You may remember an article I penned two years ago profiling some of my favorite cover songs. It was one of my first pieces for this site and a terrific topic to cover. Most bands and artists will record covers to put their own spin on a classic or track they enjoy but at the end of the day, they still have their own original material to show for it. These musicians aren’t primarily known for performing other people’s work. For some others though, they make their entire living through performing covers. Some pay tribute to a specific band or act while others re-envision an array of songs from different genres. In the end, their entire legacy exists as a tribute. This isn’t the fairytale story of someone like Tim Owens or Arnel Pineda who sang in tribute acts for years and were eventually shot to fame by being invited to be a part of the very same bands they were paying homage to. Owens wound up as the vocalist for Judas Priest for a few years and Pineda ultimately became the singer for Journey.
We’ve all seen local cover bands down at our favorite watering hole and while they may have kicked ass, let’s instead take a gander at some of the nationally known cover bands, the ones who trek all around the world singing the words of their greatest heroes.
What do you get when you cross the Beatles with Metallica? Naturally, you get Beatallica. This furious quartet from Wisconsin combine the fun-loving lyrics of the Fab Four with the sound of angry thrash metal with a little humor sprinkled in. On their earlier discography, the tracks of both groups were actually merged for a combination that surprisingly worked and helped them gain a foothold in the industry. Hell, even their song titles are often an amalgamation of the works of their mentors such as “Blackened the USSR” or “…And Justice For All My Loving”. They’ve become very successful and their unique concept have made them a crowd pleaser.
Beatallica actually ran into some legal trouble from Sony in the mid-2000s due to them releasing the Beatles music without their permission but surprisingly, Metallica drummer, Lars Ulrich came to their rescue. A very different stance on musical copyright from these guys when just years prior, the band took online file sharing company, Napster, to court for the illegal sharing of their content. In the end, Beatallica were allowed to carry on with their operation, rocking venues across the nation!
Funny story, I once attended a birthday party in the same venue where Beatallica had performed that same night in downtown Manhattan. By the time I arrived, I was told that their set had just wrapped up and all I could do was gaze at all of their merchandise. Rats!
Back in high school, Sublime were a favorite among a lot of my friends so expectedly, 40 Oz. To Freedom and the self-titled CD were on constant play during car trips back then. That’s when I first heard about Badfish, a Sublime tribute act from Rhode Island. Years after Bradley Nowell passed away and before the remaining members would re-emerge with Sublime with Rome, this was pretty much the closest we could get to the real thing. Current lead singer, Pat Downes brings his best Nowell impression as they dazzled audiences everywhere with spot-on covers of the group’s ska-tinged punk tunes. They sell out shows all over the east coast and midwest and don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. If you want to see a Sublime act that doesn’t shamelessly cash in on the legacy of the great Bradley Nowell, seek these guys out.
Formed in 2001, this all-female homage to Iron Maiden have become famous for their energetic remakes of the most memorable Maiden tracks. Born huge metal listeners, these gals have made their name as the premiere Iron Maiden tribute act due to their good looks and flawless musicianship. For extra touch, they’ve even cleverly crafted their stage personas after the metal giants with names like Bruce Chickinson, Steph Harris, and Adrianna Smith. In 2014, guitarist Nita Strauss aka Mega Murray’s efforts payed off when she joined Alice Cooper gaining a higher profile for the Iron Maidens.
Speaking of all-female cover bands, Lez Zeppelin is another one, performing the classics of Led Zeppelin. They bear no onstage gimmicks, using only their instruments to channel Plant, Page, Jones, and Bonham in a whole different light. The ladies toured for years after coming together in New York, belting out tunes like Over The Hills and Far Away and Rock & Roll before gaining a reputation. They were then summoned to play the Download Festival in England, the Rock am Ring festival in Germany, and a number of other overseas gigs, further cementing their name.
I get emails to see Lez Zeppelin all the time. I may just have to take the plunge and check them out live soon.
Here’s an act with a bit of history. In 2000, singer Gary Mullen participated on a British program titled Stars In Their Eyes in which contestants imitate their favorite celebrities. Mullen’s spot-on version of Freddie Mercury’s soprano and trademark moustache made him an easy winner. He later parlayed that success into an entire stage show featuring Queen songs with the help of his band, The Works. Complete with the pageantry and theatrics of his musical idols, One Night of Queen is one of the top tribute acts in the world. While Queen themselves are doing alright for themselves with American Idol alum, Adam Lambert, on the microphone, Gary Mullen encapsules Mr. Mercury’s essence so well that sometimes you forget you aren’t watching the late singer.
These San Fran rockers have no boundaries when it comes to the songs that they cover. Whether it’s Gloria Gaynor, James Taylor, or even the music of Broadway, there isn’t a damn artist who is off limits for Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. Ever wondered what “Leaving On a Jet Plane” sounds like in the tune of punk rock? Then these are your guys! Don’t worry though, they haven’t forgotten about their punk roots as many of their covers boast interludes of covers from bands like T.S.O.L. and Social Distortion among others. I was really into these guys in high school before I even heard the originals to half of the stuff they were singing! I can definitely say that they helped turn me on to some great stuff later in life. They’ve been running strong for 20 years strong and have amassed quite a following keeping them popular to this day.
The tongue-in-cheek humor of comedian, Richard Cheese brought his novelty band, Lounge Against The Machine, to prominence. As I stated in my horror remakes article, I first heard these guys when their hysterical rendition of Disturbed’s Down With The Sickness was featured in the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. From that moment, I was hooked on their idea. They then started popping up on late night talk shows with their jazz-influenced interpretations of popular songs. The easy-listening covers of certain rap and metal songs complete with the all the vulgarity make LATM a delight to groove to.
Even though Beatallica is doing a superb job of carrying the torch that the Beatles left behind, it’s Rain that carries on their legacy in the purest form. These musicians capture the essence of Beatlemania with their elaborate stage show right down to the costumes and props. A number of the Beatles’ most iconic performances are re-created for an entire audience who remembers them or were too young to ever encountered that era. The experience is great for the whole family and is reminiscent of an evening at the theatre with the use of playbills and intermission. The music is so superb and the commitment to detail is what helps sell-out shows. These guys are pretty much the closest anyone is going to get to watching a live Beatles concert in the 1960s. God bless them!
The Bayside Tigers first rose to prominence in New York and their story is an inspiring one. They bear the namesake of the team from the fictional Bayside High School which was the setting for everyone’s favorite teen sitcom, Saved by the Bell; a show that pretty much defines the early 1990s. They started out as just an ordinary cover band who enjoyed performing songs from the 90s but then morphed into something much bigger. The Bayside Tigers don’t want you to just see a cover band, they want you be a part of a huge party with awesome people as they invite you to their extravaganza dubbed Saved by the 90s. Due to the resurgence in 90s nostalgia in recent years, the band are regularly performing shows at some of the most notable venues on the east coast featuring your favorite 90s tunes. Whether it’s rock (Lit’s My Own Worst Enemy, Collective Soul’s Shine) and pop (Britney Spears’ …Baby One More Time, Spice Girls’ Wannabe), they make sure to leave an impression to on the crowd. It’s not just about the music though as the places they perform in feature wall-to-wall reminders of what that decade was all about. Your favorite television shows, movies, fashions, and celebrities are on display as you take a trip down memory lane and relive the best decade of your lives. Recently, the band has reached other cities such as Los Angeles and Boston and look to expand even more bringing the ultimate celebration to new ground. I’ve seen the Bayside Tigers perform in New York on three separate occasions and it was a treat every time. Look out for them if they come to your area.