On Saturday night, we took a break from the whirlwind of constant activity so that we could spend time seeing a few tribute bands at the Anaheim House of Blues. My sister-in-law invited my husband and I to go see The Cured with them, and while we had no business taking any time away to do much of anything, we said yes anyway.
Rule #1 – buy the concert tickets. In this case, they were free, so why not, right??
I was thrilled to get away from this house, to be honest. Selling a house is stressful, and we’ve been working on this place for months now. Any deep desire to stay here and not move has long since been squelched. I’m ready to bid farewell to Rancho Santa Margarita and welcome what comes next.
Turns out, not only was The Cured playing, but Planet Earth (which ended up being Arena, because Planet Earth suddenly retired) was also on the bill that night, along with Substance, a New Order tribute. I was in luck!
This show was at the new Anaheim House of Blues. On the inside, the venue is big, clean and beautiful, but I dislike the way you enter. It used to be that if a concert-goer dines at the restaurant, entrance would be granted through the dining hall, and there wouldn’t be a wait at the door. No more. Customers may certainly eat at the HOB, but afterward, you exit the restaurant and still wait in the long line. Not the end of the world, but definitely an inconvenience and a hassle. Fine for tribute band shows, particularly this one since we had free tickets, but for a well-known band? No way. Why would anyone want to eat dinner at the House of Blues, particularly when their once-ample menu has now been paired down to less-than-a single-page of offerings, and then be forced to stand at the end of the very long GA line for a band like Duran Duran, for instance? The wise decision would be to forgo the dinner and just wait in line, or be happy hearing the concert from one of the side bar areas that offer an obstructed view.
The venue itself is big and airy like a warehouse conversion, along with dark and intimate feeling inside the actual concert hall. It is a nice, ample space for GA shows, similar to most other HOB locations I’ve been in. Believe it or not, the space filled very quickly. When the first band took the stage around 8pm, the house was packed.
And what was that first band, you ask? Arena!
I’ve learned a few things about tribute bands over the years. They tend to use the tribute thing as a bit of a gimmick. Some create as real of an experience as you can get without seeing the actual band live. They strive for authenticity, and that means if you’re playing Simon Le Bon, you’d better BE as close to Simon as possible. There’s no taking “artistic license” with his vocals OR with the lyrics. The costuming has to be accurate. “Simon’s” wig cannot look like it once belonged to Donald Trump, for instance. The music has to sound as close to the band as possible without it being karaoke or merely a lip sync performance. Sure, there might be some smoke and some mirrors, after all, even the real bands use backing tracks and a zillion other effects. However, the goal is for it all to feel genuine. Other bands use the tribute as shtick. It’s comedic, and it’s not really meant to be authentic, although it might still get audiences in the door. That said, there’s good comedy, and there’s really bad comedy, right? The same can be said for tribute bands. Some might be hilariously funny, but the musicianship is top-notch. Others might be funny because they’re trying to hide the fact that they can’t really play. Still others are a blend of all of it.
The whole tribute band scene is rather incestuous, so to speak. While you might see a band like Arena, or even The Cured—later on that same night, you might see people from those same bands performing in other tributes. While I can understand the economic issues in doing so, it all feels a little awkward to someone like me who might be paying attention. What band are they actually IN, and why is everyone trading members? Those things bug me. Even so, if the guy (or girl) can play it all, so be it.
Lastly, there’s me, obsessed Duran Duran fan. I am probably not the best audience for any DD tribute band, because A. I’m a huge fan. I know every single Duran Duran song down to the tiniest chord and glottal stop. and B. I own a blog.
The reality is, I’m a great audience member for any other tribute band besides Duran Duran. I don’t know anyone’s music the way I do DD’s, and I’m happy just to hear Blue Monday, Love Will Tear Us Apart or even Love Cats. I know the hits pretty well, but not obsessively so, and it’s all great fun. So, when I tell you that I was not entirely taken by Arena, understand that my standards are unapologetically high. They were good, but not great.
All of that aside, the band was fun. I definitely spent time bobbing my head and instinctively doing all the same things I might do at a Duran show—except for maybe screaming at the guitar player and rolling my eyes when they played HLTW—I’ve got to save something for the real deal, you know. I can’t review Arena the way I initially thought I might, because it would be unfair. I did have fun that night, and maybe that’s the takeaway for me – I can’t and shouldn’t intensively review a DD-tribute band.
I’ve come to the realization that I am the nightmare audience member for a DD tribute band, outside of maybe any actual, real, band member. I’m the person you can and should call in for a quality control assessment, because I’m brutally honest. However, no one needs me in their audience, particularly if I’m writing a review.
