Top 10 Fanatical Tribute Bands

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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:

  1. 100% tribute band (not too many other covers, no original songs)
  2. Active (if I didn’t see recent activity, I disqualified them)
  3. Tribute to a band, not a single performer
  4. Musicianship (must actually sing and play instruments)
  5. Can not contain any members of the original band

2012 UPDATE:

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.” 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 video above, 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 – AC/DC tribute to AC/DC 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

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108 Comments

  1. I'm sure most of these bands have fine followings. However, The Musical Box has been recreating early Genesis shows since 1993. Usually 20-25 shows per tour, 2 tours per year, in the US and Europe, selling out 2,000-3,000 seat venues at $30 a pop in the US and Canada and up to 5,000 seat venues in Europe at 30-40 Euros a ticket. I, and many others like me, have traveled hundreds of miles multiple times to see this incredible, note-perfect trip back in time. I saw Lez Zeppelin here in Detroit at a bar for $15 with about 300 other people. They were good. When they start pulling in almost a $100,000 a night in gate receipts like The Musical Box does let me know. You want fanatical, see The Musical Box and count the number of different state (and province) license plates in the parking lot. We're fanatical, bordering on nuts.

  2. @Magog: Actually, the 'fanatical' in the title refers to the band members not the fans. Had I seen the quote that Phil Collins watched The Musical Box perform and then told reporters afterwards that "they played it better than we did" I may have included them on the list (thanks sgtspeed for the info in comment above – quote found on Wikipedia).

    This list is not based on how much money the bands earn but on the guidelines listed at the top, plus that extra 'something' that made the band stand out to me. Like Lez Zeppelin, for example – that name rocks!

    Thanks for the info about the Musical Box and here is their website: http://themusicalbox.net/

  3. @Tanya: Then by your standards I must nominate The Musical Box yet again. Their instruments are vintage duplicates. The light show and background curtains are spot-on perfect. They were given use (approved by Genesis) of the 1000+ actual background slides used for the 1974 “Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” tour recreation. Every costume used by Peter Gabriel from 1972-1975 has been painstakingly copied using the actual props as models (again with Peter Gabriel’s permission). Every nuance of the shows are an exact recreation down to the smallest detail. If they are doing the 1973 “Black” show they play only the songs Genesis did in the order Genesis did for that segment of the tour. The same for the 1973 “White” show or the 1974 “Lamb” show. No variation is allowed. Don’t get me started on the music for it is absolutely perfect everytime. I am fortunate to have seen Genesis do these shows 36 years ago, trust me when I say seeing The Musical Box is like walking through a time tunnel and coming out back in 1973 on the other side.

  4. @Magog – You’ve convinced me, they do belong on this list… I spent a lot of time researching tribute bands to make this list so I’m disappointed that I didn’t come across them. Just like Tragedy, the BeeGees metal band (thanks Beth)- should be on the list but discovered after the fact. I said I’d knock out the Westend Girls for Tragedy; who should we vote off for The Musical Box? Fan Halen maybe…

  5. Australian GNR Show on

    Great list!

    I saw these guys play in Australia and though they needed a mention, I'm A massive Gunners Fan and it was like watching the real thing!

  6. I would agree with Bjorn and Fan Halen being on the list. Following with Led Zepplica coming in strong and Back in Black, Kiss Army and American English (Beatles Tribute. Another band notlisted I would say deserves a lot of attention is Arrival. Only 1 1/2 yrs new, they are coming in strong performing in places Journey themselves have performed. Kudos from Steve Augeri as well. I've personal seen and heard the Ca. Journey Tributes as well as a few in other states. There is no comparison accept Journey themselves.

  7. Geoff Searles on

    Just saw these guys out in Oxnard a couple of weeks ago. They're not like most of the tribute bands I've seen before. They're more interesting because they do a bunch of different tributes in the same show

    http://www.platinumrockstars.com

    Best Eddie Van Halen impersonation I've ever seen too!

  8. Tanya Bennett on

    @ Geoff Searles – Platinum Rockstars sounds like a great show, but they don't meet the guidelines for this list…

    @Kristin – Yes, but their name isn't as good!

  9. If you wanna hear a dead on tribute to Steely Dan…. check out Pretzel Logic out of Los Angeles!!

    They sound better than Steely Dan!!! These guys pay particular attention to detail and are all fine musicians. Seen them many many times… dont want to see Steely Dan anymore.

  10. Another one, worthy of this list is a great Midlands based (but will travel) Who tribute band. They are called My Generation, they don't go for trying to look like and completely sound like carbon copies of The Who, but I have been to a few of their gigs now, no matter how many people are there, they deliver each time. They are all professional musicians who have been on the circuit for a number of years now.. Too boot they are all genuinely big fans of The Who, which is evident when you see them playing.. They're all great at what they do, and genuinely honestly, Steve White the bass player is one of the best I've seen.. A band that does it for the love of the music rather than just the money.

    Should you want to check them out, their website is http://www.my-generation.biz

    Check out their Youtube channel too.
    http://www.youtube.com/user/TheWhoTributeTV

    Hope at least one person checks them out, and decides they like them.. πŸ™‚

  11. How about this band?

    A Who Tribute band called My Generation. They are all professional musicians. Also to boot they are all big Who fans. This band play for the love of the music, and do their best to give the audience a great musical experience. They don't pretend to be look a likes or soundalikes. They are more the Who of modern days.. It's well worth checking them out.. Their website is

    http://www.my-generation.biz

  12. I might as well jump into the fray and toot my own horn.

    The Wholigans the worlds first tribute to THE WHO since 1982.

