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
Even so, Stein concedes, ”Probably tribute audiences are not very discriminating. I don‘t want to call this low culture . . .“
Amusing as Stein’s intellectualizations were to me, what I needed was a personal epiphany.
Sure enough, I saw Louder Than Bombs a second time, at Spaceland no less, and found them fun bordering on good. They played ”How Soon Is Now“ this time, albeit without the dive-bomber leads, and the renditions were crisp enough to remind me how great the Smiths were -- and make me wonder what made Louder Than Bombs tick . . .
”We were driving in Topanga Canyon,“ Clint recalls, ”listening to the Smiths, and I was like, I‘d love to get a cover band together.“
But he only jokingly contemplated going through with it. ”Then I was like, fuck it!“ he says. ”So I booked that gig at the Joint without us even having a practice yet.“
Like professor Stein, Clint cites Shakespeare and the great masters as precedents, adding the old saw ”Good poets borrow, great poets steal“ for good measure. ”Just because one band writes songs, why can’t another band play those songs?“
Then again, why can‘t a band play its own songs? Clint’s way ahead of me. ”We‘re not a tribute band per se. I’m not dressing as Morrissey, hell no! I want to turn Louder Than Bombs into the Bombs, and people aren‘t going to notice. After the shows, people came up to me and said, ’I really like your songs!‘ And I said, [beat] ’Thank you!‘“
Won over as I momentarily was by Clint and the Bombs, they won’t, if everything goes as planned, be a tribute band forever -- while most if not all of their colleagues will be.
So what‘s up with that?
It’s one thing to learn from the masters -- Hunter Thompson typed out The Great Gatsby just to feel how a great work unfolds -- but it‘s quite another to earn from them. That is, it’d be difficult to fault the Stones for wanting a taste of Sticky Fingers‘ gate receipts. But I’m not just talking legally, I‘m talking morally.
In other words, is it right?
No, tribute bands are wrong. And we’re all guilty: guys (for taking rock too seriously), dolls (for not taking it seriously enough), real bands (Metallica think it‘s cool to have Alcoholica tour with them) and their fans (mossback supporters prefer Alcoholica to Metallica because Metallica have ”sold out“).
I wouldn’t be so fuddy-duddy if it weren‘t becoming such an epidemic. And Led Zepagain are the least of my worries. What about the Black Crowes? All they are is a de facto Led Zeppelin tribute act, with a bloated Jimmy Page along for the ride. And without Bonzo’s drum sound, or John Paul‘s arrangements, not to mention Plant’s vocal -- aw hell, I can‘t believe I’m even deigning to discuss this shit.
Because when the levee breaks -- what with the irony epidemic having trickled down from Chevy Chase on ”Weekend Update“ to Dennis Miller on Monday Night Football, and the preposterous popularity of pro wrestling and porno having simultaneously become ho-hum and here to stay -- don‘t be surprised if tribute bands eventually go Top 10. (Especially now that bands like Louder Than Bombs -- Clint dates one of Mick Fleetwood’s daughters, the drummer directed that movie about cheerleaders, Bring It On -- may be a portent of further highbrow slumming to come.)
But who am I to say that what‘s at stake here is nothing less than the Future of Art? As I wrote this, Rage Against the Machine were doing just that at the Democratic Convention. The kids were wilding, the pigs firing rubber (tribute?) bullets. And I worried that I was wasting my time writing about music (and not more important issues). I couldn’t help hearing Dick Swagger in the back of my mind, singing, ”I knowIt‘s only mock & roll, but I like it!“