Denver is rich with talented tribute bands. Looking for ’60s psychedelic rock? Check. How about '70s classic rock? Check. Maybe synth-heavy ’80s jams? Hip-hop? Jazz? Name any genre, artist or era, and it's probably being covered by somebody in the Mile High.
Here's a list of ten Denver tribute bands killing it in 2018:
10 Years Gone
Led Zeppelin tribute bands are not uncommon, but 10 Years Gone is one of the really fun ones. The lights, the quality, the energy, the look: The act's live performances do not disappoint. While John McGah does not boast Robert Plant's level of grunge, the singer and the rest of his band do possess a certain rock-star stage presence that is essential to performing Zeppelin songs.
Tom Petty, the father of “dad rock,” is covered by a bunch of dudes who know exactly what their audience is looking for: chill vibes and some rad Petty tunes. Getting their name from an Elvis Costello line off My Aim Is True, Legendary Hitchhikers have been jamming in front of crowds around town, playing renditions of “Free Fallin'” and “Here Comes My Girl” and occasionally sprinkling in covers of some of their other favorite songs.
Styx is not the first band that comes to mind when naming artists to pay tribute to, but when it’s done right, it's something special. Consider Paradise Theatre, one of the cover bands that does it correctly. Nailing the soaring vocals and synth-heavy ballads, Paradise Theatre is capable of putting on a show that Styx diehards and casual fans alike can enjoy. According to the band's website, the five members of Paradise Theatre are best friends, too.
Lost Dog Ensemble
Lost Dog Ensemble nails the raggedness of Tom Waits’s trademark vocals. It may not be possible to match his showmanship or gravelly growling, but the Denver cover band is masterful at bringing the essence of Waits to the stage through whimsical changes in lead singer David Dinsmore’s cadence and a large band that performs dirty late-night blues and jazz tunes.
The only Hasidic Ramones cover band in Denver, the Shaloms sport a hat-and-payes combo while playing the music of one of the greatest punk bands of all time. In case there were ever any doubts about the commitment to the bit, refer to the band's Facebook account, which reads: “We left our mohel duties to become the greatest kosher Ramones cover band in the world!” Not a bad life to live.
Blink 90210 is the best bet for fans looking for short shorts, long gym socks and a collection of ’90s pop-punk hits. Blink 90210 primarily covers punk band Blink-182, but also dips its toes into other popular tunes from the ’90s, including a very popular cover of "Hey Ya," by OutKast. 90210 excels largely because its members hit all the right notes that nostalgic ’90s kids look for: the California-surfer enunciation in the style of Tom Delonge, breakneck drumming, and throwing a kickass party on stage. The group even recently partnered with ’80s tribute band the Goonies for an ’80s vs. ’90s Tribute Night in Longmont. The ’90s are long gone, but ’90s parties and ’90s tribute bands are very much alive.
Shakedown Street comprises a rotating cast of Colorado musicians who have been covering the Grateful Dead since the late ’80s. That the band has done so successfully for so many years speaks volumes about the music and Colorado's appetite for such tunes. With a collection of cover songs reportedly nearing 200, Shakedown Street has the catalogue to jam from sunup to sundown.
Yes, don’t worry: Rush Archives plays "Tom Sawyer," and it’s pretty good. Rush Archives' members swear they know there is only one Rush, but after discovering enough fans around Colorado, they decided to pay tribute, and have been quite successful at it. For the past three years, the trio has toured around Colorado, playing renditions of the hits, and bringing a little bit of Geddy Lee, Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson to the stage. There’s only one Rush, but there are plenty of reason to play the band's songs.
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Nuns of Brixton
The self-proclaimed "only Clash cover band that matters" is a real treat to catch live. With a cult following, a catalogue of beloved songs from the British punk rockers, and yes, nun outfits, the clever Denver tribute band is a total must-see. Since 2010, the Nuns have brought a seemingly endless amount of energy to the stage to go along with their talent for precise renditions of the Clash's hits. Fans of the great British band or not, viewers are sure to have a good time watching adult men rock out in nun habits.
SF1 & the Crew's OutKast Tribute
Denver native rapper Shane Franklin has become a talking point around town by covering OutKast, the hip-hop duo from Atlanta. He and the Crew’s OutKast Tribute Night at the Oriental Theater back in January was one of the most memorable cover nights in recent years, including an awfully impressive rendering of the duo's hit song "B.O.B.," in which Franklin not only rapped Andre 3000’s iconic opening verse, but played the drums at the beginning of the song for good measure. Franklin's talent as a musician and rapper is obvious, and he's been a major name in Denver’s hip-hop scene for some time with his own music — but his cover of potentially the greatest hip-hop duo of all-time is also remarkable.