Cover it up: The sound of tribute bands in North Texas

The Elton Johns, dressed in various outfits, strike a pose

The Elton Johns
Photo: Scott Saldinger

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then tribute acts — or cover bands, if you’d rather — must occupy a rarified rung on the ladder of show business. The sheer number of North Texas-based tribute acts is probably incalculable, but what is easily quantified is the depth of feeling those bands create in their fanbases.

If you’ve spent any time at any kind of live event, whether it’s a festival, a street party or a bar, in North Texas at any point in the last 30 years, you have more than likely heard, even if indirectly, the work of a local tribute act.

And let’s be clear: There’s a fine line between, say, impersonating Elvis (at whatever phase of his career) and recreating the texture and atmosphere of classic or contemporary rock and pop songs. One can be chalked to costuming and the abundance (or lack) of charisma; the other requires musical chops and the skill to evoke while also entertaining.

All of that to say, we thought it would be fun to connect with a few tribute acts around town and find out what makes them tick. Here are a few North Texas tribute acts to lend your ears.

The Elton Johns

Favorite song of the act you cover, and why? “‘Bennie and the Jets’ — it’s a song that really seems to be universally loved by all ages, and we offer the audience a chance to interact and sing with us,” said John Kenny, front man for the Elton Johns, via email.

Does your band have a “signature move” inspired by the act you pay tribute to? “Our band is not an impersonation of Elton John,” said Kenny via email. “Instead, the entire 10-piece band dresses us as Elton John (hence the name the Elton Johns). So, our ‘inspiration’ is really the use of Elton John-inspired glasses and outfits for the whole band.”

Sell yourself in a couple sentences. “Elton John’s amazing songs, expertly performed by a costumed full band and string section.”

Upcoming gigs: Aug. 19 at the Lava Cantina, The Colony.

Ben Folds Laundry

Favorite song of the act you pay tribute to, and why? “My favorite song has to be ‘Missing the War,’” said Ben Fisher, pianist-lead singer, via email. “When I saw Ben Folds Five reunite in 2012, they opened with it. The song is just unlike any other song I have ever heard — a beautiful ballad, melancholy but strong; three-part harmonies, but intimate.”

Does your band have a “signature move” inspired by the act you pay tribute to? “Ben Folds is always slamming the piano keys with something — his arm, elbows, a piano bench,” Fisher said via email. “I haven’t tossed my bench across the stage yet, but I do enjoy a big dissonant arm slam on the lower keys to close out a song.”

Sell yourself in a couple sentences. “Come see the number one Ben Folds Five tribute band in the USA! We might be the only one in the USA … but we deliver a high-energy set with lots of danceable songs.”

Upcoming gigs: None currently planned, but hoping to co-headline with a Cake tribute band called ICING in Dallas and Austin this fall.

Le Cure

Favorite song of the act you pay tribute to, and why? “’From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea,’” said Bobby Hoke, music director for Le Cure, via email. “The low cellos throughout create a haunting underbelly … keeping a firm grip while the slight variations make them feel like they could break into chaos at any moment.”

Does your band have a “signature move” inspired by the act you pay tribute to? “If you’ve seen a Cure concert, Robert Smith doesn’t move around a lot,” singer Mark Hernandez said via email. “When we started the band, I was inspired to perform with the energy of the Cure’s music videos. I’ll even bring out some costumes from time to time.”

Sell yourself in a couple sentences. “If you like [the] music of The Cure, tribute band Le Cure offers the best imitation of vocalist Robert Smith, hands down. They’ve had devoted fans for 15 years and running,” said Hoke via email.

Upcoming gigs: Aug. 18 at Lee Harvey’s in Dallas; Sept. 9 at Lola’s in Fort Worth; Sept. 10 at Dan’s Silverleaf in Denton.

Thin White Dukes

Favorite song of the act you pay tribute to, and why? “My favorite song rendition we do is ‘Moonage Daydream,’” said Mario Tremaine, lead singer, via email. “Specifically, because we give it our own Thin White Dukes twist. Usually, we give our guitarist, saxophonist, and keyboard player time to jam out during the solo portion of the song.”

Does your band have a “signature move” inspired by the act you pay tribute to? “During ‘Fashion,’ David Bowie would do this sort-of ‘crouch and jump’ across the stage that we like to throw in as a fun nod to his live performances,” Tremaine said via email. “I try to emulate him through the little moves he would do in songs. Like during ‘Young Americans’ with the line ‘Do you remember, you’re President Nixon,’ I’ll throw up the Nixon [double] peace signs like Bowie would do live.”

Sell yourself in a couple sentences. “We might not look like David Bowie in a traditional tribute band sense [but] we are die-hard David Bowie fans who love to perform his music live to people again and again. Our shows are where people can connect by their love to the man and his music.”

Upcoming gigs: The ninth annual David Bowie Birthday Bash, set for Jan. 6, 2024 at Dallas’ Granada Theater. “This year, we are playing the whole Diamond Dogs album in its entirety to celebrate its 50th anniversary,” Tremaine said via email.

Preston Jones is a North Texas freelance writer and regular contributor to KXT. Email him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter (@prestonjones). Our work is made possible by our generous, music-loving members. If you like how we lift up local music, consider becoming a KXT sustaining member right here.