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Coated up: We’re paying tribute to the realm’s tribute bands

16 min read

You’ve seen them in barrooms, at yard barbecues, and on a number of the largest levels on the town—however no matter who’s holding the devices, the music earlier than the band even begins to tune up.

Cowl bands or tribute acts are an important but typically missed a part of any city’s music scene, regardless that many canopy musicians are gifted performers in their very own proper. They’re devoted to their craft for a variety of motivations—and never all cowl acts occur on the identical scale.

Cowl bands will be profitable and long-lived acts that draw legions of followers to listen to the songs they know and love, or regional touring tasks paying homage to long-gone greats, or native jam bands on the lookout for an excuse to get some mates collectively and share the music that conjures up them.

It’s robust to get a way of simply what number of of those acts name Reno and the encircling areas residence, however we talked to 6 native cowl bands about their backgrounds, their musical philosophies, and the way they make a residing (or not) taking part in hits and paying tribute.


Amongst hardliners, tribute acts will be considered as interlopers or, god forbid, hobbyists who don’t stand for a similar inventive rules as “actual bands.” Anybody who thinks that most likely hasn’t seen the manufacturing worth that goes into ABBACADABRA.

Billing itself because the “Final ABBA Tribute” and promoting out showrooms and levels all around the world, ABBACADABRA received its begin in 2004 due to govt producer Garry Raffanelli.

“I don’t drink. I don’t do medication. I don’t do a complete bunch of issues,” stated Raffanelli. “However I do have an habit: I’m hooked on applause.”

A musician from a younger age, Raffanelli has made a profession out of music and leisure—performing, producing acts and constructing customized pianos for a number of the world’s largest stars via his model, Slam Grand Pianos. Raffanelli carried out for many years as a part of the musical duo Gary and Sandy with vocalist Sandy Selby, touring nationally earlier than touchdown within the on line casino showroom and lounge scene of Reno and Las Vegas in 1976.

Raffanelli was ultimately approached by the leisure director of Harrah’s Reno to provide you with an act. Raffanelli stated that he gave the director three different concepts, and when pressed for a fourth, he invented a plan for an ABBA tribute act there after which.

“On the best way to the assembly, in my automobile, my Saturn … once I open up the glove compartment, there’s (an ABBA) Gold cassette,” Raffanelli stated. “And I’m going, ‘God, I really like ABBA.’ So I popped that factor in, and I’m listening to ABBA on the best way to the assembly. … And I stated, ‘So long as it doesn’t go away this room, I’m placing collectively an ABBA present.’”

The enthusiastic response prompted him to spend the following 12 months and a half musically dissecting ABBA’s biggest hits by ear and hand-picking musicians to not solely precisely carry out their music, however replicate—and typically spoof—the personalities of the Swedish supergroup of their heyday.

“We do the present pretending to be the gamers,” Raffanelli stated. “If about ABBA, the 2 guys had been married to the 2 women, after which they divorced—they usually weren’t actually nice divorces. So we play the present as in the event that they’re divorced, however we bumped into some monetary offers and now we’ve received to play collectively once more. So there’s that edge, and there’s just a little little bit of name-calling, and I believe that makes the present very humorous. That’s what makes our present completely different.”

ABBACADABRA continues to tour nationally and internationally, regardless that the lineup has modified over time, with Raffanelli managing the group whereas performing onstage himself. Even with the forged assuming the roles of the unique members of ABBA, the legalities of performing have by no means inhibited the stay present or the recordings they make and promote. (Though the present’s brand is spelled “Adbacadbra” in a stylized method to keep away from trademark similarities.)

To Raffanelli, tribute acts—ABBACADABRA specifically—will be profitable from a enterprise standpoint due to the economics of packing large rooms and the pure attraction to viewers nostalgia.

“We will promote out the present for a fraction of the price of bringing in the actual act,” he stated. “These acts, you may’t see anymore, so the tribute acts are taking over that slack for a way more cheap value.”

