Welcome to The Tribute Show Blog where you can find all the gossip and information on what's happening behind the scenes with the day to day running of the band. Boring stuff? Yes! But it's what keeps the band on the road and someones got to do it so it may as well be me. The Tribute Show - Award winning Tribute Bands

Monday, 6 December 2010

Flying High at RAF Brize Norton

Friday 3rd December saw The Tribute Show's Legend Show perform at RAF Brize Norton, an event organized by the lovely ladies at Langford Productions….and what a night it was!
As you would expect, military functions are grand affairs that need to be meticulously organized. There are several things that need to be taken into account such as security passes, timings and of course a selection of entertainment that will suit the occasion and of course the audience. Typically, a military function will run from 7pm in the evening until 6 or 7 am the next day with a ‘Champaign Breakfast’. Get it wrong and the night will fizzle out long before it sees the light of day, get it right and people will stay the distance making it a very memorable night worthy of the people in our Armed Forces.

For the Sergeants Mess Christmas Ball at RAF Brize Norton, Langford Productions had a clear idea of what was required with just the right balance of entertainment to suit the varied clientele. Over 500 people needed to be entertained between two rooms from 9:30pm to 6:00am, and the girls at Langford certainly delivered.

Both rooms each had a live band, a solo tribute and a disco which was scheduled so there was always something going on. In the larger of the rooms were The Tribute Show, a Cher Tribute by Joanna Burns and DJ Disco Dave who performed to the early hours. In the conservatory saw another live band, another disco and the fantastic Max Hutton who performed a tribute to Michael Bublé. It’s not often I give out praise but Max Hutton’s Michael Bublé tribute was brilliant. It’s rare to see a tribute that has really studied every aspect of an artiste. Every element was there from the look, the mannerisms, the chat between songs and not forgetting the unmistakable voice.

Needless to say the whole night was a total success with the majority of the audience staying the distance and who can blame them with so much entertainment? As the girls at Langford say…. “You can’t buy experience”....and they cerianly have an abundance of that so give them a call.

Here’s what Andrew (Wiggy) Wainman had to say about The Tribute Show:

“What can I say about The Tribute Show. UTTERLY BRILLIANT. A fantastic show, full of energy and excitement. A wonderful group of individuals, each incredibly talented, combining to put on a highly charged, totally professional and utterly first class performance. They stole the show with their awesome renditions of Freddie Mercury, Prince, Robbie Williams, Lulu, Ray Charles, Blondie and many many more. ABSOLUTELY SUPERB. Not only are they all musically incredible, they are also a really nice bunch. Nothing is too much trouble, timings are not a problem and they know how to please an audience. A packed dance floor makes for a great night and The Tribute Show can deliver.”

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Death by Autotune

There has been a lot of controversy since we all found out that a device known as ‘Autotune’ was used on X-Factor to improve some singers on the show. However, we all need to realize that this technology has been around for twenty years and is used on the majority of recordings in the charts. For me, it’s not ‘Autotune’ that we should be worried about but some of the recording techniques as a whole and our attitude to what we think make a great artiste. This is similar to the modeling industry and the use of airbrushing to correct imperfections. Is it right?
First…’Autotune’, what is it and why use it? Autotune was originally designed as a hardware unit and is now used as a computer software plug-in to correct the pitch of a vocal or instrument. This allows singers to perform perfectly tuned vocals regardless if they are in tune or not. Although its main use is to adjust sung notes to the nearest correct pitch it can also be used as an effect. The most obvious use of this is Cher’s 1998 hit ‘Believe’ where the extreme use of Autotune became the latest cool effect to use. Personally, I have nothing against people using it as an effect in this way as it is so obvious to the listener that it is not the singers natural vocal. However, I think it is deceitful to correct or adjust a singers voice because they cannot hit the note or runs that they want to achieve.

Now you know what it sounds like you will probably notice it on countless songs in the charts. Listen out for the end of a sung line where there is usually a run of notes that the singer hasn’t quite hit and you may hear the use of ‘Autotune’. Obviously some singers are better than others so it is used to varying degrees but should they be using it and what do they do when it comes to performing live?

The sad truth is that many artistes are forced to sing to playback and lip sync their vocal. Due to public expectations, most managers / record companies won’t risk a poor performance, especially on a live TV show, otherwise it may expose them for being a poor singer which could ultimately end their career. I can’t name names but most have had to do it at some point. Even a certain major female artiste from the US has done her fair share of miming. Shame on you!

It’s not just ‘Autotune’ but there is a whole host of products used in the studio that were designed to improve things, thus saving time and money. With the use of digital recording you no longer have to record a whole band in one take and can copy, move and transpose parts. There has got to be a lot said for some of the old bands from the 60’s and 70’s whether you like their music or not. The sad truth is that there are not many bands, let alone singers or musicians that can play a song perfectly in one take anymore.

