Apr 28, 2017
Just for show
Events like the weekly Saturday tribute nights at Patrick’s Pub & Eatery in Gilford and the monthly live music series hosted by Rob Azevedo (host of the Granite State of Mind radio show, which airs live every Thursday at 7 p.m. on WKXL 103.9 FM in Concord) at New England College Concord are giving local original musicians an outlet to pay tribute to notable bands and solo artists.
“We already had musicians play with certain styles like Neil Young or Bob Marley or this and that,” Patrick’s owner Allan Beetle said, “so it wasn’t a huge leap to say, let’s focus on paying tribute to some of the great bands and performers of our time and do that every Saturday night.”
Since Patrick’s started the series this past fall it has hosted tributes to The Beatles, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and others, with each show featuring one local performer or group playing a two-hour set.
While live music is held at Patrick’s throughout the week, Beetle said they “turn up the volume a little more” on Saturday nights and make the tribute shows the focal point rather than background entertainment.
“You won’t get everyone when you say there’s going to be an Elton John tribute, but it does connect with a larger base of people when they know they’re coming to hear that music, as opposed to when we say, ‘So-and-so [original act] is performing tonight,’” Beetle said.
In January, Azevedo decided to host a Grateful Dead tribute night as part of his monthly live music series at New England College Concord. It was such a hit, he did a Neil Young tribute in February and now has tribute shows scheduled through June.
“These are classic, super-innovative and influential artists that I think everyone gravitates to in one form or another,” Azevedo said. “For a lot of musicians, these are the artists they wanted to emulate when they first picked up a guitar and were finding their voice.”
Each show features about 10 local musicians, each performing one to three songs by the chosen artist or band. Then, to close, all of the musicians come to together perform the final song, which they practice for an hour before the show starts. For the Neil Young tribute, it was “Rockin’ in the Free World.”
“It’s like a family,” Azevedo said. “You have a bunch of musicians who have never met before get in a room together, and there’s this undeniable connection fortified by this one particular artist. It’s like they’ve known each other their whole lives through that artist.”
Saturday Tribute Nights at Patrick’s Pub & Eatery (18 Weirs Road, Gilford, 293-0841, patrickspub.com) are held weekly with music starting at 8 p.m. Upcoming shows include a tribute to U2 on March 18, and a tribute to James Taylor and Bob Dylan on March 25.
Tribute Nights hosted by Rob Azevedo of Granite State of Mind take place one Saturday a month at New England College Concord (62 N. Main St., Concord, 715-2306, facebook.com/NECConcord). Upcoming shows include A Tribute to The Women of Classic Country on March 25, The Beatles on April 22, Bruce Springsteen on May 13, and Bob Dylan on June 17. Doors open at 5 p.m., and shows start at 5:30 p.m.
Every summer in July, more than 2,000 people make the trip to a rural farm property in Bath for Jerry Jam, a family-friendly three-day festival celebrating the musical legacy of Jerry Garcia and Grateful Dead.
The festival brings in around 30 bands from all over the country and has even captured the attention of JGB, the reformation of Garcia’s most prominent side project, the Jerry Garcia Band, which he formed in 1975. This year’s Jerry Jam will be the fifth to feature JGB, which is currently led by longtime Jerry Garcia Band member Melvin Seals, who performed with Garcia from 1980 until Garcia’s death and the group’s disbandment in 1995.
The rest of the lineup consists of both full-time tributes to Jerry Garcia and/or Grateful Dead and original acts playing special tribute sets for the festival. They come from a variety of genres including dub and reggae, Americana, bluegrass, funk and jam.
“Jerry had a really broad musical career, and we try to represent all his different musical styles,” said Julia Butterfield, one of the festival coordinators. “The music catalog is so varied that there really is something for everyone.”
Some of the notable bands making their Jerry Jam debut this year include Assembly of Dust, Cabinet, Kung Fu, Max Creek, Pink Talking Fish and others. One of the most anticipated acts, Butterfield said, is an original band from Illinois called The Giving Tree Band.