To Raffanelli, the consummate showman, it’s not sufficient to easily placed on the costumes and sing the songs. He stated the very best reward he receives is when he feels he’s given his viewers the identical feeling he received when he noticed ABBA stay in 1979.

“Folks stroll out going, ‘Thanks; I received to see ABBA stay,’” he stated.

Discover out extra at www.adbacadabra.com.

The Floyd

With regards to paying tribute to nice artists, typically it’s about extra than simply the music.

“The Pink Floyd ‘costume’ is the sunshine present, the laser present,” stated Vince Gates, bassist and band chief of Pink Floyd tribute act The Floyd, primarily based in Carson Metropolis. “That’s the look of Pink Floyd. So it’s crucial.”

Gates joined The Floyd in 2010 when it was often known as Eclipse: A Tribute to Pink Floyd, across the identical time he took possession of music retailer Play Your Personal Music in Carson Metropolis. Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour had all the time been an enormous inspiration to Gates and his guitar taking part in, and when the members of Eclipse requested him to take over as their bass participant, he jumped on the probability.


“It was actually low stakes and simple again then,” Gates stated. “We had been simply taking part in golf equipment. We didn’t have two vans filled with lighting trusses displaying up two days earlier than. We weren’t promoting 1,000 tickets.”

The Floyd is now a complete musical expertise with a set record that spans the group’s completely different eras and greater than 4,000 lighting cues, all timed manually by the band’s lighting director, Ed Collins. Gates, together with bandmates Rob Lawrence, Jeff Laakso, Curt Mitchell and Dean Rossi, satisfaction themselves on placing on a stadium-worthy present that sells out venues throughout the West Coast.

“There’s an actual sense of emotional connection, I believe, with the musicians within the band, or you may really feel the emotional connection to the music,” Gates stated. “It’s a very good present. Clearly, the lights are spectacular. The sound is spectacular. And the extent of musicianship is top-notch.”

Gates performs in a number of different tribute bands and unique acts across the space and finds taking part in cowl music—particularly Pink Floyd’s music—to be an attention-grabbing technical problem. Whereas he acknowledges the creative worth and private reward of taking part in unique music, precisely re-creating the nuance of a well-known efficiency is simply as, if no more so, difficult when taking part in stay.

“There’s sort of a detrimental connotation to taking part in cowl music, and I completely get it,” Gates stated. “However the factor is, there’s artwork and leisure, and there’s a line someplace. I completely perceive that we’re all standing on the shoulders of giants, and that we, , haven’t actually contributed something artistically, per se. However individuals actually get pleasure from seeing it, and listening to it, and being part of it.”

Gates and his bandmates are content material with discovering musical success in placing on the most effective homage, sonically and visually, to one in all their favourite bands—and not one of the hundreds of people that attend their reveals appear to thoughts.

Be taught extra about The Floyd at www.thefloydband.com.

Gwen in Doubt

Even with out an enormous stage manufacturing or forged, smaller tribute acts can nonetheless discover full-time work with the best look and sound. Such is the case of Reno’s Tamara Mclean, in any other case often known as Tammy Tam Tam when performing with one in all her many bands, duos and trios. When fronting her No Doubt tribute band Gwen in Doubt, she assumes the titular persona of Gwen Stefani.

“They really did an interview with No Doubt, and the woman requested the query, ‘Have you learnt any humorous tribute band names?’” Mclean stated. “After which the drummer, Adrian (Younger), stated, ‘There’s one known as Gwen in Doubt.’ So that they know we exist, and it was fairly cool, as a result of Gwen was saying how a lot she favored the title and stuff, so she thought it was intelligent.”

PHOTO/DAVID ROBERT: Tamara Mclean, lead singer of Gwen in Doubt.

Initially, from Auburn, Calif., Mclean got here to Reno within the early 2000s. She began her music profession within the space with a High 40 cowl act known as Metal Breeze. All through her profession, members of the viewers would inform her that she sounded and even regarded like Stefani, whom Mclean lists as a giant musical affect. In 2003, she got here up with the band title and approached the members of Metal Breeze about leaning into the thought of overlaying each No Doubt and Stefani’s solo catalog.

