Sincerest Form of Flattery
Paying tribute to the best tribute bands to never exist
Lucky us. We’ve been inundated by tribute bands lately—Sweet and Tender Hooligans (the “ultimate tribute to Morrissey and the Smiths”!) do their thing Saturday at the House of Blues in Anaheim; earlier this month, Bob Dylan imitators Highway 61 Revisited played at the same venue, alongside Grateful Dead cover band Cubensis.
Though it’s hard to say what exactly possesses people to dedicate their lives, or at least significant portions of them, to trying to be as much as possible like someone whose music they happen to enjoy—last year I interviewed the guy who plays Sammy Davis Jr. in “The Rat Pack—Live at the Sands” touring show, and he couldn’t give me a satisfying answer—it’s clearly something that’s not going away.
There are many varieties of tribute bands, from those steadfastly faithful to the source material, such as the ones mentioned above or popular mock-Van Halen troupe the Atomic Punks, to “famous band in a different genre” mainstays such as Dread Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin songs performed in a reggae style by an Elvis impersonator, of course). There’s Harptallica, a female duo that—you guessed it—plays Metallica songs on harps. Even Orange County bands have gotten the treatment; No Doubt tribute band “No Duh” frequently play across Southern California. And most of these bands model their physical appearances after the musicians they emulate, which is kind of Single White Female-y, sure, but I guess it makes sense in the context of a live show.
But what of the many acts that, for one reason or another, will never merit the tribute-band treatment? Let’s travel to a thoroughly unhip parallel universe and check out the greatest tribute bands to (hopefully) never exist.
THE LIMP BISCUITS. Dust off your red Yankees cap and turn it sideways—everything you desperately wanted to forget about the late ’90s is back! These guys meticulously re-create a Limp Bizkit live show, down to the sexual assaults and fatal heart attacks. For those feeling nostalgic for some serious circa-1999 douchebaggery, lines such as “I did it all for the nookie (come on)/The nookie (come on)/So you can take that cookie and stick it up your (yeah)” are as resonantly idiotic now as they were a decade ago. (In my intense research for this column, I actually came across an actual Limp Bizkit tribute band, “Limpish Bizkit.” It looks like they haven’t been active for a while, but still—yikes.)
TOO SHY GUYS. These guys take their tribute to the next logical step: Instead of paying tribute to one band (how pedestrian!), they pay tribute to just one song: “Too Shy” by Kajagoogoo. The original 1982 hit, the instrumental version, Swedish death-metal version, gangsta-rap version, a jam-band-esque 40-minute version with an elaborate keyboard solo, the whole thing in Pig Latin (“oo-Tay y-Shay”)—whatever you want! Great for parties if you hate the person you’re throwing it for.
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BOYZ II MANDOLIN. In the tradition of the myriad of “String Quartet Tribute” albums (Leave Nothing Behind: Strung Out on Hoobastank—The String Quartet Tribute is a record that actually exists), a full-time operation that performs hot R&B jams solely through everyone’s favorite member of the lute family. The antiquated instrument has never sounded so powerful as it does during their version of “Until the End of the Road,” though “Motown Philly” is a bit trickier to pull off. (The real Boyz II Men, most likely sans mandolins, are at the House of Blues this Wednesday.)
STAIND GLASS. Perfect for anyone still desperately clutching the stinking corpse that is nü-metal and also loves the Lord! If you enjoy being completely miserable (the first two Staind albums were hilariously titled Tormented and Dysfunction) while worshiping your deities, check out this act, simultaneously honoring one of the biggest names in hard rock and the biggest name in Christian messiahs. You’d be surprised how well the overtly macho angst of Staind meshes with Christian rock—“It’s Been a While (Since I’ve Protested Outside a Planned Parenthood)” is just one of their classics.
BELLE & SEBASTIAN BACH. The inevitable collision of charming Scottish chamber pop and ’80s American hair metal. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard “If You’re Feeling Sinister” delivered by a dude with long hair and leather pants. Not to mention their version of “Youth Gone Wild” with a lovely horn and strings section. Given the obvious crossover potential between the Belle & Sebastian and Skid Row fan bases, it’s puzzling this hasn’t happened yet.