“We saw their cover of ‘Brown Eyed Women,’ which was part of the Dead Covers Project,” Butterfield said, “but they really embody the spirit of what Jerry Jam is all about — the richness of the legacy of the Grateful Dead, and the sense of family that comes along with that community.”
The festival started a little over two decades ago as a small, one-day get-together of a few dozen friends in a barn in Bethlehem. Since then, the number of festival-goers, or “the Jamily” as they’ve come to be called, has grown every year with Garcia and Grateful Dead fans of all ages.
“I think that’s a big part of what people love about Grateful Dead music,” Butterfield said. “When this community gets together, there’s a feeling of instant family. That’s not something you find at just any gathering or concert or event.”
If you go: The 22nd annual Jerry Jam kicks off Friday, July 21, at 9 a.m. and continues through Sunday, July 23, at Klay Knoll Farm, 471 Pettyboro Road, Bath, N.H. Full weekend passes are $115 each and are currently available for purchase online. Tickets at the gate may also be available as capacity allows. Weekend passes include tent camping; RV passes are sold separately for $50 to $75. All ages are welcome, and children age 12 and under are admitted free, accompanied by a parent. BYOB is welcome for festival-goers 21+. For more information, visit jerryjam.com or facebook.com/TheJerryJam.
NH’s tribute bands
• Blue Light Rain, a tribute to Grateful Dead (find them on Facebook) Next show is on Saturday, April 8, at 9 p.m. at Penuche’s Concord, 16 Bicentennial Square.
• Cold As Ice - The Ultimate Foreigner Tribute (theultimateforeignertribute.com, facebook.com/ForeignerRocks) Next show is on Saturday, May 13, 7:30 p.m. at the Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester. Tickets are $25 at palacetheatre.org.
• DEAD UnderCover, a tribute to Grateful Dead (facebook.com/DeadUnderCover) Next show is on Saturday, March 25, 8 p.m. at Riverside Barbeque Co., 53 Main St., Nashua.
• Doctor X, a tribute to Queensryche (facebook.com/doctorxnh) Upcoming shows are on Friday, March 31, and Saturdays, May 27 and June 24, 9 p.m. at Crow’s Nest Pub and Grill, 181 Plaistow Road, Plaistow.
• Fallen Angel - Poison Tribute Band of New England (facebook.com/fallenangelrocksnewengland) Show dates TBA.
• Four Sticks, a tribute to Led Zeppelin (facebook.com/fourstickszeptribute) Show dates TBA.
• Invisible Airwaves, a tribute to Rush (invisibleairwaves.com, facebook.com/InvisibleAirwavesTribute) Currently on hiatus but will return later this year. Check band’s Facebook page for updates.
• No Shoes Nation Band, a tribute to Kenny Chesney (noshoesnationband.com, facebook.com/NoShoesNationBand) Show dates TBA.
• Not Fade Away Band, a tribute to Grateful Dead (facebook.com/NotFadeAwayBand) Next show is on Saturday, June 10, 8:45 p.m. at The Shaskeen, 909 Elm St., Manchester.
• The Priest, a tribute to Judas Priest (thepriestdof.wixsite.com/thepriestnh, facebook.com/thepriestnh) Next show is Friday, May 5, 9 p.m. at Crow’s Nest Pub and Grill, 181 Plaistow Road, Plaistow.
• Problem Child, a tribute to AC/DC (newproblemchild.com, facebook.com/problemchildmanchesternh) Show dates TBA.
• Ron Eskin’s Tribute Show to Neil Diamond (neildiamondtributeshow.com) Available primarily for private events, but has a two-hour public show for the Merrimack Summer Concert Series on Wednesday, July 19, 6 p.m. at Abbie Griffin Park, 6 Baboosic Lake Road.