On the other hand, I loved Substance – the New Order tribute, because I’m a casual fan of New Order. I have their albums, I know their songs, but I don’t know them in the same way. The vocals weren’t exactly the right tone, but the music was good, and I heard songs I hadn’t heard in years. The same holds true for The Cured. The vocals were fairly close, and musically the band was fabulous. They have a professional quality about them that I very much admire, and I’d go see them again.
The escape, even for just a few hours, was a welcome respite.
I was thoroughly spoiled on Friday night, as I stood less than 30 feet away from Simon Le Bon as he sang Is There Something I Should Know AND Late Bar in a single set in a small, intimate bar in Fullerton, California. Of course, John, Roger, Andy and Nick were there too, and Duran Duran was on fire…playing everything from Sound of Thunder to Notorious, deep cuts to big hits. Duranies lined the stage, and while I only saw one pair of panties thrown…it was a good night.
Ok, so maybe it wasn’t really Simon. Or John, Roger, Andy and Nick for that matter. Particularly given the fact that they were in Argentina that night, and oh yes – Andy is no longer with the band – I kind of knew it was going to be tough to sell anyone on that story. So who was the band and where was I? The band was of course Rio: the Duran Duran tribute band, and the venue was the Totally 80’s Bar and Grille.
Here’s the thing – as far as bars go, the Totally 80’s Bar is every 80s cliché wrapped up into one building. Neon, black lights, TV monitors on the wall playing completely different videos from the music pouring out of the speaker, even the same really gross, dank, but not entirely off putting, “ick” oozing from its walls. As I stood at the bar, nursing one of the worst vodka tonics I’ve ever had, I watched a guy dancing and spinning alone in the corner of the dance floor. I almost had to pinch myself, because I’d swear I saw that same dude thirty years ago at Fashions on the Redondo Beach pier. Yeah, for me, Totally 80’s was nearly like stepping back in time….and falling flat on my face in a sea of neon paint with Apollonia 6 serenading me like carnival music in a fun house. In a word: weird. Fun, but weird.
I think that in order to appreciate the sights and sounds, you must have a sense of humor about the whole thing. Some do, as they come dressed proudly in 80s garb with a side ponytail and enough neon lighting bolts to power their own homes. Others, like me, are little more apprehensive and less likely to fully embrace 1980-something coming back to life. We come to see bands we think we know play music we rarely get to hear live.
As showtime neared, I was once again flabbergast to see Duranies – and yes, you can tell they’re Duranies because some even wear their Paper Gods touring t-shirts, which is both appropriate and cute in this setting – grabbing the front and center spots. They were ready to do battle if necessary to defend their territory from the few women (oh yes, even here) that feel they should always be awarded a spot directly in front of the singer, even if they drunkenly arrive mid-set. Truthfully, I can’t find fault with the Duranies in front, even if I chose not to join them in favor or standing back to watch the scene unfold. The die-hard in me screamed to go to the front, while the more reasonable side constantly reminded me that this was not really Duran Duran. The dance floor filled nicely for Rio, and once the band took the stage, even people from the back of the bar came to check the band out.
I hadn’t seen Rio perform live for about a year, and it might have been longer than that, now that I think about it. I can’t always make it to their shows (this is a tribute band that plays regularly so that Duranies can always get their fix, should the need arise!), but I go when I can. Since my last trip to 1985 (with Rio, of course), they’ve had a personnel change. Not to be confused with the real Duran Duran (although they will tell you that they are in fact the real Duran Duran), in this case it is their keyboardist who has recently changed. Not sure if the sub “Nick” will stick around, but he was good.
I know a lot of people wince at the idea of a tribute band. I was one of those, once. Two things make Rio different: 1. They take the music seriously, even though sure – the “act” is a schtick of sorts. They’re not making fun of Duran Duran, they’re emulating them as they tell the crowd that we’ve all been taken back to 1985 in a time machine and that it’s going to be a party. These guys are fans – and I know this because I’ve hung out with them after Duran Duran shows! In turn, they make their own show fun, and do the music all kinds of justice. I’m picky about my Is There Something I Should Know, and they play it true to form….every time. EVERY TIME. 2. They don’t just play the hits. They also play the deep cuts only Duranies know. That’s the one thing I have to say, even when they’re playing Late Bar, everyone is dancing on that floor. I wish Duran Duran (the real band) could see it, because it’s a sight to behold. John Taylor may say that only die-hard fans in the first row or two know the song at his shows – but at these shows? Everybody knows it, or it’s so damn good they dance anyway.
So while Duran Duran may never play Late Bar or Sound of Thunder, Rio does…and they do it brilliantly. If you haven’t had a chance to see them, you should make the time. I’ll even save you space on the dance floor.
I’ve almost certainly lost my DD mojo at this point.
