Accept no substitute goes the advertising adage. It may be true for the soda you sip or the soap you lather, but when it comes to our favorite music, the slogan’s been proved wildly wrong by the wild success of tribute acts. For the uninitiated, a tribute act is a performer or a group which plays the songs of a well-known music act and takes on the persona of the act, frequently with startling accuracy.
While others flock to see the Faux Fighters or the Stray Copycats, you’re not sure you can stand for these stand-ins; but, you love music and are willing to give a tribute act a try. If that’s the case, you’re in luck since Warehouse Live has a full slate of them booked tomorrow night in The Studio. One of the show’s performers chatted with the Houston Press to help newbies get the most from their first tribute set.
In his day-to-day life, friends and acquaintances know him as Lance Wilson, but onstage he’s Joey Sedated, the front man of Sedated, The World’s Greatest Ramones Tribute Band. The Dallas-based act joins Houston's own Godless - A Tribute to Danzig, 138 (Misfits), The Blinks (Blink-182) and Basket Case (Green Day) Saturday night. Wilson said it’s Sedated’s first show in Houston.
“We’ve been at this for two years. A little over two years ago, (bassist and Dee Dee Ramone stand-in) Gino (LaVecchia) ran a Craigslist ad, he wanted to start a Ramones tribute. I wasn’t in a band or anything, but just happened to stumble across it and I was like, ‘Hellyeah,’ ‘cause I love the Ramones too and I always thought I could be Joey.”
Wilson said nearly a decade ago, he and his three sons dressed as the Ramones for Halloween. That gave him the performance itch and, ultimately, the confidence to answer his bandmate’s ad.
“We’re on stage and we’re doing ‘The KKK Took My Baby Away.’ It was just a great time with me and my kids. When I saw the ad I had that realization that yeah, I think I could be a good Joey.”
He auditioned and since then Wilson, LaVecchia, Ralph Lopez (as guitarist Johnny) and drummer Ric Hare (Richie) have been guiding Sedated’s ship through the tribute act waters, which are quite filled. Some of these acts go onto recognition that nearly rivals that of the bands they emulate. Groups like Minikiss (who once appeared in a Super Bowl ad with their idols), Hell’s Belles and Iron Maidens (all-female tributes of AC/DC and Iron Maiden, respectively) and a whole crop of Selena tributes tour regularly. The Fab Four, a Beatles tribute act scheduled to visit Revention Music Center on February 2, has more than 130,000 Facebook followers and has been performing for nearly 20 years.
Sedated played Dallas dates only for almost the first year of its existence, but has gradually expanded beyond the state and into regional gigs, in places like Tulsa, Little Rock, Baton Rouge and now Houston. No matter where they go, Wilson says, they encounter rabid Ramones fans who thrill to their live experience. But will you? Here are our tips to make your first tribute set a triumph:
EXPECT NEAR AUTHENTICITY
“I’m kind of particular about this – people say ‘a Ramones cover band’ and I make a point to correct them because a cover band, you just play the songs. A tribute band goes to the nth degree to look and play and personify the part,” Wilson said.
The whole point of a tribute acts is to give the audience an experience that mimics as nearly as it can what it’s like to see the honored act live. That means tribute acts have to do a lot of homework to play the part, right down to the nuances. How far does Sedated go to bring the Ramones back to life?
“There’s some bands that kind of know particular details about the bands that they’re paying tribute to; between me and Gino, we’re constantly studying. We hear stories and we learn things every day. We're constantly meeting people who are like, ‘I saw the Ramones, I met Joey, I had this experience,’ things like that.
“I met somebody, she’s in Memphis, she used to have a local punk rock magazine. They’d have her come through and she would interview them and she’d have like a series of questions. So she gave these questionnaires to all the Ramones, which was Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Marky at the time, and she sent me the responses. And reading Joey’s responses, it gave me a better understanding of Joey.”
IT'S OKAY IF YOU MISSED THE BAND OR DON’T KNOW THE MUSIC
Wilson said one needn’t have seen the band being tributed to enjoy the tribute experience. In fact, he said, frequently people don’t realize how much they may appreciate the Ramones until they take in Sedated’s set.
Add Wilson to the list of folks who never saw Ramones live.
“I have to admit, me personally, I did not and it’s one of my biggest regrets,” he said. “I grew up in a very sheltered household. I was born in Idaho and then as a teenager lived in Utah and I was very limited in what I could do. Gino did, he got to see them at least once.”
Knowing every song in the catalog isn’t a requirement for having a good time at the show, either. Wilson said his wife loved the Ramones song, “Pet Sematary” but never realized it was Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Marky.
“This is what’s cool about what we do,” he said. “I get this all the time, I meet people when they see us and they’re like, ‘Dude, I wasn’t really into the Ramones, I didn’t really know who that was. When I saw you guys suddenly like a veil’s been lifted. Now I totally dig this, this is cool.”
Conversely, Wilson said, doing a little homework before seeing a tribute act might enhance a person's experience at the show.
“I think listening to the Ramones prior to helps you in two aspects. It gives you a level of familiarity and it gives you something to compare us to,” he said.
“Go on YouTube and watch live shows and get a feel for it. Even if you weren’t there you can get a pretty good gauge for what it would have been like to have seen the original band live, then you have some basis of comparison you can gauge it against.”
GIVE IN TO THE ILLUSION/HAVE FUN
Wilson said people who submit completely to the tribute get the best experience from it and, when that happens, it’s more fun for the band. Once that cycle’s in motion, it can be a magical night.
“Here’s what I like about being in a tribute, especially a Ramones tribute: No. 1 when I go out as Joey, when I’m in character I am either obvious or mysterious. I’m either so obvious that you recognize me as Joey – like, I’ll go out and people are like ‘Hey, Joey!’ and they want pics and stuff with me, which is really cool; or, other people, they don’t know, but they’re intrigued. Joey was one of a kind, no one looked like Joey. So that aspect is really cool.
“A lot of other tributes, the (original band) members are still around. The Ramones, all four original members are gone. If I could find a way to bring ‘em all back I’d do it in a heartbeat, but that kind of plays to our advantage as well.”
How so? For many fans who missed the actual band, he explains, a good tribute can transport followers to a place and time, a musical replica of what it might be like to have seen the act in its heyday.
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“There’s a huge base of Ramones fan and they’ve kind of been waiting for this,” Wilson said. “They just thought, ‘Okay, the Ramones are gone and that’s kind of it. People appreciate the fact that, ‘Okay, their presence is still out there.”
Wilson knows this for a fact. He said one important Ramones fan recently gave their efforts a thumbs-up.
“Gino and I met Marky (Ramone) a couple of months ago in San Antonio around Halloween and we told him we’re in a Ramones tribute and the first thing he said was keep it going. “
Sedated - The World's Greatest Ramones Tribute Band, with Godless - A Tribute to Danzig, 138, The Blinks and Basket Case, 8 p.m. Saturday, January 27 at The Studio at Warehouse Live, 813 Saint Emmanuel. All ages, $10, with free tickets still available using the promo code PUNXNOTDEAD. Follow the link for ticket information.