Readers of this blog have heard me rant incessantly about the validity, or quality of cover bands. Sure we all have our local favorites, those bands and performers that strive to make the music correct, trying to make it sound familiar if you will. Those performers that decide that they wish to forge ahead and strive to become the best possible for the aforementioned music are really are a dime a dozen. Sadly for many the music is outside of the range of their capabilities and their attempts can become insulting.
While cover bands are the bane of my existence not all bands that "cover" other people's music are cover bands. There is a finite number of bands that can successfully pull off the music of multiple bands well but then bands that can pull off an entire catalog of music from an individual or a band are so rare, they could be a bloody steak. Please note that the "bloody steak" comment doesn't mean this grotesque blood dripping thing, think of it as just a single expression. Performers that can do that are artists and they must only be called by one name: Tribute bands.
Let's think for a moment about tribute bands, are they nothing more than a cover band? Obviously there is a distinction between the two or I wouldn't have said anything. Actually that fact is somewhat obvious and somewhat not obvious; a tribute band is much, much, more than just a performer. While a cover band will cover a large catalog of music, the tribute band will transform themselves into whoever they are portraying. I have to be honest, I was a tribute band hater until I saw the band "Hairball" for the first time and since then my eyes were opened. I have seen a couple of tribute bands that are not good but that really is a rare occurrence.
On November 29th, 2013 I went to the Mississippi Moon Bar with some consternation actually as I didn't know what to think of a Tom Petty tribute band named "Free Fallin.'" As the venue began to fill, the whole event seemed to change. The change was for the good though, the greater good I suppose would be a good summation.
When "Free Fallin'" took the stage they came out with this driving energy that immediately put all of your attention directly on them. With that said, Tom Petty has this demeanor that seems completely chill, its like driving 200 MPH and keeping the same calm, mellow town as you hit the barriers blocking the road. With that symbolism in mind, how many of us would think there were any other singers out there that are like that? I would say not many people could but... the lead singer of Free Fallin' can flat out wail. I have never seen Tom Petty live but I have seen some videos of him and I can tell you with confidence this gentleman is pretty close to Petty.
With that in mind it becomes difficult to differentiate the two, not because I can't tell them apart but rather I would think of the Petty videos and I would expect things I had gleaned from the aforementioned videos. Musically this band is on par with the best of the tribute bands I have heard/seen, if not a superior band in general. At one point the lead singer announced that they were performing two 45 minute sets that evening and then he told us that they would add some of their favorite songs by other groups So with that announcement, the tribute band became a cover band and they still kicked the crap out of that music.
Tom Petty has performed with other artists and other bands for that matter so as the band began playing music by "The Traveling Wilburys" it put a smile on my face. I love Roy Orbison's voice, and that '50's - '60's feel and all of the other Wilburys' for that matter. They did a phenomenal job with the song and if I were to tell you that when they performed what is my favorite Petty song, "Running Down a Dream" they performed it as if they owned it.
Before I was able to begin my summation of the band I tried to decide what I might take from it when I started. I watched and listened to the crowd following the show and they gave me clues what I should focus on. Following the show I heard nothing bad about the band, in fact what I did hear was how much fun they had, how good the band was (is) and as equally important because they were happy and smiling. They had fun, it was written all over their faces. As the curtains closed and the people wandered their separate ways I soon began to start my scratchings.
Inside of said scratchings was how good of a "tribute" band they were but that really isn't fair to the band. Every band has their own take on music whether it be theirs or an attempt at emulating another, however I have seen a tribute band that was beyond horrid and they tried to completely emulate the band to such an extreme it was painful. Free Fallin' is not a cover band, heck they aren't a tribute band for that matter, they are superior performers that takes their skills and applies it to the music of Tom Petty and they are great at it. For a band to do their craft well, they have to be almost flawless and "Free Fallin'"was just that. I was entertained, impressed and I will make sure I see the band again. My trepidation turned into excitement and I would venture a guess you would too.