• Southern Breeze, a tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd and Molly Hatchet (find them on Facebook) Upcoming shows are on Saturday, April 22, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Manchester Harley-Davidson open house, 115 John E. Devine Drive, Manchester; Saturday, May 20, 9 p.m., at American Legion Post No. 90, Harriman Hill Road, Raymond; and at Laconia Motorcycle Week on Saturdays, June 10 and June 17, from 1 to 4 p.m.
• Stone Temple Posers, a tribute to Stone Temple Pilots (stonetempleposers.com, facebook.com/Stone.Temple.Posers.of.New.England) Next performance is at the “80s meets 90s” show on Friday, June 2, at Crow’s Nest Pub and Grill, 181 Plaistow Road, Plaistow. Show also features Rebel Waltz, a tribute to the Clash.
• Studio Two, a tribute to The Beatles (studiotwotributeband.com, facebook.com/studiotwotribute) Upcoming shows are on Saturdays, March 18 and May 6, 9 p.m. at Cork N’ Keg Grill, 4 Essex Road, Raymond.
• Wizard of Ozz, a tribute to Ozzy Osbourne/Black Sabbath (wizardofozzusa.wixsite.com/ozzytribute, facebook.com/wizardofozzusa) Next show is Saturday, April 22, 8 p.m. at Jewel Music Venue, 61 Canal St., Manchester. Tickets are $8 to $10 at ticketfly.com.
• Wooden Ships, a tribute to Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young (facebook.com/WoodenShipsTributetoCrosbyStillsNashandYoung) Next show is on Saturday, June 10, 7 p.m. at St. Kieran Community Center for the Arts, 155 Emery St., Berlin. Call 752-1028 for tickets.
More tribute shows
These bands aren’t based in New Hampshire but are coming to the Granite State to play at various tribute-band-friendly venues.
• AfterFab, a tribute to the Beatles’ solo careers, Saturday, July 1, 7:30 p.m., $25, Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester, 669-5588, palacetheatre.org
• Alive! ‘75, a tribute to KISS, Saturday, May 6, more details TBA, Jewel Music Venue, 61 Canal St., Manchester, 819-9336, jewelnh.com
• Badfish: A Tribute to Sublime, Saturday, July 1, 8 p.m., $18, Casino Ballroom, 169 Ocean Blvd., Hampton Beach, 929-4100, casinoballroom.com
• Dark Star Orchestra, a tribute to Grateful Dead, Sunday, May 21, 7:30 p.m., $36 to $39, The Colonial Theatre, 95 Main St., Keene, 352-2033, thecolonial.org
• Dazed, a tribute to Led Zeppelin, Saturday, April 29, 9:30 p.m., The Shaskeen Pub and Restaurant, 909 Elm St., Manchester, 625-0246, theshaskeenpub.com
• Dirty Deeds: The Premiere AC/DC Tribute, $10, Saturday, June 10, 8 p.m., Whiskey Barrel Music Hall, 546 N. Main St., Laconia, 527-8210, whiskeybarrelnh.com
• EagleMania, a tribute to the Eagles, Saturday, June 24, 7:30 p.m., $25 and up, The Flying Monkey, 39 S. Main St., Plymouth, 536-2551, flyingmonkeynh.com
• The Everly Brothers Experience featuring The Zmed Brothers, Sunday, May 7, 7 p.m., $30 to $35, Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry, 437-5100, tupelohall.com
• Get The Led Out: The American Led Zeppelin Experience, Saturday, April 29, 8 p.m., $26 in advance, $31 day of the show, Casino Ballroom, 169 Ocean Blvd., Hampton Beach, 929-4100, casinoballroom.com
• Lez Zeppelin, all-female Led Zeppelin tribute, Friday, March 31, 7:30 p.m., $24 to $29, The Flying Monkey, 39 S. Main St., Plymouth, 536-2551, flyingmonkeynh.com
• Live Bullet, a tribute to Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, Saturday, May 20, 9 p.m., The Chop Shop Pub & Grub, 920 Lafayette Road, Seabrook, 760-7706, chopshoppub.com
• The Mersey Beatles, a tribute to The Beatles, Saturday, May 20, 7:30 p.m., $26 to $49, The Flying Monkey, 39 S. Main St., Plymouth, 536-2551, flyingmonkeynh.com
• Nirvanish, a tribute to Nirvana, Friday, May 19, 8 p.m., $24, Rochester Opera House, 31 Wakefield St., Rochester, 335-1992, rochesteroperahouse.com
