No doubt about it, The OC Fair always pulls in some strong musical acts. Bands like The Offspring are mainstays and legacy groups such as Frankie Valli, Boston, and Earth, Wind & Fire are all making appearances this year.
But this list isn’t about those bands. It’s about those who decided to dream a little bigger and really reach for the stars. And by doing so ended up wearing fake mustaches, ill fitting clothes and playing other band’s songs. Yes, I’m talking about the thriving tribute band circuit.
The 2016 OC Fair features over 20 cover bands, ranging from Led Zeppelin to Green Day and Oingo Boingo to Neil Diamond. Now 20 bands is quite a few to dig through, so I meticulously visited each of these band’s early-2000’s, GeoCities looking websites. Scoured cell phone shot YouTube videos and poured over Facebook profiles to power rank the top five cover bands playing this year’s OC Fair. Here we go.
5. Faux Fighters – Playing August 10th
Faux Fighters are cracking the top five for two reasons. First of all, that name is easily the best on the list. Could there be a better name for a cover band? You see that, and without any context there’s a 98% chance you laughed and said “Ha, I bet that’s a Foo Fighters cover band.” And then whoever you just bet owes you money because it is a Foo Fighters cover band.
Second reason they are on my list is because just like the real Foo Fighters, the Faux Fighters have one guy who is super committed to the band (the singer) and the rest just look like replacement dudes. Faux Fighters’ singer is so close to being Dave Grohl. The hair, the sweat bands. I mean that’s all you really need and he has them both down perfectly. There are pictures on their Facebook page where I thought it was really Grohl and it wasn’t. That counts for something. And that something is making this arbitrary list.
4. Space Oddity: A David Bowie Retrospective – Playing August 13th
What I wonder about a lot of these groups, especially the really committed ones, is did they love the artist and change their vocal style / look to match that artist? Or did they just look in the mirror one day and say “Holy shit, I look and sound a lot like David Bowie, better go for it.” Because David Brighton is scary good performing as Space Oddity: A David Bowie Retrospective. He does both Bowie and Ziggy Stardust exceptionally well and even has the stage presence and mannerisms down pat. High marks across all categories.
3. Journey Unauthorized – Playing July 22nd
Band name is super important to me in these highly scientific rankings and the fact that this group throws unauthorized on there makes it sound like some really cool, underground, bootleg type of shit. Like the real Journey better not find out about this band playing as them at major fairs and amphitheaters because they are unauthorized. I bet that one word gets cougars flocking to their shows.
Scoring major points for Journey Unauthorized is also the fact that they have fully embraced the wig as part of their stage attire. They wouldn’t dare be seen on stage without them. The commitment is real, and so is my endorsement. Singer dude legit sounds (and sorta looks) like Steve Perry and even if he didn’t, the Coors Light fueled “Don’t Stop Believing” sing-a-long from the crowd will be (tone)deafening. But keep it on the down low, ‘cause this show is 100%, absolutely, without a doubt, unauthorized.
2. The Fab Four – Playing August 6th
The Fab Four (a Beatles tribute band) are looking down at these other jabronis from the major leagues and telling them to get on their level. While all of the other tribute bands are playing at the smaller Hanger venue, The Fab Four are playing the prestigious Pacific Amphitheater. Watch the video above and you can see why.
These aren’t some dads crushing beers while jamming in the garage and playing shows come fair season, this is some serious, quit your job and become Paul McCartney dedication. And they are damn good. The instruments, outfits and sound are all super authentic and the act is polished. Which is actually somewhat of a bummer depending on what you want out of a tribute band. There’s no irony to watching a super perfect Beatles cover group. The guy who performs as John Lennon isn’t going to fall off stage or accidentally unplug his guitar while stumbling around. No lyrics to be forgotten. No boobs to be flashed. Nothing unexpected is going to happen, just a very faithful adaptation of The Beatles. Take your mom, she’ll love it.
1. Jumping Jack Flash – playing August 11th
Now this is what I’m talking about. These guys Jumping Jack Flash legit think they are The Rolling Stones and that fires me up because not only do they look and play like the Stones, but I bet they also party like The Stones, and isn’t that what being in a cover band is really all about? The band gives audiences a semi-accurate portrayal of a group they’ll probably never see live, and for that, the tribute band get a crowd that gives them a semi-accurate amount of admiration as if they were the actual band. The goal of the cover band is not to become rock stars themselves, but to be a better than a hologram conduit for another rock star. If a cover band can make you squint and think you are seeing the real thing, they have done their job. Cover bands love squinting audiences. There’s an art to being derivative, and Jumping Jack Flash have it down.
They put on the kind of show I would totally film on Snapchat and hope something awesome happens. They might actually be Facebook live worthy. If they play “Honky Tonk Woman” they are totally Facebook live worthy.