American Idolatry

Who says cover bands are unoriginal?

Nov 24, 2004 at 4:00 am
It's no wonder that tribute bands are king of our nightclub landscape: We live in an age where Wonder Bread-wholesome American Idol contestants rule the TV ratings and pop charts with their overblown cover schmaltz. Take the success of Providence, Rhode Island, natives Badfish, who are widely viewed as the world's best imitators of Sublime and its late lead singer, Brad Nowell. As faithful replicators of the wake-and-bake attitude and ska- and reggae-influenced punk of the Long Beach band, the 'Fish are talented enough to tour with the frequency of a jam band while earning opening slots for "real bands" like Reel Big Fish along the way.

But tribute bands rarely reach that level of fame -- much less gain respect for their musical skills. So the key to successful mimicry is cleverness. Any group can christen itself after its heroes' most popular song; lists at least three bands named after Kiss' Destroyer album. But it takes a truly inventive mind to title a group Alcoholica, Non Jovi or Alanis Moreorless. Or to form the enigmatic Chicks with Dixie, an all-transvestite Dixie Chicks tribute band.

Though it's Lithium (a Nirvana tribute, natch) that plays at Pop's this week, the following is our tribute to those tribute bands that put a quirky twist on the straight musical homage. Here's hoping they land here soon.


Web site:

Premise: Five spunky females with a love for AC/DC, rocking out with their cocks (figuratively) out to Bon Scott screamers.

Resemblance to original: Like its fallen idol -- Scott died from excessive boozing -- the quintet's biographical gushing about alcohol hints that it can certainly match drinks with its idols.

Adventures in rock excess: Not content to do dirty deeds strictly on its San Francisco home turf, the group traveled to an AC/DC convention in the U.K. in August -- and opened for founding member Dave Evans.

Odds of original band kicking its ass: Not even AC/DC would mess with five women hell-bent on faithfully re-creating the raucous pre-Back in Black riffage, down to Agnes Young's femme version of the schoolboy uniform worn by her namesake.


Web site:

Premise: As members of the world's portliest Misfits tribute band, these rotund rockers dish about food and fatness in parody tunes like "Mommy, Can I Go Out and Grill Tonight?"

Resemblance to original: They've got the ghoulish makeup and grimy punk riffing down -- as well as snazzy nicknames (Sir Lord Butterscotch and Foil von Franksnbeans) to carry on the Misfits' alias-rich tradition.

Adventures in rock excess: Only in the amount of doughnuts, Twinkies and PBR consumed.

Odds of original band kicking its ass: Given that ex-'Fits vocalist Glenn Danzig was recently spotted getting the proverbial stuffing kicked out of him backstage in Phoenix, it's highly doubtful he could do much about the champion chompers.


Web site:

Premise: Four dwarves apply Kiss facepaint and mime to the band's glitter metal, with three-foot-eleven Scott Seidman playing the role of Paul Stanley. Love from Howard Stern, heaps of press and opening slots for big-timers like A Perfect Circle followed.

Resemblance to original: Frighteningly faithful -- think Kiss in its '70s Jewfro-riddled heyday, shrunk by a miniaturizing ray.

Adventures in rock excess: Sparkly boots and photos of adoring female fans abound on its Web site, so it seems the wee lads are enjoying their time as the modern equivalent to the Munchkinland chorus.

Odds of original band kicking its ass: Gene Simmons has met and given a tongue waggle of approval to the band, so he's likely to reserve any bludgeoning for his recent cover of the Prodigy's "Firestarter."


Web site: none

Premise: Judas Priest's greatest hits played by grizzled, hairy, studded-leather-accessorizing dudes in the buff.

Resemblance to original: Not entirely clear anatomically, but sonically the nekkid noodlers do the original group proud with longhair-approved fretwork and howling.

Adventures in rock excess: It doesn't get more decadent than guitar-playing exhibitionism, but a member of the band topped that in 2001 by getting kicked out of a Los Angeles club after a screening of cult flick Heavy Metal Parking Lot, reportedly for burning the set list of another cover band.

Odds of original band kicking its ass: Original Priest vocalist Rob Halford asked Spin magazine in June, "What was the singer like and how big was his unit?" Perhaps, er, tapping Nudist Priest's ass might be more his style.


Web site:

Premise: An all-male, all-drag Go-Go's tribute band comfortable enough in its collective sexuality to rock in Catholic-schoolgirl plaid skirts and facial hair.

Resemblance to original: Five-o'-clock-shadow-sporting singer Paulinda conjures vocalist Belinda Carlisle's DIY new-wave fashion sense: The band's Web site shows him modeling a fuzzy orange bathmat as a skirt with a man-cleavage-revealing black corset. Hipsters, take note.

Adventures in rock excess: A sold-out July gig with the Misfats and Mini-Kiss -- otherwise known as a triple bill of epic tribute proportions.

Odds of original band kicking its ass: Carlisle was briefly in the original Germs lineup, and she, guitarist Jane Wiedlin and bassist Charlotte Caffey were denizens of the late-'70s Los Angeles punk scene, so they'd have no trouble dispensing with the imitators.