These are words I actually texted to a friend of mine on Saturday afternoon as we discussed going to see the greatest Duran Duran tribute band on this side of the Atlantic – Rio. They were playing at the Totally 80’s Bar in Fullerton California, which wasn’t far from my house. I needed a night out, as did my husband. There has been a serious Duran Duran drought going on, and judging from responses I’ve seen over the past several months to whatever the band says, or even what I happen to say on Twitter, it sounds like this is a full-fledged emergency.
Before I get into whom to blame for this tragedy (I think we all know exactly who is to blame here), let’s just talk about that evening. The truth of the matter, it’s been so long that I’ve been out, I feared I’d forgotten how to dress. I spend my luxurious, fun-filled days in jeans, a t-shirt and athletic trainers, running after a now five-month old puppy before he decides to use our house as his personal toilet among many other equally amazing “hobbies” I’ve acquired in the past four years. Dare I say I’ve become frumpy?!? I certainly feel that way every morning when I crawl out of bed, grabbing the first clothing items I can throw on, not even bothering with makeup or hair product. Instead of just being a Duranie-on-a (short) hiatus, I felt like I was becoming my mother, feeling every single second of my forty-four years on this planet. For a while, I even started to give in, waving my dishtowel as a white flag in defeat, sensing that it might be a while, perhaps even forever, before I went to another concert and screamed for the men onstage.
Yes, I had lost my DD mojo. Most definitely. There is an intense Duran Duran drought going on here.
So that brings me to Saturday night. Immediately upon texting that I’d go to see Rio, I realized I had no idea of what to wear. Did I even still fit into my typical concert clothing? It had been months since I actually did a full make-up job or worried about my hair – could I still pull it off? Probably not. I pulled on my jeans, noting that I could still breathe (definitely an unexpected bonus), and then tried on a shirt. I shrugged it on, and then went to the mirror to see how bad it looked. I took a peek, and to my surprise – I started to recognize the reflection in the mirror. Yes, the girl was still in there, but what about the band…the real band? I hear we’ve got at least another six months of this Duran Duran drought ahead. Seriously, they expect us to hang on this long with virtually nothing?? No one needs remind me that they’ve done a few shows over the past year – but unless you were lucky to be able to attend one – which I was not, the rest of us are still living a California-sized Duran Duran drought.
We get to the club that night and sit down to grab a little pre-show dinner. If you haven’t been, the menu is filled with delights like the Breakfast Club burger (which has everything including an egg and hash browns on it) to Tater-Tots with toppings like poutine or nacho cheese sauce. They also have drinks that run the gamot of 80’s names. Yes, they even have a Duran Duran shot bomb. From memory it is black cherry vodka with some grenadine dropped into Red Bull. I am certain this could kill me, so I go for the Richard Blade Rum Runner instead (still Duran themed, damn it!). I don’t even remember what is in this drink, but it was good. I want to say there was something raspberry in there with rum and maybe even some pineapple. Not sure. I just know I drank it and lived, even if my memory did not.
My friends arrive, we chat for a while at our table and then make our way to the front of the club to see the show. I’ve been to see Rio before – in fact I’ve done an interview with them here on the blog as well as reviewed a show, so being near the front wasn’t a requirement, but we made our way as close as possible – which ended up being directly to the side of some speakers. Yay for more early onset hearing loss! The show starts and the band is terrific as always. Honestly, as Tiger Tiger began, I could feel the Duran Duran drought ending for me in very much the same way I felt when California finally got some rain in December. Nourishment!! Relief!! I felt at home because let’s face it – Rio’s set list is vaguely familiar, with tunes like Planet Earth, Hungry Like the Wolf (oh you betcha!), Come Undone, Ordinary World…but they also played Is There Something I Should Know, New Moon on Monday (which sounded just a little off to me, but in fairness I was only getting part of the sound through the one set of speakers deafening me), and New Religion. A full-set of Duran Duran drought ending greatness. I can’t complain about their show (and I wouldn’t anyway because as I’ve already said – this is the greatest DD Tribute band on this side of the pond, hands-down). For this Duranie, their set gave me a hint of DD mojo back.
However, just as I was starting to remember why it is I love the band, and yes, lately it has been difficult to remember why…I started remembering what I’d forgotten about concerts in general.
People are freaking NUTS.
We’d made our way up to nearly the front of the stage before the show started, not by pretending we knew someone or faking a leg injury, by just walking up to the front. After all, this wasn’t the band. I mean, it was Rio…but it wasn’t Duran Duran. Apparently though, management forgot to mention that small detail to many of the women (and a whole lot of the men!) in attendance. I witnessed behavior that night that I haven’t seen (well some of it I’ve never seen, but I’ll get to that in a bit) in a looonnnnngg time. From the woman who refused to give up on getting to the front no matter how many times the gentleman who stopped her from barging up there continued to put her off, to the presumable grandmother that elbowed me several times, leaving me with a nasty bruise on the backside of my arm to shove me out-of-the-way so that she could lock eyes with “Simon” Jake Jacobs, and the very, very drunk woman who used the stage as a way to prop her arms so that she could twerk for her man (I really wish I were joking about that one)…I was shocked. Pushing and shoving to get up front to see a tribute band? Climbing on to the stage to dance with the band members? Staking out front row spots to have a chance for Jake to grab your hand and sing to you? Where in the hell was I??? I continued to utter the same words throughout the show: “You know this isn’t like, THE BAND…right?!?” I can only imagine that the Duran Duran drought has caused this kind of madness.
