Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Bees Knees (In Defense of Tribute Bands)

Not Morrissey (It's Jose)

Morrissey is a drug.
I think you probably know what I mean. Its just that once you see him perform live, you have to go again. It becomes an addiction. And during this Morrissey drought of not playing for a few months, you have to get your fix.

This is where tribute bands come in.
May 22nd is Morrissey's birthday. For a Morrissey fan his birthday is what Christmas is for a child. I can't explain why. Its not like you get presents. But you just feel giddy and happy and perhaps try to get up to something related to Morrissey to celebrate.

Every year, The Smiths/Morrissey cover band, The Sweet and Tender Hooligans, plays somewhere on Moz's birthday. This year they played at The Fonda Theater in Hollywood. Unfortunately, it was a school night so I wisely bought tickets without consulting Roland and I think he was quite happy to go even though he knew we'd be tired the next day.( I say "wisely" since if I'd given him the chance, he'd have said no). 

Okay, I know it's not REALLY Morrissey, but its still fun. If you are somewhat snobbish about your music, you might think that the band will suck and it will be lame-to generalize. You might think of them as a cheap polyester suit. But it isn't so! And the only thing worse than being snobby about a tribute band, is BEING SNOBBY ABOUT A TRIBUTE BAND!
At the Fonda Theater May 22, 2013
While I have only merely dabbled in playing guitar, I can say that Johnny Marr's tunes are rather complicated and to reproduce his and other Morrissey collaborators' authentic sound must take a lot of tireless skill. I can also say that Jose can perform Morrissey's vocal gymnastics flawlessly.  
When you really think about it, tribute bands sacrifice a lot for the music. They are accomplished musicians and singers but because they are performing someone else's material, they sacrifice much of their own egos just for the love of the artist. I mean, why else would you be in a band? Don't people join bands because they want the women to love them and the men to want to be them? Don't they want to hear the crowd chant their names? You don't necessarily get that being in a cover band. With such a sacrifice in mind, you know that they are truly dedicated to the music.

Another important aspect is artistic representation. The first time I saw this band, I was frightened that they would try to emulate Morrissey and/or The Smiths complete with Northern accent-very scary! But not so. They are themselves. In contrast, Jose has a lot more boundless energy than Morrissey does. (Although I still love Moz and his more stoic performances). His excitement is undeniable in his performance. You sense he's truly enjoying the songs he's singing and its infectious.  

It was great to hear songs that Moz has not played live for many years such as "Sing Your Life," one of my favorites.

The band covered the wide range of Morrissey's career:

The First of the Gang to Die
Still Ill
You're Gonna Need Someone on Your Side
Irish Blood, English Heart
Jack the Ripper
What Difference Does It Make?
I've Changed My Plea to Guilty
Everyday is Like Sunday
The Boy With the Thorn in His Side
Jose with Mikey on keyboards (not my photo)
A Rush and a Push and the Land is Ours
Action is My Middle Name
How Soon is Now?
The Loop
King Leer
Sing Your Life
Hairdresser on Fire
Let Me Kiss You
Pretty Girls Make Graves
Bigmouth Strikes Again
Encore-There is a Light That Never Goes Out

A special moment was when Mikey Farrell (former Morrissey collaborator) came on stage and played keyboards with the band on a couple of the songs he wrote with Morrissey. Mikey played along with the band to, "I've Changed My Plea to Guilty," "Sweetie-Pie," "Everyday is Like Sunday," and the encore, "There is a Light That Never Goes Out."

I think the only complaint about The Sweet and Tender Hooligans came from the band themselves because the ticket prices were pretty high-it was $30 per ticket and they didn't set the higher price themselves or benefit from it. Although, it was nice knowing that part of the proceeds went to a local animal charity in honor of Morrissey. Because the price was steep, the band thought it might drive some people away, but for people like Roland and I, who just want a good night out guaranteed, it was worth it.

Seeing a tribute band can temporarily satisfy your musical fix. You just have to put aside the need to be a musical snob and sing along!

Another great shot I can't take credit for!

By the way, Morrissey recently announced confirmed dates for several shows in South America this summer. While I may still need my "fix" at least there is some hope he will be here, in North America, in the future.

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