During my formative years recording, I would be offered to drop-in a part and overdub a small section. Every time, I would refuse to overdub anything because I was determined to record it in one complete take. My theory was that this was my perfect opportunity to practice my part before having to play it live with a band. I was determined not to cheat myself and ultimately it’s how I improved as a player.

In 1992, I had some studio time with a major record label. During one of these sessions someone came up to the band and said that we needed to lose one of the band members because he didn’t look right, despite him being a gifted multi-instrumentalist and musician from London’s Guildhall of Music. Most of the member had fashionable long hair and trendy clothes and he had short hair and glasses and just had to leave the band. What a shame….

The point that I’m making isn’t necessarily about ‘Autotune’ or any other technology that is out there, but our expectations as the buying public. After all an artiste has to look right first don’t they? We seem to be judging with our eyes and not our ears. I don’t want to dramatize the situation but there is a real lack of talented singers and musicians out there that can deliver the goods in a live environment. Personally, I feel we need to get back to live performances despite there minor imperfections. The entertainment industry is slowly dying and it’s ‘Death by Autotune’.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Has Chicago's Changed?

Tuesday 6th July’s gig at Chicago Rock has opened my eyes in more ways than one. Have I changed? Has Chicago Rock Café changed? Well I’ve never felt more compelled to put pen to paper and write about something that doesn’t concern me until now. But that’s the thing, it does affect me and it should concern anybody on this side of the bars, clubs and live music industry as there are lessons to be learned for anyone that want to improve turn over and refine their business.

Over the years we have all seen the slow demise of the entertainment industry leaving it ‘on its back’. We can blame the economy, the smoking ban or any number of issues that has affected the number of people going out to clubs for their entertainment, but the truth is, we are all to blame. The result, much like the government, has seen cut back after cut back. However, at the same time there has been a reel lack of change and people subconsciously have got bored and stopped going out to clubs and restaurants.

Who am I to say? Well…no economic guru that’s for sure. However, I have always felt that I have been in a prime position to observe, criticise and make judgement on various venues up and down the country much in the same way as a secret shopper. If you look at our situation, we travel all over the UK visiting and playing hundreds of different venues meeting different managers and owners alike.

Now I’m going to start sounding old and cynical…As a band we reminisce about “the good old days”. In the mid to late 90s we were averaging over 200 dates a year. Yes that’s averaging 4 gigs a week. But in real terms this would actually peak at 6 to 7 gigs a week in the busy months. We would play at a ‘Brannigans’ bar on a Monday night in Chester to a full house, then Birmingham on the Tuesday, and maybe a Jumpin Jaks on a Wednesday etc etc. You get the picture. However, Brannigan’s have long gone and others have followed suit so credit to Chicago Rock Café for standing the test of time.

So what’s changed? NOTHING! …and that’s the problem. I think subconsciously punters are bored with the same old stuff. What use to be a winning formula at all these different venues no longer works. Things need to change in much the same way as taste and culture changes with time. Basically punters want something new and exciting. Would you want the same meals every week or watch the same news every day? No...neither would I. So why is it that most clubs around the country have almost become clones of each other? They all seem to function in identical ways which is something that is obvious to us travelling to so many around the country. For example, I understand that a venue has a music policy but for some reason all of the DJ’s seem to be stuck in some sort of ‘Timewarp’. (I feel a song coming on.) I think everyone knows what they are going to play next before they do! It’s like an old radio ‘playlist’ that someone forgot to update. They play all the cheesy classics that we all supposedly love (until you actually ask). If they bring a band off they will follow it up with a few memorable rock classic like ‘Livin on A Prayer’ or ‘Summer of ‘69’ and this happens week after week.

Moving on..most acts are as much to blame. I say acts because you can’t call them bands. A new original artiste will come out, then all of a sudden you got several people saying they are the latest ‘Lady Ga Ga’ Tribute (or whatever) before they’ve even bought the backing tracks. Personally this is something that I really started to recent. With very little effort and no equipment you could set yourself up as a tribute artist earning a premium amount of money in comparison to some bands which I believe had a huge knock on effect. These acts could turn up last minute in their car, plug into the DJ’s sound system with their minidisc backing track and literally pack away an hour later. Some of these acts weren’t even that great it’s just because they was the latest thing to come out. People eventually realised and their work dropped-off only for them to change their act to the next latest artist. Again subconsciously I believe ‘punters’ have ‘cottoned on’ to this. How many times have they seen the same girl as a different tribute? Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and now Lady Ga Ga.

…and this is where other bands went wrong. Rather than stand their ground and do their job, you got a ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ attitude. Other bands would make comparisons and say things like…’If that’s all we’re getting then we won’t put the lighting in”, “Let’s do a bank job and put no sound equipment in”…”Let’s not do the show.” Well the truth is they only did their selves an injustice. In the long term it lowered the standard of acts going into these venues to a point where it didn’t matter if a band was on or not. Consequently a lot of the bands from years ago have packed up.

