in anticipation; closing my eyes as the faux Pat (real name: Pam Edgar) sang it, I felt chills: she absolutely nailedit. In other words, for Pam and her band, this ain't no hobby—they might as well start playing remote casinos and charging $60 at the door. They're that good.
Later, during Sea of Love's cover of "Sisters of the Moon," a track from Fleetwood Mac's Tusk album, the chills returned—although this time for a slightly different reason, as I may or may not have been unhealthily obsessed with Fleetwood Mac as a teenager and may or may not own hours of live footage from their tours during the early 1980s that I may or may not continue to watch on a semi-regular basis.
As the lead singer launched into the song's closing verse, I leaned over to a friend and scoffed, "We'll just see if she starts singing in tongues." Wouldn't you know: she had done her tribute-band homework, closing the song in a fit of shakes and indecipherable jibber-jabber, sounding just like good ol' (insert your own cokehead/fatty joke here!) Stevie. I raised my $3 cup of Pabst Blue Ribbon in homage.
By the time the seven-member (!) Heartless took the stage, I was a dancing, drunken idiot, convinced that I had stumbled into a parallel universe in which my adolescent dreams of being born in 1960 had actually been realized—a notion confirmed by Heartless front woman/Ann Wilson-wannabe Diana Perkins' relentless, perfect wailing on songs such as "Even it Up," "Straight On," "If Looks Could Kill" and "Barracuda." Glancing around the room as their set finished at two minutes 'till closing (hardcore!), I counted at least half a dozen mouths still agape.
Don't believe me? Fine. Spend your $253 and listen while backup singers cover these bands' greatest hits. Or do as only the very wise do and go the way of the tribute and relive—if you're young, just live—your better days in style.Tribute bands love the Marlin Bar, 16651 Gothard St., Huntington Beach, (714) 842-5587. Find more information about HeartBreaker at benatartribute.com; Heartless at thebandheartless.com. Unfortunately, Sea of Love is so stuck in the '70s they don't even have a website.
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