“Once I would sing Gwen, it virtually like match like a glove,” Mclean stated. “Like, it simply turned very pure to me in the best way she moved, and we sort of have some types in widespread and like the identical issues. … I do my greatest once I’m up there; I wish to do the most effective I can, as a result of I believe she deserves it.”

Gwen in Doubt’s set record covers a full two-hour efficiency, and he or she and bandmates Tommy Mclean, Kevin Strawn, Dan Bauer and John Dabaghian have taken the act to venues round California and Nevada. Mclean stated she tends to get out on the street extra in tribute bands than in her different tasks, taking part in occasions just like the Contra Costa County Truthful and even opening for Terri Nunn of the band Berlin. The response she will get from the viewers is among the issues she most enjoys when she’s “Gwen.”

“It’s enjoyable to be a rock star typically,” she stated. “You see somebody out within the crowd, they usually exude this actually cool vitality, and I wish to exude that good vitality to them and acknowledge them. So I sort of typically attempt to go the additional mile so individuals really feel that they’re concerned, too.”

Mclean is reasonable about her persona, saying she would by no means “go to Walmart or one thing as Gwen.” Mclean stresses that she’s paying homage to Stefani as a substitute of impersonating her, and the actual utility of her tribute act is to complement her revenue as a working musician who writes and data her personal unique work as nicely.

“I simply got here out with a brand new tune on April 7, known as ‘Love Doesn’t Have 2 Damage’ … and my inspiration for that tune was to cease home violence,” Mclean stated. “I really like singing different individuals’s songs, however whenever you get to sing your originals, and persons are getting up and dancing to them, and they’re downloading them and loving what you do, it’s like, ‘Wow.’ It’s a beautiful feeling.”

For extra info, go to tammytamtam.com.

Johnny Reno


Within the large spectrum of tribute and canopy acts, there’s a marketplace for the actual deal—or a minimum of as shut as one can get. Enter Johnny Reno, however you would possibly acknowledge him as merely “The King.”

“Thanks, thanks very a lot,” stated Reno.

Reno follows one of the crucial enduring tribute-act traditions as an Elvis impersonator—or, as he calls himself, a tribute artist—not solely singing Elvis’ songs, however mimicking the King’s mannerisms and persona. Versus the caricature that some performers create, Reno stated he works onerous to pay tribute to Elvis’ actual life and background.

“One of many sort of unwritten guidelines of thumb is don’t imitate different imitators; go straight to the supply … (or else) you sort of come throughout as cartoonish, and I discover that to be disrespectful. ” Reno stated. “You already know, watch the movies; take heed to how he talks; take heed to how he sings the songs. So I might play the music, and I might return and attempt to emulate that as nicely.”

Reno can relate to Elvis’ background. They each grew up poor in Mississippi earlier than occurring to journey the world of their youth. Reno’s preliminary musical tastes had been geared towards bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, and it was solely when individuals overseas in locations like Australia and Asia started to inform him that he sort of regarded just like the King that he began to take an curiosity.

“Rising up in Mississippi, once I was actually younger, Elvis was round, and I’d hear his songs on the radio,” Reno stated. “And there have been little connections, like Elvis’ mom’s title was Gladys, and my grandmother’s title was Gladys. I’m not the long-lost brother or something, however I did like peanut butter-banana sandwiches.”

Reno landed in Vegas within the Nineteen Eighties and received the thought to be a tribute artist when uncovered to that metropolis’s love for the King. He relocated to Reno in 1987 for enterprise functions and selected the stage title “Johnny Reno” as a result of it “rolled off the tongue.” He spent a number of years refining his act, discovering the suitable leather-based jumpsuits and, after all, marrying {couples} as an ordained minister.

