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Competition with other bands


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I play in a Grateful Dead cover band, and we've been getting a lot of attention these past couple of months - more people are showing up to our gigs, and the venues are reporting fantastic sales on nights that we play.

 

Another band in town - one that's been around a good while, and has a good fan base - used to do a lot of Dead, then moved on to other stuff. Now we're around, people are talking us up, and these other guys are reportedly adding back a lot more Dead to their repertoire.

 

I look at the positives, so I'm not worried at all. They're a good band that plays diverse material, and I'm not one to be all "finders keepers!" about this. Sometimes a rising tide floats all boats, and if the fans are there, then the gigs will be, too; if people get sick of the Dead, we'll find a new hook and keep playing. Plus there's far more to a band than its repertoire.

 

But in case this becomes more than friendly competitiveness, I'm curious to know if anyone had to endure fierce competition from other bands, and how they dealt with it ...

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There's a huge difference between a cover band and a tribute band. If Dead is hot right now, become the Dead tribute band and let them be known as the band that does Dead covers.

 

Dress like San Francisco hippies and add a psychedelic light show with those oversized blobs that swim around.

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There's a huge difference between a cover band and a tribute band. If Dead is hot right now, become the Dead tribute band and let them be known as the band that does Dead covers.

Aside from the volume of material, how do you define the difference?

 

Well it is about material to a large degree. I'd much rather be in a Grateful Dead tribute band, than a cover band that is over-weighted with Grateful Dead songs. The former enables you to target market Dead fans. The latter means that you're doing a poor job of casting a wide net. That targeting gets really powerful for Facebook ads, BTW.

 

Of course, dressing the part and aping the stage show is also something that can separate a tribute band. Then it becomes about the experience and not just the material.

 

BTW, I play in a Tom Petty tribute band.

 

D7

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Difference:

 

Dead cover-band should refrain from (but won't) snore-fest "Black Peter" Brokedown Palace", "Baby Blue" etc... and whip out some better numbers 'Help/Slip/Franklin's, Samson & Delilah, Lost Sailor, etc... also mix-in some Garcia solo stuff

All done without costumes and sight-gags.

 

Dead Tribute Band would probably try to give you "look and Feel" of Dead Show, with snore-fest tunes mixed in and usually modeling set-lists after historic Dead shows (song for song, clam for clam) much in the vein of Dark Star Orchestra

Costumes and Sight gags a must. Right down to the drool on Bob Wier's chin.

 

 

 

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Yeah, you want competition, try playing 80s. Not only are there other "80s bands", but most of the regular cover bands play mostly 80s as well. The key is differentiation and doing things others don't or won't do. Most of the other bands doing 80s, even if they tout themselves as an all 80s band, mix in some 70s, 90s, and/or modern. Most do not dress/look the part. Once we were successful enough to sink money into additional production, we started bringing out a bigger light show, sometimes video, investing in additional stage props, etc. This makes it harder for somebody coming up to compete with you, because they'd lose money trying to put on the same show. As Griff eluded to, others started dressing like us, so we've updated our outfits. One band had the nerve to put out a poster advertising a gig that was something like:

 

[NAME OF BAND]

that 80s band

 

I suppose since the are AN 80s band, they can say they are THAT one, but it was obviously designed to confuse people. They also advertise themselves as the alternative 80s band, and go after clients as a cheaper alternative. You get what you pay for!

 

So just continue to change the game, keep on top of it, make sure the competitors are playing catch up to what you're doing, and make sure you do what you do better than anybody else.

Dan

 

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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Grateful Dead tribute band "musts"

 

Your Guitar Player has to have a beard and glasses and must chop his right middle finger off.

 

The other Guitar player must have the Bob Wier "moves" and a steady supply of pink lacoste tennis shirts.

 

Two drummers

 

Bass Player requires a six-string bass, and must sing off-key during the chorus.

 

As Keyboardist (very difficult since the Dead Keyboardist's wound up like Spinal Tap drummers) you have to decide if you wanna be:

 

Pigpen: Biker Look, farfisa and hammond, and a harmonica, a good blues voice and persona as well as a severe alcohol addiction

 

Keith Godchaux: the old sage, asleep at the switch -look, yamaha electric grand and annoying wife that insists on singing with band

 

Brent Mydland: Hammond, Arp and a muppet-like voice (think Grover sings the blues).