• One Night of Queen, a tribute to Queen, Saturday, April 1, 8 p.m., $30 to $44, The Colonial Theatre, 95 Main St., Keene, 352-2033, thecolonial.org
• Patsy Cline Remembered, featuring vocalist Liz Saunders and Clayton “Skip” Poole, Sunday, May 21, 4 p.m., $28 to $38, Concord City Auditorium, 2 Prince St., Concord, (tickets through Capitol Center for the Arts), 225-1111, ccanh.com
• Slip-Not, a tribute to Slipknot, Friday, April 28, 7 p.m., $12, Jewel Music Venue, 61 Canal St., Manchester, 819-9336, jewelnh.com
• Stormbringer, a tribute to Deep Purple, Friday, March 24, 9 p.m., $8 to $10, Jewel Music Venue, 61 Canal St., Manchester, 819-9336, jewelnh.com
• The Weight Band, a tribute to The Band, Friday, March 24, 7:30 p.m., $29 to $39, The Flying Monkey, 39 S. Main St., Plymouth, 536-2551, flyingmonkeynh.com
• Who’s Bad: The Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience, Friday, May 19, 7 p.m., $25 to $35, Capitol Center for the Arts, 44 S. Main St., Concord, 225-1111, ccanh.com
Off stage, local musician Stephen Murray is a fan of John Lennon and The Beatles. But catch him on stage with his band Studio Two and you’ll find that he’s more than just a fan — he is John Lennon, alongside his fellow mop-topped Beatles.
Studio Two is a Beatles tribute band that recreates, as authentically as possible, the concerts of the Beatles’ early years, from the outfits and accents to the instruments and musical subtleties.
“You can listen to any album or watch any video, but to see and hear the music performed live right there in front of you, it’s a different experience,” Murray said. “A tribute gives anyone who didn’t get to see a certain band a chance to have that live experience.”
Studio Two is one of many local bands using the spotlight to pay tribute to the music they love, and to give other fans of that music a chance to hear it performed it live. Looking to rock out? You might like Foreigner tribute Cold As Ice or Ozzy Osbourne tribute Wizard of Ozz. If country is more your style, give The No Shoes Nation Band Kenny Chesney tribute a try. Whether it’s at a local bar, performance venue or community event, there are tribute bands playing all the time, and you don’t have to travel far or clean out your wallet to see them.
More than covers
When southern New Hampshire Foreigner tribute Cold As Ice formed, they rehearsed twice a week for over a year and went through several roster changes before setting foot on a live stage. They spent countless hours studying Foreigner recordings and concert footage, transcribing sheet music and critiquing their own rehearsals, all of which they filmed to help them perfect their act.
It stands to reason, then, that being likened to cover bands strikes a nerve for guitarist and co-founder Bruce Bennett.
“I don’t like it when these cover bands learn a couple songs to play at the bar and call themselves a tribute,” Bennett said. “A tribute is not how you think the music should be played. It’s not how you want to play it. It’s not how you guess it is. I’m talking about a real, focused tribute where every member studies the person they’re supposed to play and learns the part note for note.”
Cold As Ice even went so far as to contact real Foreigner guitarist and founding member Mick Jones to settle a question on one of the lyrics, with which he was happy to help. In fact, Foreigner is exceedingly supportive of Cold As Ice, deeming them the No.1 Foreigner tribute and honoring them with a signed platinum record. Original Foreigner frontman Lou Gramm even gifted the band with a video in which he introduces them to stage. They screen the video at the beginning of every show.
