Calling Morrissey 'Graham' and letting AC/DC play bluegrass: the weird world of tribute acts
As a musician who releases and performs my own original material, I have always approached tribute acts with slight trepidation - aren’t they just knock-off versions of the real thing?
So, when I was invited to a sold out UK Foo Fighters gig at the Manchester Academy, I thought I’d investigate the phenomenon - and see if I could be won round.
The tribute act market is big business: Mathew Street, Festwich, Tribfest and Glastonbudget festivals annually welcome thousands of punters to watch the likes of Coldplace, Slipnowt and Antarctic Monkeys.
Bookings can be quite prestigious too: A Kasabian tribute act from Hull have even shared billings with the real Ollie Murs, Pendulum and James.
For some, the pull of the tribute act is getting a taste of bands that no longer exist.
Ali is a lifelong Smiths fan. She had a ticket to see them in the 80s, but missed out due to having a bike puncture.
Now The Smyths tribute band are her life: “It’s as close as you get to the real thing." she told me over the phone.
"Hearing the songs I love played perfectly live is almost transcendental!
I'll even forgive the fact Morrissey is called 'Graham' in this band."
There’s also the cost.
The real Foo Fighters are playing the Etihad next June and tickets start at £39.50. The Academy tribute gig was less than half that.
Craig, a die-hard Foo Fighters fan, loves the tribute version just as much as the real thing.
"I don't see the difference." He told me in the queue to the gig.
"The energy both on the stage and in the crowd will be as intense as an actual Foo Fighters gig - and for me that is more than enough.
I can't wait to sing my heart out to my favourite tunes!"
Even the original bands are starting to embrace their tribute acts.
Foo Fighters singer Dave Grohl got Jay, his UK counterpart, on stage to sing at a recent gig.
AC/DC liked their bluegrass tribute act Hayseed Dixie so much, they even hired them to play one of their house parties!
At the gig, the UK Foo Fighters looked the part - squint and you could mistake Jay for Mr Grohl himself.
Their knowledge of the Foo’s back catalogue was also immense, even dusting off early singles ‘For The Cows’ and ‘Big Me’ to rapturous applause.
As Craig predicted, the crowd’s response was electric too: a moshpit erupted at the front from the start and lasted throughout.
The raucous chorus of ‘oohs’ that met ‘Best of You’ towards the end could have brought the roof down.
What won me round was the band’s enthusiasm for the originals. It was infectious.
As Jay admitted mid-set: “We may be up here playing the songs, but we’re still fans of the band, just like you! Meet us at the bar after - and let’s talk Foo Fighters!”
As the final chords faded away and fans walked out into another drizzly Manchester night, I was happily surprised at how much I enjoyed the gig.
Yes, it’s great to be passionate about original music, but going to a gig put on by fans for the fans is a spectacle worth seeing.
Whatever your opinions, tribute acts are here to stay - and taking the world by storm.
The Top Five Tribute Gigs in the north west this winter
Dubbed as the definitive Oasis experience - and even have Bonehead as a fan.
Catch them on the 1st December at The Ruby Lounge.
Reliving the brilliance of Marr and Morrissey (or Graham, as he’s called in this band).
They are playing the O2 Academy, Liverpool on 2nd December.
The Complete Stone Roses
One of the world’s foremost Roses experiences. They’ll be celebrating their 20th year in 2018.
See them at The Ruby Lounge on 9th February 2018.
Transmission - The Sound of Joy Division
Replicating the sounds of Hooky, Curtis and Sumner in all their post-punk glory.
Performing at The Empire Rochdale on 25th November 2017.
Take Off That
Perform as a three piece tribute to Gary, Mark and Howard - they can add a Robbie tribute too (for an extra fee).
Take in the pop experience on Saturday 22nd December 2017 at The Viceroy in Hyde.