Montgomery had moved to L. Then I get this call from Led Zepagain. At the time, tribute bands were practically nonexistent. I didn't even know what a tribute band was myself. The attraction was, yeah, you'll actually get paid money. Because he was still under his old label contract, Montgomery asked that the band keep his name off fliers. But right away he enjoyed both the pay and the chance to channel Plant's vocal theatrics.
Always loved Robert Plant," he says, still with obvious enthusiasm after 27 years. It's a common sentiment echoed among many tributes. Yes, there is money to be made in the tribute scene, but most get into it as fans first and foremost.
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It's almost like a form of cosplay, but with instruments. With the addition of Montgomery, Zepagain quickly joined the ranks of a growing list of successful L. A scene was forming — but even then, many tributes started more by accident than by design.
In , "There was a band called Lancia," he says. I think he was partying too hard. By this time, the old Mine Shaft in Calabasas, where Rain got their start, had become a new venue called Pelican's Retreat. Dave Hewitt, who started booking bands there in , was among the first promoters to recognize that the very concept of tributes could draw a curious audience.
Other clubs around town — FM Station, Gazzarri's, the Whisky, the House of Blues that opened on Sunset in — would occasionally book tributes, too. But the scene lacked a center, especially after Pelican's Retreat closed in It would find one in an unlikely place, a little club in Marina del Rey called Scruffy O'Shea's, where a promoter named Jim DeSoto would first start being referred to as "King of the Tributes. Today, DeSoto — known universally as "Jimmy D" — books tribute bands at Paladino's, a nightclub in Tarzana that has been his home base since Though other longtime tribute promoters like Hewitt might disagree, DeSoto is almost without question the person most responsible for making the Los Angeles tribute scene what it is today.
At his peak, in the mids, DeSoto was booking three or four tribute bands a night, six days a week. These days, he only does weekends. I book bands between downloads," he says. On a recent Saturday at Paladino's, DeSoto stands outside, having a cigarette break and greeting the regulars who trickle in.
He wears a gray hoodie over a Megadeth T-shirt; his mustache and wavy, shoulder-length hair are streaked with gray. It's a cold December night, and slower than usual.
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When the sound guy ducks his head outside to ask if the Judas Priest tribute Diamonds and Rust can play a few extra songs, DeSoto replies, "They can play as long as they want. DeSoto declines to give his age but says he's been booking bands for more than 35 years, starting in the early '80s at an Italian restaurant called Mancini's Club M in Canoga Park, just down the street from where he grew up. After bouncing around for many years — including stints at FM Station and an "environmental bar" called Amazon, where bands played in a treehouse — he landed at Scruffy O'Shea's in He never intended to make Scruffy's a hub for tributes, but after booking a few, "the next thing you know, the floodgates opened," he says.
Many of the musicians he recognized from original bands he had booked in the late '80s, before the grunge explosion killed off L. They got grief for it, but there's nothing wrong with making a living. In early , DeSoto jumped ship from Scruffy's to Paladino's, a bigger space that allowed him to continue booking his favorite bands as their followings grew. His timing could not have been better. In , the tribute scene got its first wave of mainstream media attention thanks to the film Rock Star , loosely based on the true story of Ripper Owens, a singer from a Judas Priest tribute in Ohio played by Mark Wahlberg who was hired to replace Rob Halford in the real thing.
That, combined with the simultaneous collapse of the traditional music industry, hastened by online piracy and file-sharing sites such as Napster, sent a fresh wave of skilled musicians flocking to the tribute scene. That band would go on to become the original comedy metal act Steel Panther.
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For a few years, DeSoto says he had cornered the market on tributes. The only one," he insists. But as the scene grew in popularity, "It seemed like everybody started copying me. Casinos and outdoor summer concert series frequently book tributes as well, and many bands say their biggest paydays now come from private parties and corporate events. But if Paladino's is no longer the hub it once was, it remains a kind of holy site for successful tributes who cut their teeth there. He adds with a laugh, "It's like the university of tribute bands.
If you don't get past Paladino's, give it up. In a purple-walled garage in Glendale, another Led Zeppelin tribute called Hammer of the Broads is rehearsing. As they come out of a simmering version of "Since I've Been Loving You," singer Dyna Shirasaki opens her eyes and smiles at her bandmates. Hammer of the Broads are one of many all-female tributes to all-male bands. Since then, the L. No one can quite agree on what fueled the all-female tribute trend, but the unfortunate reality is that the classic-rock era from which the tribute scene heavily draws is overwhelmingly male. Prior to the advent of the all-female tribute, women who weren't fans of Heart, Fleetwood Mac or Pat Benatar were frozen out.
