What’s the story with tribute bands anyways? Often the musicians playing in tribute bands are amazing musicians in their own right so why are they devoting their energy to copying someone else? Is it the ultimate compliment, a cash grab, or just a lack of original material? Playing in a tribute band takes more dedication than just being in a cover band; in fact, many tribute band members seem to have made the leap from fan over to fanatical.
The really good tribute bands celebrate their love for a specific musical group together with their audiences. They are motivated by love, not just money. They also have that little extra something that sets them apart from the many other tribute acts out there. Here are my top ten tribute bands:
Guidelines I used:
- 100% tribute band (not too many other covers, no original songs)
- Active (if I didn’t see recent activity, I disqualified them)
- Tribute to a band, not a single performer
- Musicianship (must actually sing and play instruments)
- Can not contain any members of the original band
People are still commenting on this list 4 years later, I loved writing this list so I thought I’d give it a facelift. I replaced 2 videos that were not working any more (Westend Girls and Bjorn Again) and I built a Tribute Band YouTube playlist where I will continue to collect videos of the fantastic talent you share in the comments. – Tanya.
10. Fan Halen (Van Halen)
So that’s what David Lee Roth is doing now… Just kidding! He sure looks like David Lee Roth, if David Lee Roth had a time machine (I bet he is trying to find one so he can go back to the old days. Hopefully Axel Rose finds it first.)
9. Lez Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin)
(“All girls All Zeppelin” www.myspace.com/lezzeppelin) They made the list because they are working their butts off touring like crazy right now and because I listened to their stuff and it’s very good. But most importantly, their name is hee-har-hilarious!
8. Pink Fraud (Pink Floyd)
They focus on Pink Floyd circa 1968-1979. According to their website, the use ‘authentic period clothing and equipment, and [stay]true to the bands arrangements and touring line-ups’ to ‘create the suspension of belief for fans who were there at the time, and offer the original experience to new fans’. (www.pinkfraud.co.uk) They wouldn’t normally make my list just for looking and sounding exactly like Pink Floyd but I’m including them because they’ve been kicking it pink style for over twenty years and also their band name is both funny and painfully honest.
7. BC/DC (AC/DC)
This band hailing from British Columbia (B.C.) Canada insists they are not a tribute band but the real thing and that AC/DC is actually a tribute band of BC/DC’s. Those wacky kids! Also, going by the photo below, the guitar player wears a cow costume on stage. Weird. (www.bcdc.ca)
6. Gabba (ABBA/The Ramones)
They play Abba songs in the style of the Ramones. Or is it the other way around? Hard to tell from their song names: “Surfing Queen”, “The Pinhead Takes it All”, “Hej Ho Disco”. (www.gabba.co.uk)
5. Mini Kiss (Kiss)
At first I wasn’t going to include this one because their wikipedia article said they didn’t play their own instruments but after watching a few videos I’m pretty sure that they are playing them. There is also apparently a rivalry between this band and another Kiss tribute band featuring little people, which makes them even more interesting. (www.minikissonline.com)
4. The West End Girls (Pet Shop Boys)
Two Swedish women covering Pet Shop Boys songs. Very euro-pop, funny, yet catchy (hmmmm, kind of like the band they are emulating?). www.westendgirls.se
3. Beatallica (Beatles/Metallica)
Songs such as “Hey Dude” and “…And Justice for all my loving” how could these guys not be on the list? Just look at them! (www.beatallica.org)
2. The Bootleg Beatles (The Beatles)
In 1982 the Bootleg Beatles became “the first western rock group to ever tour the USSR” (www.bootlegbeatles.com). There are a lot of Beatles tribute bands out there that go to a lot of trouble to look and sound just like the originals; however this is the only one that also made rock’n’roll history! And, in true crazy tribute style, the Bootleg Beatles arrived for their US tour from London exactly 20 years after their favorite group – on Pan Am flight 01A on February 7, 1984. Coincidence? I doubt it.
1. Bjorn Again (Abba)
Began as a tribute band in 1988 and is now, from what I understand, somewhat of a franchise with several versions performing all over the world simultaneously. According to their website www.bjornagain.com, their band is “not labeled a “tribute” or a “copy” but seen as a band in it’s own right”. Well, I’m going to go ahead and still call them a tribute since they perform Abba songs, dress like Abba and have names based on the original Abba members (Björn Volvo-us, Benny Anderwear, Frida Longstokin and Agnetha Falstart). They have earned the number one spot on this list for several reasons: their longevity (20 years and counting!), their arrival at Heathrow Airport dressed in full costume for their UK tour, one of their songs made the UK Charts, and the fact that band Nirvana had them added to the line up for the Reading Festival. Oh, and they have toured with the real versions of Cher and Shania Twain.
Honorable mentions (did not meet criteria)
Hayseed Dixie – ACDC tribute to ACDC songs with a country spin. They also have a lot of their own original material so not qualified.
Iron Maidens – All female tribute to Iron Maiden. Has not played a show since 2007 so disqualified.
Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine – www.richardcheese.com He does a variety of rock covers (not just Rage Against the Machine) but all in a cheesy lounge style. Awesome.)
No Way Sis (Oasis) – Hit UK charts with cover of “I’d like to teach the world to sing” in Oasis style. Signed a 5 album deal with EMI but could not find evidence they still exist.
Apocalyptica and Dread Zeppelin
Sources: Wikipedia and websites included in list, as well as: www.tribute-band.com, www.canadiantributebands.com
Check out our growing collection of tribute bands at our TopTenz YouTube Channel:
Tribute Band Playlist