August 26, 2004

Tribute, a rockumentary

Tribute bands are a freaky rock and roll subculture. If you can't make your own music, you can always play somebody else's and you'll still get people to listen.

Kiss is a natural for a tribute band for many reasons. For one, the songs are really simple and easy to learn. And, the players get to put on makeup; this has to make it a lot easier to act the part of another musician.

"Larger Than Life," the Kiss tribute band discussed in this documentary, is pretty interesting because of what evolves with the band. (Writing about docs is nice because you don't have to worry so much about spoilers.) The guy who plays Gene Simmons, the super-tongued Kiss bass player, actually goes off his rocker and starts to think that he really is Gene. He sets his own house on fire, ultimately cuts his hair, finds religion, and renounces Kiss as evil.

Kiss, being one of the wildest rock and roll stories ever, naturally would produce the most interesting tribute band stories.

There are three other tribute acts documented in this film. "Sheer Heart Attack" is a Queen impersonation; "Bloodstone" does a Judas Priest act; and "The Missing Links" is a Monkees tribute.

Each is their own drama and comedy.

Sheer Heart Attack loses their Freddie Mercury to the German production of Cats. One of Bloodstone's musicians does the traditional rock and roll thing and becomes an alcoholic. The Monkees follow r-n-r tradition in that they break up because they hate each other -- and of course then try to get back together.

But one of the scariest aspects of Tribute, is the description of some fans. There is the "Heavy Metal Mailman," but he's no big deal, not much worse than I am, really. The one that is disconcerting is "Superfan," the fellow who follows Sheer Heart Attack. He is obviously just a little too involved with their act. Getting obsessed with a real band is one thing, but living your life for a tribute band takes pathetic to new heights.

You have to like the guy though, and you naturally feel a little sorry for him. We all strive to find meaning in our lives, and some of us get lost on the way.

The film follows part of Larger Than Life's process of finding a new Gene, and this is interesting because of one fellow they audition.

The guy who helps form The Missing Links almost looks like Michael Nesmith. According to the film he ultimately wrote a TV movie about The Monkees.

It's easy to look down your nose at such bands, and the individuals who make them up. But the fact is, since most of us have dreamed of being a rock and roll superstar, you have to respect these musicians because they have gotten closer to it than we ever will. They are having fun, and some of them even make some money.

Seeing a band like Foghat today evokes quite similar observations. Foghat is playing small clubs now, but at least they're still playing, and that has to beat sitting in a nursing home.

ADDENDUM: I have discovered a website devoted to tribute bands: You can find tributes to most any band, with names like Led Zepagain, AC/DShe (featuring Agnes Young), Back Stabbath, and my favorite: Alanis Moreorless.

Posted by Wayne at August 26, 2004 01:05 AM
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