What does it take to be a great tribute band?

In the past, some tribute bands had a cheesy reputation, like something you might see in Vegas. Men dressed in silly Elvis costumes, with their hair gelled up and hips gyrating around. But all of that has changed. 

Today, tribute bands are big business, thanks to the highly talented musicians who are committed to getting the music right. They fill a void, giving fans the opportunity to hear their favorite music played live, even when they can’t afford the real thing or the band isn’t touring together anymore. 

The truly great tribute bands are made up of musicians who are not just good at playing their instruments, they have a true appreciation for those they’re emulating. Their goal is to look and sound so much like the band they’re paying tribute to that their performance elicits the same pleasure as listening to the authentic version. 

Don’t confuse them with cover bands

One way to describe a cover band is that it’s a jack of all trades but master of none. These bands play popular songs from a number of different groups, and the good ones do a decent job at sounding close to the originals. They don’t specialize in any one band’s music, however, so you’re never going to confuse them with the real thing. 

That’s the major difference between a cover band and a tribute band. It’s not enough for tribute bands to do a decent job sounding like the original, their goal is to be an exact replica. And if the truth be told, sometimes even better. How is this possible? Some successful, famous bands are better in the studio than they are playing live. 

The devil is in the details

To become a top-rated tribute band, the musicians must be perfectionists. They have to study and analyze every note, along with the art of performance practiced by the band they’re mimicking. And they have to love the band they’re paying tribute to. 

A good example is Savor, the Santana Tribute Band, from San Diego. The music is beautiful and authentic, so much so, that in whatever venue they play, you see people jump to their feet, joyfully dancing to the nostalgic songs. The musicians even dress the part in bell bottoms jeans and tie-dyed shirts. 

And when you hear the lead guitarist play the hauntingly melodic notes from Europa, you know he’s spent countless hours, learning to perfectly mirror the unique style of Santana himself.