The Precisions are not a "tribute" band. Since being re-formed in 1996 with an original member, the band has worked hard to
cultivate their own personal music language with audiences while remaining true to the Precision's roots as an early New
York-based rock group. This months' THE BUZZ looks at the unusual emergence of tribute bands as part of today's music scene.
With the June release of the 50th anniversary edition of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, there are some 11,208 brand-new Beatles
tribute bands with names like Lazy Madonna, Eight Danes a Week and Dire Prudence. They join the 29,911 tribute bands that are already out on
the road honoring the Fab Four.
"There just isn't enough vintage Edwardian regalia to go around," says Courtney Unamuno, manager of the thrift shop Cheap, Ugly Trash on St.
Mark's Place in Manhattan. "We ran out of fussy epaulets back in February," she says.
Tribute bands ranging from Lead Zeppole to Bjorn 2 Run now account for 3.5% of
America's GDP, employing 2.5 million musicians and twice that number of stage hands,
sound engineers and roadies. Working in a top-flight tribute band is so profitable that
musicians graduating from prestigious schools routinely join bands with names like
Cold Plague, Flock of Seconals and Gladys Nite and the Pups.
Now, however, the industry faces a problem, according to Bristol de la Fosse, editor
of Working Necrophile, the bible of tribute band industry. Two many bands are imperson-
ating the same groups. Oasis has inspired Erases, Oasis 11 and Death by Gallagher,
and there are at least three bands named Au Bon Jovi. Tribute bands are fast-running
out of bands to play tribute to.
"We tried being a Fine Young Cannibals cover band called the Precocious Carnivores but
it went nowhere," says Coyote Salieri, lead guitarist in the abortive group. "From there, it was
on to Pearl Jelly and The Smashing Bumpkins. Now I play in Doors tribute band called
Morrison's Gym and weekends in a Def Leppard band called Dum Puma. "This is no way to
make a living."
Some musicians have reached their limits. "Id' rather be dead than play in a Jimmy Buffet tribute band," says Stone Hewitt-Hutchinson, who
pounds the 88's for the U2 tribute band UBOAT2. "Actually, you have to already be dead to play in a Jimmy Buffet tribute band."
Yet other performers find plenty of work on the margins. "You have to be willing to suck it up and play in a Katrina and the Waves tribute band,"
says Arabella Stonehaven, lead singer in the Katrina clone Walken on Sunshine. "The great thing about being in a Katrina and the Waves tribute
band is that they only had one huge hit here in America. You go on at 8; you're done by 8:10. I don't even have to hire a babysitter for the twins."
Many musicians are looking hard for solutions to the saturation problem. One occurred to Truck Hochenzollern, formerly lead guitarist in the
1960's cover band Protocal Harem.
"Cherub Garcia was far and away the best Grateful Dead tribute band in San Luis Obispo. But after the bass player went missing during a
seven-hour version of "Truckin," they broke up. So I started a band called Cherry Garcia y Vega. We don't pay tribute to the Dead; we pay
tribute to the band that used to pay tribute to the Dead. "Trippy, huh?"
None of this surprised industry insiders. "If there's money to be made, Americans will figure out a way to make it," says Skipper Van Helsen,
author of "Millions for Tribute Bands, Not One Cent for Defense." He adds, "If a tribute band can only cash in by paying tribute to other tribute
bands, they'll do it. It's not like anybody in the audience is going to notice."