Tribute Bands

I once heard some cynically conclude that being a tribute artist is a “waste of a life.” I disagree, for several reasons.

  1. They help diminish the grief of losing our favorite artists, and there are fewer higher purposes than softening the burden of grief.
  2. On one hand, it’s sad that nobody on the stage was actually in the original band. On the other, these are people who have obsessed, even more than the biggest fan, about every detail of their music. This makes them worthy of respect. After all, it’s the love of the music that matters, not who’s singing it. Of course I’d rather see the actual artist up there, but someone who loves them that much is worth watching too. We can’t bring them back to life, but capturing their spirit sure helps lighten the load of missing them. It’s about love and celebration of all they were and all they gave us.
  3. If the band/artist absolutely nails the original band’s sound down to the smallest detail, we can close our eyes and remember our own smallest details – of when that music first grabbed us, made us feel more deeply, learn something new about the world or ourselves, and gave us the kind of joy only music can.

Here’s a good example of what I’m talking about when I say “nailed it.”

When I listen to a Beach Boys tribute band like The Fendertones, I remember driving home from the beach (I was born and raised in Southern California) with my high school girlfriend, stroking her hair as she lay sleeping on my lap (cars had couches for front seats back then), the sun setting in my rearview mirror, and The Warmth of the Sun playing on a cassette tape. I think of laying on lounge chairs by my parents’ pool, drenched in Tropical Blend tanning oil, my eyelids bright red from facing the sun, friends jumping off the roof into the pool while Fun Fun Fun blasted from a radio. It doesn’t matter to me if I’m listening to the actual Beach Boys. These guys loved them as much, maybe even more, than I ever did.

Very few artists had a greater influence on me than John Denver did, particularly his love of the environment, and promotion of sustainable ecology and human compassion. For that, there’s this guy – Jim Curry – who has John Denver’s voice DOWN –

Or Ted Vigil, who looks like John’s twin brother and does a darn good impression of him too – 


I suppose I just love people who love the same things I do. They’re my family whether or not we’ve ever met. I love surfing culture thanks to The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, The Surfari’s, Frankie and Annette movies, and access to Malibu, especially now that I’m leaving California due to overcrowding, crime, gangs, etc., I love the people who help keep my memory of it alive, and who make me feel like maybe all is not lost after all. 








California Screamin’



My usual jogging path along the railroad tracks in Burbank, California, has gotten worse and worse in recent months. Trash everywhere and a lot more homeless people.

I walked by a couple who were living in a very nice tent. They even had a generator. He was chewing her out about something as I approached, then she furtively pointed at me and he stopped, but as soon as I passed he went back to yelling at her. The part I caught was, “Look at this right here! If I didn’t pick it up, it would sit there for a year!” He then picked up some item on the ground. (This did not distinguish the item at all because there was no furniture in the tent and everything was on the ground. )

Apparently, they were having marital issues because he doesn’t think she’s a good enough “tentkeeper.” I can’t blame the guy for wanting to maintain some dignity under those conditions, but I couldn’t understand why he would be so abusive to the one person on earth who is willing to suffer with him.

Bob Marley said, “Everyone will hurt you. The trick is finding someone worth suffering for.” I suppose the message here is to appreciate the people in our lives. They suffer when we suffer, and that’s worthy of respect, at least.