Tribute bands on Utah stages this summer make you imagine the memories

Published June 16, 2014 9:01 am
Music • Tribute bands flocking to Utah this summer include all-women Led Zeppelin band.
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When The Beatles appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1964 to the rapture of a nation, 13-year-old Tom Coburn's father turned to him and said, "You're looking at the future."

His father had no idea how right he was.

Coburn, self-described as "62 going on 14," leads one of the best-selling Beatles tribute bands as John Lennon in the Salt Lake City-based Imagine: Remembering the Fab Four.

The band is just one of myriad tribute bands coming to the Salt Lake Valley this summer, riding a nationwide wave of popularity. It's seeing the band of your dreams at a price you can afford. Better yet, the tribute bands won't try to introduce songs off their latest album to the collective groan of the audience.

Many of the tribute musicians remember seeing at a young age the bands they now emulate.

Before seeing The Beatles on TV, Coburn said he had been strumming the acoustic guitar at campfires singing "Kumbaya." But watching Lennon and George Harrison made him declare to his parents that he was going electric, he said.

Coburn and drummer Daniel "Dango" Burt created Imagine in 1993 after being in a covers band that became inspired by seeing the great (and still-running) Beatles tribute band 1964. But while 1964 generally stuck to the early years, Coburn and Burt wanted to cover the entire decade of the Beatles' lifetime, including the psychedelic "I Am the Walrus" years.

The band honed its craft playing 90 summer shows in 1994 and 1995 at Lagoon, and 20 years later, it has logged more than 1,100 shows. Imagine even has the distinction of being the first band ever to perform at Usana Amphitheatre — opening for opening-day headliner The Beach Boys.

It was at that show that the band's future George Harrison saw them for the first time.

Brad Armstrong, 53, had been recruited to join Imagine after learning his chops as a member of infamous Salt Lake City cover band Spanky & the Wankers, a longtime mainstay at the now-defunct Zephyr. He saw how much excitement the band seemed to be generating and wanted to be a part of it, being a Beatles geek himself.

"Audiences leave feeling good," he said of being Harrison. "Some tribute bands are very professional, but aren't that much fun. The main thing is we're having fun."

This doesn't mean the members of Imagine aren't expert musicians. Drummer Mark Robinette, for example, who replaced the beloved Dango after Dango played 1,064 shows as Ringo Starr, doubles as the tuba player in the Orchestra at Temple Square.

Coburn doesn't foresee a time when Beatles songs or tribute bands, for that matter, will wane in popularity. "It crosses so many generations," he said.

His 13-year-old granddaughter Mazzy Coburn recently played a drum recital and chose — what else? — The Beatles' "Come Together." Lennon — I mean, Tom Coburn — was so proud.

Another tribute band coming to Utah this summer is Zepparella, which has a gimmick that is obliterated once you hear how good the band sounds. Zepparella is a Bay Area-based all-women Led Zeppelin tribute band, featuring Clementine on drums as John Bonham's female alter ego.

"We definitely have to prove ourselves," said Clementine, who declined to give her age but joked that she was "old enough to know better than to be in a Led Zeppelin tribute band."

Zepparella began a decade ago, but has exploded in popularity in the past three years with its current lineup. When the band passes through the Urban Lounge in Salt Lake City on July 6, it will be on a second national tour.

The band began when Clementine and another founding member, guitarist Gretchen Wenn, decided to practice together playing along to Led Zeppelin, with members they considered the master of each instrument. They started to devote so much time to playing Zeppelin that they ended up deciding to try out their side project in public. Soon, the side project became more popular than their bands' original music. (Clementine still performs in the band Stars Turn Me On.)

She added: "We've heard people come to us and say they came to see how bad we were. … We never take it lightly. Our intention and love comes across. No one is bigger fans than we are." —

Musical memories

Here is a sampling of some of the tribute bands performing in Utah this summer:

Brit Floyd

When • Saturday, June 14, at 8 p.m.

Where • Maverik Center, 3200 South Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City

Tickets • $25 to $49.50 at Ticketmaster

Imagine: Remembering the Fab Four

When • Friday, June 20, at 8 p.m.

Where • Sandy Amphitheater, 9400 S. 1300 East, Sandy

Tickets • $10 to $15 at SmithsTix


When • Sunday, July 6, at 8 p.m.

Where • Urban Lounge, 241 S. 500 East, Salt Lake City

Tickets • $12 at 24Tix

Zoso (Led Zeppelin)

When • Saturday, July 12, at 8 p.m.

Where • Lo-Fi Café, 400 W. 445 South, Salt Lake City

Tickets • $15 at SmithsTix

Arrival: The Music of ABBA

When • Friday, July 25, at 8 p.m.

Where • Sandy Amphitheater, 9400 S. 1300 East, Sandy

Tickets • $15 to $25 at SmithsTix

The Australian Pink Floyd Show

When • Saturday, Sept. 27, at 8 p.m.

Where • Usana Amphitheatre, 5150 S. 6055 West, West Valley City

Tickets • $25 to $39 at SmithsTix



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