 

Vince Welnick: synth heavy, bearded, lean and still alive

 

I'd vote for the Vince look since it's not life threatening and if you bring a modern board to the gig you can always say "Vince would use this".

 

 

 

 

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In terms of the Dead, making sure youre doing group improv and segues into songs and not repeating those things will be key. Its not JUST about the songs, but the approach you take to playing them. A lot of the magic (and tragedy) happens in those between-song transitions. Hearing a band do Shakedown Street and somehow morph that into Fire On The Mountain will be more interesting, and more true to the spirit of the Dead (thus appealing to Deadheads), than a band who plays Truckin and Touch of Grey.
Hitting "Play" does NOT constitute live performance. -Me.
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Grateful Dead tribute band "musts"

 

Your Guitar Player has to have a beard and glasses and must chop his right middle finger off.

 

The other Guitar player must have the Bob Wier "moves" and a steady supply of pink lacoste tennis shirts.

 

Two drummers

 

Bass Player requires a six-string bass, and must sing off-key during the chorus.

 

As Keyboardist (very difficult since the Dead Keyboardist's wound up like Spinal Tap drummers) you have to decide if you wanna be:

 

Pigpen: Biker Look, farfisa and hammond, and a harmonica, a good blues voice and persona as well as a severe alcohol addiction

 

Keith Godchaux: the old sage, asleep at the switch -look, yamaha electric grand and annoying wife that insists on singing with band

 

Brent Mydland: Hammond, Arp and a muppet-like voice (think Grover sings the blues).

 

Vince Welnick: synth heavy, bearded, lean and still alive

 

I'd vote for the Vince look since it's not life threatening and if you bring a modern board to the gig you can always say "Vince would use this".

 

 

 

Aren't you forgetting Bruce Hornsby?

 

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

-Mark Twain

 

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Tribute bands are becoming more and more common. It seems like every decent sized city has tribute bands for the Dead, Petty, Santana, Steely Dan, Zepplin, Floyd, Journey . . . the list goes on. And often more than one of each. I played in a Petty tribute for a few years, one of 3 (that I knew of) in the Bay Area. It really brings out the competitive spirit in you, which is not what music is supposed to be about, but there it is. The battle lines get pretty clear defined around who gets holds down certain clubs or certain geographic areas. I don't know what to advise except try to be better than the others in all aspects.

 

I told myself I wouldn't play in another tribute band, and yet I went straight into another one. But this is the last!

 

Actually, there's alot worse ways to spend an evening than being Benmont Tench. Or Brent Mydland.

Gigging: Crumar Mojo 61, Hammond SKPro

Home: Vintage Vibe 64

 

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As Keyboardist (very difficult since the Dead Keyboardist's wound up like Spinal Tap drummers) you have to decide if you wanna be:

Vince Welnick: synth heavy, bearded, lean and still alive

 

I'd vote for the Vince look since it's not life threatening ...

 

 

Not so much. I guess youll be shocked to learn that he committed suicide back in 2006 because he couldnt get his gig back (ostensibly).

Hitting "Play" does NOT constitute live performance. -Me.
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BTW, I play in a Tom Petty tribute band.
The Damn Torpedoes?

 

In terms of the Dead, making sure youre doing group improve and seques into songs and not repeating those things will be key. Its not JUST about the songs, but the approach you take to playing them. A lot of the magic (and tragedy) happens in those between-song transitions. Hearing a band do Shakedown Street and somehow morph that into Fire On The Mountain will be more interesting, and more true to the spirit of the Dead (thus appealing to Deadheads), than a band who plays Truckin and Touch of Grey.
Yeah, I'd say a Dead tribute band is a jam band, a cover band just plays some of their "hits."

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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Grateful Dead tribute band "musts"

 

Your Guitar Player has to have a beard and glasses and must chop his right middle finger off.

 

The other Guitar player must have the Bob Wier "moves" and a steady supply of pink lacoste tennis shirts.

 

Two drummers

 

Bass Player requires a six-string bass, and must sing off-key during the chorus.