    See our 97 + video's and judge for yourself.

    On tour worldwide constantly.

  13. Chicago's Too White Crew is easily the most unique, one-of-a-kind tribute band out there. Completely live covers of hip hop classics — authentic as hell and wildly entertaining. They're playing stuff that was never even played live by the artists who wrote the music Too White Crew covers!

  14. Is GABBA still on stage? I heard they didn't recorded anything since 2005. Their website wasn't uptodate since 2007.

    • Hi Lennie, I must have been convinced they were together when I wrote this list in the summer of 2008 or I wouldn't have included them. I've sent an email to the band asking them to confirm so watch for (hopefully) a comment from a Gabba member…

      • I just found an email from Stig, a member of Gabba. He emailed me after I made this list so they were together at that time definitely. On August 18 2008 he wrote: "Thank you for da listing. Mucho appreciado! Lots of L.O.V.E. Stig". They haven't responded to my recent query so I'm guessing they have disbanded.

        • Thanks for the information, Tanya. That what I was thinking too. I found their MySpace-site, and the last time when a member was online, it was in Oktober 2009 and the last update there January 2009. So I think too, they aren't together anymore.

  15. Update re: Gabba. I just received an email from Gabba member Stig. "Sorry it's taken so long to get back to you. GABBA is currently dormant – we haven't played any live shows since 2007 when Bee Bee disappeared. We eventually found him in Berlin but by then Anneky had gone into seclusion in New Zealand. I wouldn't rule it out, but it's gonna take something pretty special to revive the monster! Thanks again for including us in your top ten list. We are truly honoured. All da beast and more… Stig x"

    • Hey Tanya,

      I think, they will never play again. That reminds me to the real ABBA. Björn said once at German television: "It's just a break but we all don't know, how long this break would take".

      In fact: Many facts about the band on their website are similar to real facts about ABBA and Ramones.

      So never mind.

  16. Rich Howell on

    Hi I reckon these guys should be on the list they were in the all time top 5 tribute bands list by The London Times!

    They are all great musicians & singers they do a 2 hour show and are endorsed by Mick Fleetwood Peter Green & The Nix Flix website!

    I've seen them about 8 times now!!

    http://www.fleetwoodbac.com

    • Tony Sargeant on

      Absolutely agree with Rich they are the best Mac tribute I've seen They really have the Rumours era Mac sorted! Even the Stevie & Lyndsey mannerisms! I think there John Mc Vie must be the real Johns long lost twin brother!

      • Thanks for reading my list and for letting me know about this tribute band! I just checked out their website (link is in Rich's comment above): "endorsed by Mick Fleetwood himself, and raved about by Peter Green’s biographer, the only Mac tribute band to authentically replicate the classic Stevie/Lindsey/Christine/John/Mick 'Rumours' line-up." Pretty cool and they are currently doing shows so they would be eligible for this list. The only thing that doesn't impress me is the name – it's not unique enough to really catch my eye…

        • Hi, Lisa who plays Stevie in Fleetwood Bac has just started a Heart tribute show called Reckless Heart They only started in December 2012 I have seen them twice and they are spot on! The band website is http://www.recklessheart.net The original Heart guitarist Roger Fisher has already complimented them on their demo performance on You Tube! http://youtu.be/5UcLXiCfdyc

  17. As to the " chump's " opinion that the " Pet Shop Boys " " don't deserve a tribute band, i heard

    one song and it sucked..??

    Wow, what an ingnorant statement, if you were alive in the 80's and could draw on

    the fact that several songs, were expertly composed and performed by Lowe and Tenant

    who should go down in music history like George and Ira Gerswin have.. Ever heard of

    them???…

    Yeah, Listen to " Opportinities, rent, it's a sin, You only tell me you love me when your drunk…

    Jealousy, to name a few…then you open your mouth and make a stupid statement…

    Anyway… or so it seems to me…

    Rod Severson Seattle, Wa

  18. Being a fan of kiss since 1975, I am stunned to find that in your list of Top 10 Fanatical Tribute Bands, you don't have the TRUE, TOP # 1 –> MRSPEED ! Where have you been hiding? under a rock ? I have been to numerous live KISS concerts and have seen several KISS tribute bands play and in my books, there's NO ONE that can top MRSPEED! Last time I saw them play was on Friday, June11, 2010, and I was completely blown away AGAIN !!! They got everything down. Nothing is left to chance, and they always perform 125% !!!! Do yourself a huge favor, go to their website and see for yourself and check their tour dates and go see them LIVE. I guarantee you that once you see them, and even meet them after the show, they're very approachable, professionals and friendly, you will put "MRSPEED" as your # 1 TOP Fanatical Tribute Band !!!!

  19. In my post, I mistakenly put MRSPEED's website in the wrong location. MRSPEED is not associated with me and I do not represent MRSPEED in any way, shape, or form. I'm simply a true fan of MRSPEED, posting these comments as my own personal opinion, and I personally believe that they deserve to be on your # 1 TOP spot. Here's a link to their website: http://www.mrspeedonline.com

    Thank you!

    JP

  20. LOL The real obsessives are THE CUREHEADS they've been going for 20 years. based in the UK and have toured the world as a search through Youtube will tell you. They all have their own hair and even have Robert Smith's own guitar tech on lead guitar.

    • Just checked them out, love them! They formed in October 2008 according to their Facebook page, so they didn't exist when I wrote this list. Thanks for letting me know about them!

  21. Anyone ever catch Breakdown Tribute to Tom Petty? They have been at it for quite a while. Caught them when I was down in Tucson. They Rocked, petty to a T and some of the nicest guys.