The Tribute Show has never compromised. Our whole ethos is to entertain like no other band around. Whether we achieve that we’ll let you decide, but one thing is for sure, we would never cut corners otherwise what’s the point in being an entertainer? If we get booked you’re going to get ‘one hell of a show’.

Next up is the venues themselves, which most are still using the same worn out sound equipment from ten years ago. The DJs are obviously no experts when it comes to sound systems (no matter what they say), they don’t know how to get the best out of the system. What’s more, it looks like there has been no maintenance on these systems for years and are run down and in much need of some tender loving care. You really wouldn’t believe some of the sights we’ve seen. Some of which are serious health and safety hazards….and again the buying public subconsciously are no fools. They know when something is right.

Peterborough case study. If I look back to what was my local venue, it fell into all these traps. Live music reached a poor standard and was inconsistent. As a result they eventually closed the restaurant which stopped the early doors and regular customers. This in itself then attracted the wrong type of customer that just wanted to get drunk which ran down the appearance and reputation of the club. While this was going on the DJ was churning out the same predictable songs through a poor sound system and people stopped going. It then became an untrendy place to go.

Summarising so far….You have live music restaurants that no longer sell food, have limited or no live music, poor or predictable music playlist with bad sound systems. No wonder why some of these companies went bust.

Onto the gig… The booking for Tuesday 6th July 2010 came via Empire Leisure the exclusive entertainments supplier to Atmosphere, Bars and Clubs and Chicago Rock Café amongst others. As I implied earlier there isn’t much work midweek so we assumed we would be performing to a handful of people…and how wrong we were with over 500 people in attendance..

On arrival we were greeted by Adrian who explained they had rebranded the night as ‘Camp Rock’ which has become Barnsley’s biggest gay night. Okay they’ve had a great idea and tapped into a niche market but they are doing far more than that right. Whether you’re gay, straight or bi-sexual you would be mad to miss one of the best nights in town or Yorkshire for that matter. So what’s so good about it?

Barnsley Chicago Rock Café has got it right on so many levels which made me reflect back to the mid ‘90s. So much so, that I wanted to write this report in the hope that we could all learn something from it. They really are making the most of everything they’ve got to offer and something which I haven’t seen for a very long time.

On arrival our female singer commented on how tidy the venue looked (despite not having a makeover). On that note I must say, other venues we have been to have had no soap or paper in the toilets, which only reflects badly on the club. Generally Chicago Rock Café Barnsley has clearly been looked after. Behind the DJ console everything was in order (unlike other venues we have visited). The sound system is working well and ‘banging out’ the music without distorting. The song playlist and choice was brilliant and I don’t think I heard a single cheesy party tune or gay anthem all night. Someone has been creative with the ‘Camp Rock’ theme and got a couple of members of staff to add to this by dressing up as a couple of ‘Drag Queen’s’. This provides some light hearted entertainment for the customers. Drinks are no more than £1.50 all night and the venue is open until 3.30am. The result is a rammed club of over 500 people on a Tuesday night. This in itself creates a great atmosphere and repeat business. What more could you ask for.

There is talk of Chicago Rock rolling out ‘Camp Rock’ to its other venues. However although a good niche market I believe it’s the small things that Barnsley is doing which is making the difference. Because of its turnover it can then consistently provide quality live entertainment and long may it continue. General Manager Tye Healey clearly runs a very tight ship so all credit to Mr Healey, Rachel, Adrian and not forgetting Tess and the rest of the team. Well done Chicago Rock Barnsley it’s just a shame that you wasn’t my local, because gay night or not I would certainly go for a great night out.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Humble Beginnings

Well....The band originally formed in 1992 as a modest covers band called 'Spice'. Then the 'Spice Girls' arrived on the scene and ruined it all and we wanted nothing to do with them! (riff raff). Being serious, it was alway the bands ambition to become one of the larger showgroups of the time so changed the name to Infantasia. A bit weird I know, but there was certainly no one around like us. (weird that is!) Bands we admired back then such as Barry Walkers, Smackee are still around today who had won the Club Mirror Showgroup of the year and led the way. Little did we know that several years later we would also win an award from the prestigeous Club Mirror Magazine. Basically bands like Smackee showed me what could be achieved as a business and I admired them from a distance.
The band made progress through the ranks and eventually found a management deal from an entertainment agency. Although this period of the band was relatively successful, in hindsight it was the wrong type of work. Although it kept the band busy and revenue coming in there was only one fat cat making any money. Although this entertainment agent gave himeself the title of 'The Manager' of the band he didn't really manage anything apart from take the booking. Ooh and the commission. Inevitably, after ten years we eventually  terminated the management deal and now manage ourselves. In this short space of time we have proved to be a leading tribute band on the circuit.