 

As Keyboardist (very difficult since the Dead Keyboardist's wound up like Spinal Tap drummers) you have to decide if you wanna be:

 

Pigpen: Biker Look, farfisa and hammond, and a harmonica, a good blues voice and persona as well as a severe alcohol addiction

 

Keith Godchaux: the old sage, asleep at the switch -look, yamaha electric grand and annoying wife that insists on singing with band

 

Brent Mydland: Hammond, Arp and a muppet-like voice (think Grover sings the blues).

 

Vince Welnick: synth heavy, bearded, lean and still alive

 

I'd vote for the Vince look since it's not life threatening and if you bring a modern board to the gig you can always say "Vince would use this".

 

 

 

Aren't you forgetting Bruce Hornsby?

 

nah - he wasn't a full timer like vince.

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I play in a Grateful Dead cover band
My condolences

Not at all - I'm loving the music (very limited exposure before), the guys I play with are good musicians, and we're playing the *songs*, not the aimless 45-minute long LSD-fueled "jams" ... if that was the case, I'd likely be looking for another band. :)

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In terms of the Dead, making sure youre doing group improv and segues into songs and not repeating those things will be key. Its not JUST about the songs, but the approach you take to playing them. A lot of the magic (and tragedy) happens in those between-song transitions. Hearing a band do Shakedown Street and somehow morph that into Fire On The Mountain will be more interesting, and more true to the spirit of the Dead (thus appealing to Deadheads), than a band who plays Truckin and Touch of Grey.

We're starting to work in transitional material just recently.

 

Now that we have a good selection of songs under our belt, we can put set lists together that allow for transitional jams. I'm pulling some ideas from Zappa in this regard - rather than aimlessly trying to "fall in" to another song, finding a vamp that bridges the gap (but not changing the idiom completely!).

 

Next step is getting the guitarist to cue us while soloing, so we know when the downbeat of the next song is. I know it's not "authentic" Dead, but I'm not letting those transitions devolve into mere noodling; my background is less jam-oriented and more arrangement-heavy, so I'm hoping to hold the reigns on transitions.

 

We're definitely thinking in terms of lighting and other visual stimuli to go with the songs, but we're stopping short of costumes and adding more musicians to our already tight 4-piece group. We'll probably add a "Weir" at some point, since my playing is VERY busy and almost too much to keep up with on some songs ("Franklin's Tower" and "Scarlett Begonias" kick my ass playing EP and organ lines at the same time!), especially during guitar solos.

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I've been in a dead cover band for over 20 years. (Not a tribute band- I don't think I could do that, we play the songs with way too much energy!). We also do a fair amount of Allmans, Feat, Dylan, Neil Young. The morphs between songs are a huge part of our what we do. The musicianship is real good, the ears even better. That's the biggest part in being in a band like that, listening to each other and complementing what each other is doing.

 

We might do a set that was Cassidy/Cryptical/Freeway Jam/Down By the River/Loose Lucy and that'd be the whole set. Things like these can be taken way out, lots of modal jams and dynamic breakdowns. It was a lot of fun. We only play a few shows a year now, so it's even more fun now that we're not trying to make the "magic" happen every weekend like we were for so long.

Live: Korg Kronos 2 88, Nord Electro 5d Nord Lead A1

Toys: Roland FA08, Novation Ultranova, Moog LP, Roland SP-404SX, Roland JX10,Emu MK6

www.bksband.com

www.echoesrocks.com

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Ah, okay. Is there any "competition" between the two bands?

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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Bruce is the only one still alive, so full-timer or not.

 

Tom Constanten is also still very much alive. I saw him play recently in Maryland. "Mountains of the Moon" on solo acoustic piano was the opener.

 

 

Yamaha P2 acoustic, Yamaha P120 digital, Nord Electro 3HP, QSC K10.

FOR SALE: Nord Electro 2-61.

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I'm also in a Dead cover band - a new one that doesn't yet have a proper name. Around here the competition includes On The Bus, The Road, and Black Muddy River (who are different - acoustic guitar/bass/mandolin only, more like bluegrass). Our focus is also a bit different, but I won't reveal it yet...

 

 

Yamaha P2 acoustic, Yamaha P120 digital, Nord Electro 3HP, QSC K10.

FOR SALE: Nord Electro 2-61.

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