Tribute bands. Love them or loathe them, they've been big business for years now, and as nostalgia tightens its grip on music fans, they'll likely go on and thrive. People love going out, paying $5 or so for a ticket, and catching a band playing faithful versions of songs they know and love. Here in the Denver area, we have a bunch of really skilled musicians, many of whom also play in "originals" bands, choosing to make a bit of extra cash while playing music that they adore. If they can do that instead of working a day job, all the better. (Note: This list does not include more general cover bands.) Here are ten of the best tributes bands in Colorado, appearing in alphabetical order.
10. Dead Floyd
These Fort Collins guys love the music of both the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd, so they play both. It’s a fascinating concept, one that may not be the most natural fit, but Dead Floyd makes it work. At the end of the day, live music is always more fun if the people on stage are enjoying themselves, and the musicians of Dead Floyd certainly are.
9. DeadPhish Orchestra
Oh, these Boulder boys were always going to get star treatment in Colorado. What better way to attract a state of jam-loving music fans than by performing the music of arguably the genre’s two biggest groups, more so even than the aforementioned Dead Floyd? By combining the Grateful Dead and Phish into one package, the DeadPhish Orchestra struck gold. They do a good job with both, too. Catch them at theaters and local festivals throughout the year.
8. The Dirty Femmes
Denver’s Dirty Femmes formed in 2012, the idea being that they wanted to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the recording of the Violent Femmes’ beloved debut album (even though it wasn’t released until 2013). Despite the fact that the Violent Femmes are still together and regularly touring, the opportunity to hear those songs on a Sunday at lunchtime in a small bar/restaurant is tough to resist for fans. The “novelty” factor of having a female singer in the shape of Jen Korte makes things interesting, too.
7. The Fab 4
Yeah, pretty much every major city in the world has its own Beatles tribute band, and the songs are so well known and dear that most of these bands are pretty good. Our own Fab 4 is certainly right up there with the best of them. In its two decades together, the band has played all over the States and in Europe, performing music from the fun-loving beginnings through the Sgt. Pepper period, right through to the tumultuous end. Honestly, it’s exactly what you would expect, which is exactly what you want.
Members of Denver-area punk bands Form of Rocket, Uphollow, Glass Hits, and Ghost Buffalo come together to play the music of perhaps the most heralded post-hardcore band of them all. Ian MacKaye’s songs, after Minor Threat, have always been at least slightly awkward in a really great way, so re-creating them is no easy task, but these guys do an exceptionable job.
Read on for five more of the best tribute bands in Colorado.
5. My Blue Sky
A Thornton-based Allman family tribute, My Blue Sky formed in 2013 when they realized that, in the wake of the Allman Brothers Band splitting up (at least for now), fans who didn’t have the opportunity to see them live anymore needed a fix. Honoring, rather than copying, the music of the Allman Brothers, these guys realize that even the Allmans approached the songs differently every time they played them. They're seasoned musicians with other gigs elsewhere, but they do this because they love the music.
4. Rally 'Round the Family
The bandmembers in Rally ’Round the Family don’t even try to look like Rage Against the Machine — a practical impossibility considering the slight frame and distinctive hair of RATM frontman Zack de la Rocha. What they do is focus on the music, and while Tom Morello’s guitar sound is tough to replicate, distinctive as it is, these guys are as true as possible to the real thing. They put on a great show, and have played a bunch of gigs performing RATM albums in their entirety.
Look, it’s Kiss. The songs are not particularly difficult to play, but, dammit, we want theater. So as long as a Kiss tribute band wears the right crazy clothing and outlandish makeup, while the “Gene” spits blood, we’ll all be happy. Nobody, nobody at all, wants to see a Kiss tribute band take off the outfits and re-create the Creatures of the Night/Crazy Nights periods. RocKissity does exactly what we all want it to do.
2. Under a Blood Red Sky
The band says that it's the U.S.’s premier U2 tribute band, and we’re not going to argue. On New Year’s Eve of 2005, they performed the classic Live at Red Rocks set from 1983 in its entirety at the Paramount Theatre, a sold-out show, and the gig was such a success that they just kept going. Eleven years on, the band now plays songs from all eras of U2’s career. It just played its final summer show at the Colorado State Fair, but we’re sure that it will be out and about again soon.
Local singer Toddy Walters, along with a solid ten-piece band, does a near-as-possible job of re-creating Amy Winehouse’s magic, a real service considering the tragedy that was the end of the British vocalist's life. Walters's outfits and hair are pretty close to the real thing, which is important for the visual effect of the show. Meanwhile, she is a talented working singer and is more than capable of doing justice to songs like “Rehab." Alongside last year’s Amy movie, Winehouse serves as a tribute in the truest sense of the word.