Theme shows—like this Friday's Pop Tribute night, or the Johnny Cash Tribute IV coming Sept. 14—are a terrific idea. And that's the problem. It's easy to say "'Rocket Man' is one of the best songs ever. Hey, you know what'd be cool? An Elton John tribute night. We'll invite 20 bands, all of them have to play Elton John songs. It'll be rad!"
It would be rad, if it weren't so difficult to pull off.
First: Your 20 bands will be both overambitious and unmotivated in preparing for the show. Elton John is a complicated man, and so are his songs. Your bands will disregard this and pick four of his most groundbreaking hits, then wait until the last prudent second to practice them. Come showtime, they'll have the guitar tabs and lyrics taped to their microphone stands.
Another thing: At least 16 of your 20 bands are going to play "Rocket Man,” as they also feel it's one of the best songs of all time. That feeling will be changed, irreparably, one hour and six "Rocket Man"s into your Elton John Tribute Night.
And let's not forget you're cramming 20 bands into four hours. If you account for setup time, that leaves each band with approximately five minutes to play. The show will have all the razzle-dazzle of a Physical Challenge on "Family Double Dare."
Why put yourself through all that? Well, like I said, it is a terrific idea. And more often than not, it's a whole lot of fun. Especially if you do it right, and I have a feeling the Pop Tribute Night will.
Alternative rockers Feels Like Sunday organized this show, which is happening Friday, Aug. 31, at the Launchpad. They must be veterans of Tribute Night Syndrome, because they're doing some smart things to assure the show’s success.
For one, they're leaving "pop" open to each band's definition. It's not "Madonna Tribute" or even "’80s Tribute." Pop covers a big chunk of ground with several genres and eras wrapped up inside it, from doo-wop to hip-hop. But for as wide-ranging as the band's selection of songs may be, the one thing they'll have in common is popularity. It's a sing-along kind of night. That's one of the kindest things you can do for an audience.
Best of all, the Feels Like Sunday kids have a top-secret list of what each band is performing. With their guidance, no song will appear more than once on the Launchpad stage this Friday. It's genius.
Ah yes, the bands. There’ll be a more manageable 13 of them: The Cherry Tempo, Feels Like Sunday, The Gracchi, Volume Volume, Scenester, Unit 7 Drain, Sin Serenade, The Holiday Sail, Polaroid Pornography, The Ground Beneath, Pan!c, Mechanism of Eve and First Rites. Cover is just $5 for hours of over-21 entertainment. Someone may even play "Rocket Man."