But there may be a simpler explanation. People come out of curiosity. Both Wood and Shirasaki grinded away for years in various original bands before going the tribute route. In a story similar to Swan Montgomery's, Wood moved to L. They released an album, toured and got dropped. But when their rhythm guitarist left and took the rights to the name with her, they were forced to rebrand themselves.
DeSoto confirms this; Wood and Shirasaki admit they began under a different name but decline to discuss it further. Despite the name change, they continued to book high-profile gigs, including several tours of U. The most successful all-female tribute in Los Angeles, and possibly the world, are The Iron Maidens, who deliver the heavy, technically demanding anthems of British metal legends Iron Maiden with a power and precision most other tributes can't match. Even after their lead guitarist, Nita Strauss, was poached by Alice Cooper — making her the closest thing the L.
Hammer of the Broads drummer Nikki Taylor spent part of filling in with the Maidens while their regular drummer recovered from shoulder surgery, an arrangement the band says is common in the tribute world. We just do this for fun. There's plenty of gigs to go around. For more established bands, this may be true. But anyone attempting to get into the tribute scene now, especially in Los Angeles, faces an uphill battle. As the tribute scene has matured, band divisions have fueled further competition.
When a traditional band breaks up, its members go on to form new, original projects. But when a tribute band breaks up or loses members, they often split into competing acts. When it comes to breeding its own competition, the most fertile band of all may be Led Zepagain. Its former members have gone on to start no fewer than four other SoCal Zeppelin tributes: It's several hours before Led Zepagain's headlining set, and so far only guitarist Jimmy Sakurai is in his full stage ensemble, which tonight includes a glued-on beard and a black suit with a cravat.
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Even tribute bands have to keep things fresh, and Zepagain likes to do this by performing track-for-track re-creations of actual Led Zeppelin shows. Since the days when Longo was still in the band, they have reconstructed specific Zeppelin sets down to the last note and costume accessory from old concert footage and bootlegs. Tonight they're channeling Zeppelin circa — hence Sakurai's fake beard.
Not everyone, they admit, appreciates this approach. Bandsintown also sends out automatic notifications to Facebook and Twitter when shows are announced along with reminders close to the date. Over , artists are currently using Bandsintown. And now , 15 million fans. He has a tour calendar full of upcoming dates around the country. I get off of work at 8, will I be able to make the concert? Intuitively this would expand to see more details like show time, openers, venue address, cost, etc.
When clicked on the desktop version , yup it drops down to display… wait, Facebook comment?! Is Andy headlining or is he opening? It brings me to the tickets page, Ticketfly, where it clearly lists the show time of 5PM with 2 openers. Ok, well, I do have the app installed so at least I can see more info here right?
No show time listed. It takes me to ticketsnow.
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Is Andy going the Justin Bieber route of using a scalper marketplace to sell official tickets? I must have done something wrong. I go back to his official website and click the Tickets link from my iPhone.
And to make matters worse for Andy it says there are no tickets available. Show sold out before I could get tickets. But because I know the real issue here I hop on over to my laptop and start over. It takes me to the official tickets website, Ticketfly where it lists both openers, the time and the official ticket link for face value tickets. Well, if you view this tweet on your phone which most do clicking the Bandsintown link takes you to the App store.
Even if you have Bandsintown app installed! Bandsintown have made some decent updates this past year like adding Bandsintown for Promoters which enables anyone to promote their show to the Bandsintown community via targeted email blasts. So, you definitely want to use one of these show calendars on your official website to make sure you get your shows listed in Google. And the only way to manage it on mobile is through the Bandsintown Manager app. A bit disjointed with opposite user experiences. Another big oversight, on the Bandsintown Tour tab on Facebook the comments section below the dates never refresh or disappear.
Meaning, questions to artists about specific shows possibly from two years ago, are still prominently displayed. Why are they defaulting to scalper sites for tickets on mobile? Curious to see if SongKick users have jumped ship to Bandsintown. Follow him on Twitter: Hi Ari, I tested out bandsintown on my desktop and on my phone.
All is working as it should.