By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Let me make one thing perfectly clear: At no time did I enjoy myself whatsoever. It was fun(ny) to see John squirm during Space Oddity, as he’s a big Bowie fan. And it was a relief to see Japanese tourists bolt the House of Blues when Brighton ill-advisedly launched (or rather lurched) into ”Dancing in the Street“ (had Dick Swagger been there to duet, perhaps it might have been different).
To be fair, ”Dance the Night Away“ by Atomic Punks was okay, if not exactly a KO, and there was one moment at the end of their show that gave pause. Ralph went into the audience with his cordless mike to interact. Suddenly our eyes met, and before I could look away he gave me a couple of playful love taps, as if to say, ”Come on, dude -- don‘t be a dick!“ I was smitten. Excitedly, I asked John, ”Did you see that?“ But he doubted it had even happened. Steve missed it, too. And Marie was dancing, enjoying herself (common female reaction, see conclusion).
The point is: My only desire in going to all these shows was to be like anyone else. To get it. Not agonize over it, read into it, complain about it. But to love it and leave it. My episode with Ralph almost did that for me. Of course, almost only counts in . . .
So I began to panic, primarily because I thought I should see other acts. But unfortunately, there are more tribute bands than you can shake a shtick at. There’s Gabba Gabba Heys (Ramones); Ratt ‘n’ Roll, who played House of Blues the same month as Ratt; and allegedly a Bad Company knock-off fronted by a midget lead singer. Last August, a full-page ad in the Weekly trumpeted some Neil Diamond impersonator. In Maine, there‘s the all-girl Eagles tribute troupe, the Sheagles; somewhere out there is a gal named Shania Twin. And would you believe Nudist Priest?
Dorsey and Stephan are 28-year-old Texans who are to tribute culture what fellow Lone Star statesmen Beavis and Butt-head are to uh-huh-huh. That is, they are the masterminds behind a project called MockStars. MockStars is the name of their Web site (mockstars.com) and their Marty DeBergi--ish mockumentary about tribute bands around the world and elsewhere, including Europe, Australia (land of tribute bands, apparently) and Japan (home of stupendous Queen impersonators Kween).
Dorsey, an assistant to video director Mark Romanek, and Stephan, who cut his teeth with Harold Ramis, are both charmingly gung-ho. For two years, they’ve invested lots of their time and lots of their buddy Tom Troy‘s money into shooting over 50 hours of film. Now all they need are the green light and greenbacks to go abroad and film such spectaculars as the Bootleg Beatles at Royal Albert Hall in London this December.
In the meantime, Dorsey and Stephan are shopping around their sample reel featuring a pseudo-Altamont performance by Sticky Fingers at a biker rally in Laughlin, Nevada. Hip as they may be, however, the two filmmakers take their tributes seriously.
Tribute acts, once the province of Jimi Hendrix clones like Randy Hansen, have, according to Dorsey and Stephan, gone bad and nationwide, for lots of reasons: the state of contemporary music (though there is already a Backstreet Boys tribute), the impossibility of sitting in the first 10 rows at, say, a real Stones show, the Vegasization veg factor (”Why go to New York,“ Dorsey wonders, ”when you can go to Vegas, where New York is air-conditioned?“), plus normal, everyday, no-end-in-sight, neurotic nostalgia.
Not to mention the awful truth. ”It is,“ Dorsey says, ”like spending money on someone else’s credit card.“
Understandably -- given his immersion in the project -- Dorsey emphasizes that MockStars is ”celebrating these people.“ And yet, by any standard, he‘s gone native. ”If they’re great at what they‘re doing, then that’s great. If they‘re horrible at what they’re doing, then that‘s great too.“
I don’t know, maybe Dorsey and I are separated by the gap between Generations X and Y. After all, I saw Zeppelin and don‘t need to see Zepagain. And maybe he, for example, never saw Van Halen. Wrong! Not only has Dorsey seen them, with David Lee Roth, but on that glorious evening, ”the Jackson Victory Tour was playing across town, and Eddie was flown via helicopter from Reunion Arena to Texas Stadium to play the solo for ’Beat It.‘“
According to Stein, tribute bands hark back to primitive society. ”There’ve always been medicine men who take on the essence of their gods by having certain rituals,“ she notes, ”and that‘s exactly what these musicians are doing.“
Stein also sees tribute bands as integral to not just Anthro 101 but Intro to Western Civ. ”The great masters in painting had students who reproduced the same art over and over, and many students’ works also hang in museums.“ As a result, Stein opines, ”just like we‘re still doing Shakespeare’s plays, there will be re-creations of famous concerts 100 years from now.“