“Any member of this band could step up on stage with Foreigner tomorrow and play a set with them,” Bennett said. “If they’re calling us their No. 1 tribute, you know we’re going out of our way to play their music and represent them as professionally as possible.”
Marc Pilcher, frontman for Deerfield-based Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute Southern Breeze, said that while his band isn’t an exact replica of Lynyrd Skynyrd — it has five members, whereas the real Lynyrd Skynyrd had up to seven at points — what it lacks in technicalities it makes up for in energy.
“It’s one thing to do a song as a cover band and go through the motions, but if you call yourself a tribute, there can’t be anything vanilla about it,” Pilcher said. “Since we’re stripped down to a five-piece, we do have to take some liberties, but we try to give people the same live experience they may have had at a Skynyrd show in 1976. We channel that same energy, and I think the crowd can appreciate that.”
The real deal
A serious tribute band studies not just the original band’s songs but also their attire, mannerisms, speech, instruments, equipment, audience interaction and general live show atmosphere. It’s no easy task recreating the concert experiences of some of the biggest acts in music history, especially when there are diehard fans in the crowd who notice details as small as a guitar pick.
“For a laugh, I had ordered a set of teardrop guitar picks online, the same kind The Beatles used,” Murray said. “At one show, I dropped it on stage, and a guy picked it up and said, ‘Hey, this is the pick they used!’ I was like, ‘Wow, you noticed that?’ People are definitely looking at the little things.”
Studio Two has made their job a little easier by committing exclusively to The Beatles’ early years during which they performed in small clubs around England. By narrowing the focus to one era, the band can dive deeper into the intricacies of those Beatles’ shows. Plus, they don’t have to worry about recreating the more complex psychedelic effects that accompanied The Beatles’ later material.
Many tributes to bands with wide and varied fan bases such as The Beatles or Grateful Dead employ this same tactic; honing in on a certain piece of the musical catalog not only allows the tributes to prioritize quality but also lets them distinguish themselves from their peer tributes and appeal to a more niche audience. Sometimes a tribute will recreate songs or even a whole set from one particular concert as opposed to the studio recordings or a more generalized version of the band’s live performances.
“I’ll take things one step further,” Murray said. “If there’s a recording where John [Lennon] plays a note but it doesn’t ring out because he didn’t hit it all the way or he muted it on accident, I will make a note of that on the sheet music and remember not to hit it all the way. They’re crazy little details only one or two people might know, but that’s what’s fun.”
Not all tributes get as in-depth as Studio Two does, but a good tribute will at least work to perfect the original band’s trademark quality. For Kenny Chesney, it’s all about the fun, party atmosphere; Foreigner goes big with the arena rock stage and oversized amps; and if you go to a Neil Diamond show, you can expect to be dazzled.
“I wear the sequined outfits and ’80s hair, and I try to talk like him and duplicate his gestures,” said Ron Eskin, a Neil Diamond tribute artist based in Nashua. “I try to give it the energy and feel of a real Neil Diamond concert. I may not be a dead-ringer look-alike, but when I start performing, everyone looks at me as the real Neil Diamond.”
While tribute bands receive a lot of support from their fans and sometimes even from the band they’re paying tribute to, they also have their share of naysayers. Some would say that it requires less musical talent to perform another band’s songs than it does to perform original music.
“We’ve all heard it,” said Al Francis, bassist and “Paul McCartney” of Studio Two. “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but you can’t let it get to you. We know that what we’re doing is a craft just like original music is a craft, and for every one person who says it’s not, there are a hundred more that come to our shows and love what we do.”
Becoming a tribute artist isn’t indicative of a lack of talent or inability to write and perform original music, Bennett said, because many have prior experience as an original artist or maintain a side project focused on original music in addition to their tribute act. Some tribute artists have even studied music academically, including Stephen Murray and his brother Robert Murray, guitarist and “George Harrison” of Studio Two, both of whom are graduates of Berklee College of Music.