“I continued to do this for some time, after which the corporate that I labored for relocated me to the Sacramento space,” Reno stated. “I believed maybe my profession could be over—however then it actually kicked off as soon as I moved to Northern California. … After all, now I’m often known as Johnny Reno, the Sacramento King.”

Reno estimates that he nonetheless performs between 50 and 60 reveals per 12 months throughout California and Nevada and nonetheless makes it again to his namesake metropolis for birthday events, veterans’ occasions and on line casino reveals—wherever the King is required. He even hopes to maneuver again to Reno someday this 12 months. To Reno, performing as Elvis is a gentle gig, nevertheless it’s additionally about embodying an amazing artist who left his tens of millions of adoring followers too quickly.

“Elvis did his Aloha From Hawaii live performance, which was broadcast all over the world to a billion individuals by satellite tv for pc,” Reno stated. “It had by no means been achieved earlier than. … He was similar to one of many guys who occurred to look actually good and might make individuals really feel pleased.”

After all, Reno remembers precisely the place he was when he heard Elvis had died—driving a van in Lengthy Seaside, Calif., on the morning of Aug. 16, 1977. However to Reno and his followers, he by no means actually died. He says as a lot when he indicators autographs: “Maintaining the King Alive”

Be taught extra at www.johnnyrenoaselvis.com.

The Beatles Flashback

PHOTO/DAVID ROBERT: The Beatles Flashback.

Tribute bands don’t essentially want a bodily resemblance to their inspirations, although. The members of The Beatles Flashback made a acutely aware resolution to maintain their stage look separate from their sound; they don’t even introduce themselves by title to maintain individuals targeted on the music. Plus, whenever you’re overlaying maybe essentially the most well-known rock band of all time, the viewers doesn’t want fits and mop tops to get the image.

“There are plenty of good tribute bands who mimic the look, the costume, the motions, the speaking; we’re extra targeted on the music,” stated Jeff Shamus, guitarist and producer of the Beatles Flashback. “Additionally, it’s onerous when you’ve gotten, , 50-year-olds attempting to seem like 20-year-olds with wigs and mustaches and all the pieces.”

The Beatles Flashback began in 2006 in Sonoma County after a Craigslist advert introduced the unique members collectively. Shamus answered the advert with passing curiosity, unaware he’d be embodying the Fab 4 for the following 15-plus years. After taking part in reveals and personal events in California, Shamus moved to Reno in 2013. By then, he’d come to like taking part in within the band, however he discovered commuting again to Sonoma for gigs impractical. He elected to make a Reno model of the band to play reveals nearer to residence whereas the “forged” again in Sonoma continued to gig as nicely.

“Like, in case you employed us in Sonoma County, you bought the forged that was down there, and in case you employed us in Reno, and you bought the forged that was up right here,” he stated.

The Sonoma band performed its closing present final summer time. The Reno members embrace Curt Mitchell, Larry Fuller, Geoff White and Kevin Pavlu; they proceed to e book occasions starting from personal gigs to reveals at Artown thanks, largely, to the mass attraction baked into their supply materials, Shamus stated. He stated the band is busiest through the hotter months, they usually have already got reveals lined up for June.

“If you’re in a canopy band, you wish to play songs that persons are aware of, so that you decide from plenty of completely different genres,” Shamus stated. “With the Beatles, you’re capable of decide 50 songs or 75 songs, and play them, and everybody within the viewers is aware of all of the phrases. It’s the music that little children are going to like, and grandparents are going to like, and all people in between.”

Nonetheless, the identical qualities that make the Beatles so beloved may make overlaying their songs demanding.

“You’ve received to play it precisely just like the Beatles performed it, as a result of everybody is aware of it,” Shamus stated. “You possibly can’t simply improvise … so it’s sort of a burden. I imply, it’s a labor of affection, nevertheless it’s additionally a burden on us that we’ve received to play it proper, as a result of individuals within the viewers predict to listen to it like they keep in mind it.”

