Lenny Mann, a guitar player who emulates Jimmy Page, of Led Zepplin, in the tribute band Led Zepplica, remembers seeing a woman crying during one of their shows.
When he talked to her afterward, she told him the show evoked memories of when her father took her to see Led Zepplin in the 1970s.
For tribute bands like Led Zepplica, the goal is to emulate an original, classic band to let audiences relive their experiences and to introduce new generations to the bands. For band members like Dan Benezra of 1970s and 1980s Journey tribute band Absolute Journey, there is a lot of pressure in recreating an experience for their audiences.
“We’re put up to a higher state of expectations,” Benezra said.
A tribute band mimics another band, with some recreating the entire experience, including visuals and showmanship in addition to the music. Some of those classic rock tribute bands — including Absolute Journey, Led Zepplica, Wanted DOA (Bon Jovi), Back in Black (AC-DC) and On the Border (Eagles) — will all be in town this weekend for the Ridge Classic Rock Festival at the White Oak Mountain Amphitheater in Blairs.
“Tribute bands are able to fill that void in the market and keep the music alive,” said Rachel Hill, president and agent for New Jersey-based Blue Raven Entertainment.
Nostalgia is one of the key appeals for tribute bands, she said.
“The hope for any tribute is that they are able to captivate the crowd and transport them back to a certain time in their lives,” she said.
Some tribute bands replicate the way the band — assuming they still are active — plays now, while others replicate the band in their prime, said Riccardo Curzi, singer and manager for Absolute Journey. Rich Figurido, singer for Wanted DOA, a Boston-based Bon Jovi tribute band, tries to replicate Jon Bon Jovi’s voice from the band’s studio albums, which differs from his voice in live settings.
“Some of the stuff that he does on the album is far more difficult than what he does live,” Figurido said.
Band members interviewed by the Danville Register & Bee said they have never met the bands they emulate.
Mann said he and his fellow band members study old video footage of Led Zepplin in the mid-70s — what he described as their heyday — to understand their music, patterns and styles.
“Even when we improvise, we try to improvise in the actual style of the band members that we’re emulating,” he said.
Curzi was doing lots of cover band work, including some Journey songs, when people began telling him he did an excellent job singing like Steve Perry and he even looked a little bit like him, which led to Absolute Journey. Curzi estimates there is somewhere between 50 and 60 Journey tribute bands in the United States alone, with only a handful of those traveling and touring.
The group first started as a tribute band five years ago because gaining visibility and making a living with a new band that only plays originals is very difficult, Curzi said.
“It gives you the resources, it gives you the contacts, it gives you equity, that for sure is a launchpad,” he said.
Having played concerts all over the world and developed the reputation as one of the premier Journey tributes, the band members haven’t ruled out the possibility of later transitioning into original music.
Accuracy is key for these tribute acts, but finding the same instruments and costumes of bands that played several decades ago is a very real challenge. Curzi said musicians have to scour the internet to find the right instruments and he often can’t locate exact matches for his wardrobe choices.
“Sometimes I have to make [outfits] myself,” he said.
Before he helped start one four years ago, Figurido always had disliked tribute bands. He felt too much emphasis was placed on showmanship and appearances and the music suffered as a result.
Then, after being told repeatedly his voice sounded similar to Jon Bon Jovi, he decided to start a tribute band that focused more on replicating the music itself than the visuals.
“It’s a fine line doing a tribute band. I don’t want to be known as an impersonator. I want to be known as someone who captures what Bon Jovi did,” Figurido said.
After playing with Led Zepplica for the past 20 years, which have included global tours and sold-out shows around the world, Mann said the experience never gets old.
“It’s very rewarding and self-fulfilling,” he said.
Ayers reports for the Register & Bee. Reach him at (434) 791-7981.