“I’ve written over 100 songs in my life, and I still sit on my couch sometimes and just write songs,” Bennett said. “But personally, I don’t feel a need to go record them or shove them down someone’s throat. I’m OK with playing Foreigner’s music. I get to perform in front of hundreds of people I don’t know. If I did original music, I’d be playing for maybe 50 people who are all my friends and family.”
Not only can a tribute artist be as talented as an original, he said, but a case could also be made that being a tribute act requires more “attention to detail, focus and discipline,” to portray another artist’s vision and do it justice.
Bob Catalano, bassist for Seabrook-based Kenny Chesney tribute The No Shoes Nation Band, agrees.
“I think when people say negative stuff [about tributes], maybe it’s out of jealousy or because they’re a starving musician who can’t make it and it looks like we took the easy way out,” he said. “But it’s not just about singing the songs. A tribute is all-encompassing. You have to be an actor also, and recreate the effect of those concerts and engage the audience even when you aren’t singing.”
If your dream is to see The Beatles or another disbanded legend perform live, concert DVDs and YouTube clips are the closest you’re going to get. But with an open mind and a little imagination, you can go to a tribute show to get a taste of the experience you missed.
“If there’s a band that doesn’t exist anymore or doesn’t tour anymore or is inaccessible for whatever reason, a good tribute band that took the time to learn the material can bring that band back and make that music accessible again,” Catalano said. “It’s the perfect way to still be able to see that band you love.”
If, like Kenny Chesney, the real band or artist is active and touring, there are still some perks to sticking with a tribute, one being the cost; tickets for popular tribute shows held at local music venues typically fall into the $25-to-$40 range, and there are many other shows held at bars and clubs that you can see for free or a small cover charge. Compare that to Kenny Chesney tickets.
“It costs more than a hundred dollars a ticket to see him, then you get there and he looks half an inch tall,” Catalano said. “But that’s what he has to charge. He sells out stadiums. He could never play a small venue, but we can. We bring his show to a different level so you can see it up close for just the cost of getting into the club.”
Smaller venues also give the audience a chance to interact with the performer in ways they would not be able to in a stadium setting. That can make a big difference for fans of an artist like Neil Diamond, who is known for his charisma and dynamic stage presence.
“I like to play up to the audience. I’ll come out and walk through the crowd as I’m singing and people will reach out to me. You can’t do that at the real concert,” Eskin said. “If you let the imagination go a bit and can pretend you’re there at his show, it’s like you’re getting the real thing, only more personalized and at a fraction of the cost.”
The original artists are often more limited when it comes to tour dates, the length of their shows and their setlists. One as well-established as Foreigner may only perform in New England once every couple of years, but you can get your “concert fix,” as Bennett calls it, from a Cold As Ice show while you wait for Foreigner to come around again.
For a band like Foreigner, the standard 90-minute show isn’t a lot of time, especially when they have over 40 years of material. So, to appeal to the largest part of their fan base, classic bands nearly always prioritize their hits. A tribute band, however, can perform more frequent local shows, which lessens the pressure to play a hits-centric set and gives them the flexibility to cater to the interests of diehard fans.
“A tribute band like us can truly get into the tribute by playing a lot of the deeper cuts,” Bennett said. “We can play all those songs on the album that you love but will never hear the real Foreigner play live because they only have time for their biggest hits.”
Finally, while there is no replacement for the novelty or bucket-list appeal of seeing the decades-old band you grew up with perform live, many of them have been reduced to a skeleton of their original lineup — Foreigner currently has one original member, Lynyrd Skynyrd has two — and are nearing the end of their careers. The reality is, you may be getting more bang for your buck at a tribute show when it comes to performance quality.
“The average age of the guys in Foreigner is like, 70. They can only play rock ‘n’ roll for so much longer,” Bennett said. “But they support us and we support them because we have a common goal, which is to keep this classic arena rock music alive.”
|®2017 Hippo Press.