Shamus stated his band attracts extra from the high-energy, danceable Beatles catalog; nobody needs to listen to “The Lengthy and Winding Highway” at a yard party. It’s a formidable tempo, contemplating some gigs final 4 hours.

“There’s no such factor as being drained,” Shamus stated. “After which the adrenaline and the music sort of preserve you going. You don’t notice you’re drained till you’re packing up.”

It’s the love of the music that serves as the first motivator for Shamus and his bandmates. Shamus runs a software program firm as his day job; the opposite musicians even have full-time work exterior of music. They nonetheless discover time to rehearse recurrently, although, each to provide the Beatles songs the eye they deserve—but additionally as a result of they genuinely get pleasure from it.

“Once I was in a (common) cowl band, I’m taking part in the songs for the viewers, actually. Within the Beatles band, I’m taking part in the songs for me,” Shamus stated. “I imply, I’m the one having the enjoyable, and I believe that it comes throughout in our music.”

Be taught extra at www.beatlesflashback.com.

Religion ReNo Extra

Of all of the motivations to start out and carry out in a band that performs different individuals’s music, typically it’s only a matter of getting your folks collectively and taking part in the music that genuinely conjures up you.

To Ben Holsclaw and his bandmates Brian Walden, Shaolin Gates, Nick Bashaw and Vince Gates (additionally of The Floyd), San Francisco rock band Religion No Extra supplied such a chance. Holsclaw, like many of the musicians on this article, was a musician from an early age. He was initially a trumpet participant—till listening to Iron Maiden within the fourth grade made him put down the brass and decide up the guitar.

He performed in native unique bands Convicted Innocence and Tasty Pink Snapper for years till having children and the realities of a day job made touring, writing and performing more durable to schedule.

PHOTO/DAVID ROBERT: Religion ReNo Extra.

“We actually wished to have the ability to carry out, however, , doing unique music is sort of a bit extra work,” Holsclaw stated. “And, sadly, it may be rather less rewarding whenever you’re getting in entrance of individuals.”

In 2017, the band members adopted via on an concept they’d needed to kind a Religion No Extra cowl band. To Holsclaw, the variability and intricacy of the band’s catalog had all the time been a serious draw for his musical sensibilities. Not realizing what to anticipate, they sat down for an preliminary rehearsal to see what would possibly occur.

“I’ll all the time keep in mind that first observe,” Holsclaw stated. “I began singing, and I received via the primary verse, and I search for, and Brian has the stupidest grin on his face. And Vince is simply sitting there smiling. I used to be like, ‘OK, that is going to work musically. That is going to be actually enjoyable.’”

COVID-19 lockdowns had a hand in stopping Religion ReNo Extra from reserving gigs for some time. Holsclaw readily admits that his band hasn’t been nice at prioritizing discovering reveals to play—though they’ve encountered golf equipment which can be much less inclined to e book cowl acts because of the related BMI/ASCAP charges they should pay to host copyrighted music. Whereas he hopes to e book extra reveals this 12 months, he additionally stated it’s not likely about taking part in as a lot as they will as it’s about having a automobile to carry out once they wish to—and to placed on an amazing present once they do.

“Throughout these instances when the band’s not likely touring. or we’re not likely doing something musical, for me, there’s a gap there,” Holsclaw stated. “I actually like writing music; I don’t assume I’m tremendous nice at it, nevertheless it’s enjoyable. However for me, (it’s about) the efficiency. It’s enjoyable to rise up onstage and actually simply sort of throw it on the market.”

Holsclaw stated the band is as a lot a tribute to the musicianship of his mates and bandmates as it’s to Religion No Extra, and he relishes the prospect to play stay as a inventive outlet.

“I’ve a tough time getting out of my very own shell,” he stated. “The stage sort of offers me an excuse to do this with out actually any main repercussions. Music is music, tribute band or not. Music has  actually given me a chance to satisfy a bunch of people that have been lifelong mates. We’ve had some actually nice moments up onstage.”

Be taught extra at www.fb.com/FaithReNoMore.

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