The B List: Cover Bands That Don’t Suck

2. Dark Star Orchestra

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The Dark Star Orchestra has taken the cover band experience to a new level. Not only do they try to emulate the music of a Grateful Dead concert, they also pick a show out of the DeadBase and play that setlist. Exactly. DSO recreates that concert down to the lineup of the band and the tone of the instruments.

For example, if the Dark Star Orchestra decides to play a show from 1978, they’ll feature vocalist Lisa Mackey on the stage to play the Donna Jean role. And in fact, former GD members Billy Kreutzmann, Bob Weir, Donna Jean Godchaux-Mackay, Vince Welnick, and Tom Constanten have paid the DSO the highest compliment by sitting in with the band. Deadheads everywhere keep the DSO touring large venues non-stop. The Dark Star Orchestra begins a lengthy summer tour in Apple Valley, MN on June 29th.

3. The Australian Pink Floyd Show

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I’ve had many skeptical friends attend The Australian Pink Floyd Show come back from the concert blown away by the band’s performance. Not only do these guys do a spot-on job of recreating Pink Floyd’s music, they also tour with a psychedelic light show based on the one Floyd used during their last two world tours. Started nearly 20 years ago, The Australian Pink Floyd Show plays arenas in Europe and big theaters in America, which is a testament to the quality of the performance. Without a doubt, The Australian Pink Floyd Show is the most successful tribute band in the world. The band is playing in Santa Cruz tomorrow and Reno on Friday before starting a European tour.

4. The Fab Faux

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The Fab Faux have been the cream of the crop of Beatles cover bands since they were formed in 1998. Can you imagine if The Beatles would have toured behind their later albums such as Sgt. Peppers and the White Album?

The Faux shows faithfully reproduce much of the material from those heady later years with a healthy dose of the early rockers. Bass player Will Lee [The Late Show with David Letterman] and guitarist Jimmy Vivino [Late Night with Conan O’Brien] put together the Faux with three of their well-accomplished musician friends to celebrate the music of The Beatles. The New York City-based band has gone on to play many of the bigger venues throughout the Northeast, as well as numerous Beatles celebrations around the world. Next Saturday the Faux will rock the sold out Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, NJ.

5. Metal Skool

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Each week L.A.’s Metal Skool plays to sold-out audiences throughout Southern California, delivering a glam metal cover show full of humor and good tunes. Metal Skool is so popular that celebrities ranging from Kelly Clarkson to Kip Winger to Billy Ray Cyrus to Mr. Belding have begged the boys to let them sit-in. If you check out the clip above, or any of the numerous Metal Skool clips on YouTube, you’ll see a band that plays all the big-hair metal hits with an incredible sense of dramatics and comedy. Metal Skool is playing the Hard Rock in Las Vegas tonight before returning home to L.A. for their usual gig at the Key Club on Monday nights.

6. Last Waltz Ensemble

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The members of the Last Waltz Ensemble all established themselves as original musicians before coming together to celebrate the music of The Band. The Atlanta-based Ensemble does an incredible job of interpreting not only The Band’s hits, but also deep cuts from their albums. As with many of the other bands in this column, the Last Waltz Ensemble started out as a one-off project before the audience response prompted them to ditch their original bands and focus on the Ensemble. This year the Ensemble has started to establish a name for themsevles and have broken into some bigger venues. The Last Waltz Ensemble returns to the stage on July 14th for a gig at Charleston’s Pour House.

7. Phix

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Phish is now, and has always been, my favorite band, so I was a little reluctant to listen to a cover band. When I was discussing this list with Ace, he suggested I list Phix. After years of ignoring them, I finally listened to one of their shows last night. I must admit, they are pretty fucking good. Not only did they nail all of the complicated structured songs, these boys can jam too! I guess I biffed it, as Phix has announced that after five years they are calling it quits. Phix wraps up their farewell tour during Covertry at the recently burned-down State Bridge Lodge in Colorado on August 4th and 5th.

8. Brain Damaged Eggmen

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Half the members of Umphrey’s McGee and half the members of the Disco Biscuits decided to play a special gig during the 2006 JamCruise. Brendan Bayliss, Marc Brownstein, Aron Magner, Kris Myers and Jake Cinninger came together to play one set of Beatles tunes and one set of Pink Floyd tunes. They decided on the name Brain Damaged Eggmen, combining the name of a Floyd song (Brain Damage) with the main character of I Am The Walrus. The Brain Damaged Eggmen’s performance was listed as the highlight of the cruise by many attendees, prompting the band to forge ahead with more gigs. This December the Eggmen return to the stage for a performance at Caribbean Holidaze.

What are your favorite cover bands? Leave us a comment below if you know any other cover bands that don’t suck…

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15 Responses

  1. I’m throwin’ down a vote for Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine. This one’s more of a comedic nature, and it reminds me more of what Weird Al was goin’ for on Polka Your Eyes Out, but these guys do some pretty inspired and original takes on some of the more popular songs of our time. Here’s a tasty clip of Baby Got Back:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e01C3AqzjlE

  2. With all the Genesis talk around here lately I am surprised that The Musical Box isn’t on the list. Also, I think Blue Floyd deserves a mention…oh, and Zappa Plays Zappa. DSO is highly overrated, every town has a “great” Dead cover band, they are just the only ones taking it on the road.

  3. I’ll second Project/Object – awesome musicians with many endorsements from Zappa alums. Former drummer Gleen Leonard has started a spinoff group called Pojama People in Eugene, OR. Also very solid despite the lack of a full-time guitarist.

    Anybody from the Jersey shore remember the Nerds? They were fun.

  4. All n all best coverband I’ve ever seen is Masterplan from Vancouver.
    They played Motown, 70’s Funk, and 80’s New Wave. Not a wedding band but
    full-on amazing musicains. I saw them on tour in Hong Kong and I danced all night long. Check em out

  5. After seeing the Fab Faux last weekend in Red Bank, I feel they are so far above and beyond any other cover band, they should have their own new numeric ranking higher than 1.

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