If the notion of “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” needed any further validation, look no further than music. Seemingly every major artist in the annals of music – in a variety of genres – has one or many bands that formed solely to pay tribute to said artist.
Some tribute acts keep it local as part of a side job or hobby, while others are able to make a full-fledged career of it. For instance, House of Blues will host a pair of major tribute acts in the coming week – Who’s Bad, a Michael Jackson tribute band, on Saturday; and Badfish – a Tribute to Sublime on Friday, January 20.
Meanwhile, a number of local tribute bands will play gigs in and around town in the coming weeks. The Press already profiled a number of these acts, but now is the time to see which legendary musical acts inspire tribute bands both locally and nationally, and how those tribute acts stack up.
Of course, the world’s most iconic band has inspired its fair share of tribute bands, so much so that a Wikipedia entry exists solely to list a number of them. The names alone are worth checking out, from Beatlejuice to the Beastles to Rubber Soulders. Locally, the Fab 5 are Houston’s premier Beatles tribute band, so much so that they’ve been awarded “Best Cover/Tribute Band” by the Press five years running. The group even gets into deep cuts and routinely plays songs the Beatles recorded but never actually played live. Other Houston-area Beatles tribute bands worth checking out are Beetle and Abbey Rode.
When your own guitarist forms his own tribute band, you know you’ve had quite a career. Zakk Wylde and Rob Nicholson, each of whom has played alongside Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne – on his solo stuff – are part of Zakk Sabbath, a tribute to the band that made Ozzy famous. Hell, even parody-like acts such as Mac Sabbath – in which the members each dress up like demented McDonald’s mascots – have gotten in on the action. Locally, acts like Sabbath Judas Sabbath (yep, they cover Black Sabbath AND Judas Priest) and Ozz (who sticks more to solo Ozzy material) frequent joints in and around town.
A storied band like Fleetwood Mac, with as diverse a catalog as you’ll find in rock, is bound to spawn some imitators. Acts like TUSK and Rumours make a living touring around the globe while playing tribute to one of the most popular bands in rock history. Meanwhile, Nightbird is about as fine a tribute band as you’ll find in Houston. Brooke Alyson – a dead ringer for Stevie Nicks – not only covers Fleetwood Mac, but also Nicks’ solo material. Nightbird is playing February 11 at the Concert Pub North.
Need proof of Journey’s lasting impact? Check out karaoke night any Friday or Saturday at your local bar, as locals belt out the likes of “Don’t Stop Believing,” “Separate Ways” and “Faithfully.” Suffice to say, Steve Perry and crew have spawned their fair share of tribute bands (the current incarnation of Journey basically is a Journey tribute band). Other prominent Journey tribute bands from across the nation include Voyage, Infinite Journey and Dallas’s own Departure. Locally, Escape: A Tribute to Journey is the Journey tribute band of note in Houston; the band has a gig coming up on February 13 at the Office (13245 Jones Road).
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Routinely considered among the “tribute bands that are almost as good as the original,” California’s own Just Like Priest took its name after one of its earliest shows, when a concertgoer noticed that the band sounded “just like Priest.” So that was easy. Locally, both Judas X and Judith Priest have cultivated quite the followings. Judas X is a bit more traditional, in the sense that it’s a straightforward Judas Priest tribute band. Judith Priest, meanwhile, is exactly as it sounds – a lady (Deanna Haughey) taking the lead and putting a different spin on Rob Halford and crew. She does it well.
No band invited tribute bands quite to the extent KISS did. From the stage show to the makeup to the fact that most of their songs can be played by relative musical novices, KISS was tailor-made for imitators. And it has plenty, probably more than any other band in history, the Beatles notwithstanding. Rock and Roll Over. Gods of Thunder. Mr. Speed. Destroyer. Strutter. The list goes on. On the Houston scene, Kiss Alike is the premier KISS tribute band. Ever been to a KISS show? Yep, pretty much the same thing.