Last night I saw a fantastic "tribute" band called Zoo Station. I would consider myself a diehard U2 fan considering I have seen the real band every time they have toured since the early 80s including the infamous free concert at Justin Herman Plaza during the making of Rattle and Hum.
This is as close to seeing the "real thing" as your going to get for fifteen bucks. Another cover band called "Petty Theft" which covers Tom Petty songs (clever huh?) were not nearly as good or entertaining.
I kept thinking to myself while the show was going on, "how can I get Zoo Station to come play a street party at my house?". The Edge imposter or "The Sledge" looked dead on like the Edge excpet for the addtional 20 pounds around his waistline but had all the same moves and gestures...a real crack up.
This isn't U2, but Zoo Station, a San Francisco tribute band self-dubbed "the complete U2 experience." They more than deserve this title, as evinced by their song arrangements, outfits and even their stage banter, which are all replicated precisely from real U2 concerts. "Thankfully, there is no shortage of DVDs to study," says drummer Skott Bennett, also known as "Barely Larry." Forgoing genetics, their resemblance to the Irish superstars is uncanny, right down to their penchant for charity (proceeds from Zoo Station T-shirt sales are donated to the Red Cross).
Most impressive, and perhaps most confounding, is Bonalmost, who eerily channels U2's lead singer Bono. "He has a method actor approach, getting into character hours before our show starts," states Bennett, seemingly mystified by his band mate's immersion in the role. "The aliens dropped him off from planet Bono." Bennett adds, "He blows our minds every week."
When demonstrating his expertise in rock-star poses, it's certainly difficult to imagine Bonalmost working his day job as a cook. "I'm more of a salad maker," the singer tells me at intermission with a feigned Irish accent and Bono's trademark smirk.
With the recent anniversary of John Lennon's murder, this degree of devotion to a rock star may seem a little, well, creepy. But for Zoo Station, who formed through a Craigslist post in 2002, it comes from a very simple and pure place. "All four of us have been U2 fans for a very long time," Bennett explains, "I learned to play [drums] by locking myself in my room and listening to the War album."
Bands who inject their own twist to the tribute have been extremely well-received, especially AC/DShe, an all-female tribute to early AC/DC, who were recently covered in Spin magazine. "There weren't any all-girl tributes around, and we thought it would be a cool juxtaposition to have girls playing these supermacho roles," explains lead singer Bonny Scott. Staying true to the no-nonsense demeanor of the Australian rockers, she's adamant that there is no feminist bent to their work. "Rock 'n' roll should have no platform or political agenda," she says. "To attach a political agenda to AC/DC would be a travesty." Travesty may be a strong word, but it's fitting considering the depth of their dedication.
In such a tongue-in-cheek genre, comedy is always welcome, as some tribute bands realize. "When the band is in on the joke, it's fun," says Derrer, a fan of Wonderbread 5, the self-described quintet of "white guys in afros and stupid fresh outfits packing a positive party punch for you and your crew." Perhaps we just never tire of seeing white guys pretending to be black. Speaking of black, the Man in Black is hailed by local cover artists Ring of Fire.
Perhaps most hilarious is Mandonna, a campy all-male tribute to Madonna. Lead singer Mark Edwards, with his full beard and ratty locks, resembles a rowdy biker more than he does the Material Girl, but he gamely navigates through 20 years' worth of her outfits, from the slutty wedding dress to the famous cone-shaped bra.
In this peculiar realm of the performing arts, the term "success" understandably takes on a slew of new meanings for the performers. "I guess doing it full time, à la Super Diamond or Bjorn Again, is the most you can hope for," says Zoo Station's Bennett, who works as an art director to pay the bills. Making a living at your craft is a goal surely all musicians share, but for some, success goes back to the objects of their obsession. "There is one thing left that we need to achieve to truly be successful, and that is to meet AC/DC," says Bonny Scott, reminding us they're fans, first and foremost.
Stung's ambitions are slightly more difficult. "We vowed that we would play until the Police got back together," says Stung singer Brooks "Bee" Lundy. "Until then, we will continue to do our thing."
Doing their thing and making audiences happy is no doubt the biggest reward for tribute bands. "I look out and see someone's expression change, knowing they are reliving some meaningful moment," gushes Bennett. "If that's our legacy, you could do a lot worse."
Check out there web site:Zoo Station