THE BEGINNING

The ultimate flattery or plain creepy? “Both and more,” says Stuart Stubbs

tributbands

The ultimate flattery or plain creepy? “Both and more,”
says Stuart Stubbs

It is weird, isn’t it? Discovering you can – or learning to – sing like your idol and then thinking, ‘well, while I’m at it I might as well dress like them, study their moves and even tour the repertoire if I can get away with it’. That is a little odd – like fully-grown men with ‘Rooney 9’ printed on their England shirts to make them look just like their infant hero. People do get away with it though, living a the rock’n’roll-lite dream, performing in regional clubs and rec. centres under a typically dodgy name that incorporates a bad pun on the object they imitate. And yet to be a dedicated member of Definitely Mightbe is to swagger not just into realms of creepiness, but also simple, honest fun, an unnerving amount of admiration, considering, and a fair amount of tragedy. Just like Oasis, I guess.

Short of The Bootleg Beatles (shit name but the unquestionable kings of the tribute world) and Stereophonics (the actual band), Definitely Might Be were the first pretenders I saw, in The Bell Pub, Southend. They waddled through a side door in bad wigs and parkas, except for the fake Guigsy who was wearing a white T-shirt with a mod target on it for some strange reason. To about twenty of us, ‘Liam’ spoke in a hammy Manchester accent to introduce the songs and say, “Hello Southend-aaah!”. But when they played ‘Rock’n’Roll Star’ and the like they certainly sounded no worse than Oasis would have at the time. They were pretty good – not enough for us to forget that they were men acting like other men, but still… What little illusion they had managed to cast, though, fell apart shortly after ‘our kid’ whined, “Cheeeers-aaah, we’re gonna take a short break.” The band disappeared back through the side door for a matter of seconds before reappearing to head to the bar minus the wigs or parkas. How, I thought, could you then step back on stage in all seriousness and continue to ‘be Oasis’ when we’ve all heard you order a round in a Surrey accent? They did though, and the rest of the gig did seem all the more tragic.

Keep The Faith: A Tribute To George Michael, was a different story all together. (Yes, I’ve seen a George Michael tribute act called Keep The Faith: A Tribute To George Michael). The name itself is particularly crap because it doesn’t even enter into the spirit of shitty puns (it’s no Think Floyd or The Pretend Pretenders, who must exist somewhere), but even in a far more boozed state than I was for the Definitely Mightbe gig, I could see that ‘George’ took himself rather seriously. He’d opted for the ‘Outside’-era Michael – all pointy sideburns, rap-around sunglasses and black shirt, trousers and shoes – and snaked around the stage like the real deal would have. There were far more than twenty people there, most of whom were behaving as if at an actual George Michael show, clawing and screaming (seriously) at the smooth fraudster.

Would it have been flattering to the real George Michael? Perhaps. But it was definitely the most fun I’ve ever had in New Cross, made all the more impressive by the band’s refusal to play ‘Faith’ (that would have been plain tacky, despite the name).

‘George’ had gone much further than ‘Liam’ and ‘Noel’. He must have been a scholar in those moves, and that voice could have strolled to a Stars In Their Eyes final with great ease. But in the half-reality of tribute acts, the laughter and tears must go hand in hand. The better the wig, the stronger the accent, the more accurate the mod target T-shirt; the louder the screams, the bigger the rec. centre, the more like your idol you are. And yet you can’t really be more like someone else, which brings us back to creepy town. The Michael Jackson look-a-likes who’ve undergone plastic surgery to look like The King of Pop though, that’s alright… isn’t it?

By Stuart Stubbs

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Originally published in issue 15 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. March 2010

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