Don’t get me wrong. Rio is fabulous. They are an outstanding band, and they have a great time doing what they do. They’re true musicians and I dare say rock stars in their own right. But they’re not Duran Duran. Unless of course you haven’t seen Duran Duran in what, three or four years. Then suddenly, this tribute band takes on a whole new meaning – they’re helping end the Duran Duran drought!! They’re the band that is standing incredibly well for the other band that can’t seem to be bothered at the moment. From what I saw that night, the crowd is more than happy to take what they’re eager to give. And then some.
The show had everything from a guy jumping up on stage to take a photo with the band – which was harmless enough, to a woman who helped herself to a free frontal feel on “Simon”. (Don’t even ask…although I wonder if the real Simon has been molested the way Jake was that night. I’m going to guess in the affirmative, even though Jake himself told me that in the twenty-something years he’s spent performing, it’s never happened before that night. Nice.) By all intents and purposes, this very-packed crowd genuinely believed it was the real deal on the stage that night, obviously to the credit of Rio. The tribute band really is that charismatic, and while I stood by mostly mortified on Saturday night, Rio tells me that I shouldn’t go around reminding people they’re not really Duran Duran. They love being the enablers for the fantasy, and the last thing they really need is someone like me screaming “Get off my lawn!” Fair enough.
However, facts are facts, and it has been just about three-and-a-half years since the band toured. It has been just over four years since All You Need is Now has been released. As of spring this year, this will be the very longest it’s EVER GONE between album releases – you want to talk about a Duran Duran drought?? Here we are, people! This is insane. Fans are restless. They need shows. They want new music. The tribute band Rio helps to pass the time, and I’m grateful that they play, but they aren’t Duran Duran in the same way that Simon, John, Nick, Roger AND Dom are Duran Duran (and also to their credit, Rio knows this). We’re not a bunch of teenagers anymore that can still be counted on to be there in five or ten years. Fans probably won’t still be there if the band continues to wait to tour or put out a single or do much of anything. At our age – time is a commodity we’re losing, like it or not. I very much respect John, Simon, Roger and Nick – but I very much disagree with the attitude they continue to expel at every opportunity that they don’t need to hurry or get themselves out there to continue the momentum that they have almost assuredly lost after all of this time. To that I must emphatically respond, “You don’t get it at all. You really and truly just do not get it, boys.”
I question what is really going on “behind the curtain” at times such as these. It is difficult to be a Duranie in this Duran Duran drought at the moment. On one hand, of course I want to be supportive. At the end of it all, I’m still a fan. Disgruntled? Perhaps. Bored? Certainly. But I still care. I want to say, “Take the time you need. We’ll wait!” On the other hand, I’m wondering if they really want to get out there at all. It’s been a long-ass time since All You Need is Now. You can’t even argue that it hasn’t. Why did they need so many big names on one album? Why haven’t they put out a single at this point if for no other reason than to put voices like mine with questions like the ones I’ve brought up here to rest? Why don’t they seem to care at all? Have they lost their minds??? Or, is their collective heart not really in the game anymore, and they don’t know how to SAY they’re done? I think most fans, including myself, feel like this album might be the last for a least a very long while – and every single time I hear Nick say “Well, we’ll certainly play some shows”… my heart hears, “Well, we might play SOME shows…but probably not nearly as many as we did before” and it sinks. Each time John does a Katy Kafe and sounds like he’d much rather be plucking his nose-hairs, I feel it sink even farther. How does a fan stay optimistic during this Duran Duran drought?!?
Mostly, I’ve lost my DD mojo, and this Duran Duran drought feels never-ending. We all tell ourselves that we don’t mind waiting and that it’ll be worth it in the end because otherwise, we wouldn’t be fans. I’ve been doing that as much as anyone. It is the name of the fandom game – we’ll wait because the other choice is to walk away and not care. I also know that for as many people who will tell me they’ll wait forever for Simon and Co…there are still others who are nodding their heads as they read this, proud of my “bravery” in publicly saying what we’re all thinking. This blog isn’t managed or supported by the band. I am not required to adhere to party line talking points provided by a PR company. I write whatever I’m thinking or feeling on any given day and it’s 100% truthful, even if the concerns are unfounded when all said and done – and with that comes great freedom, if not also a little sadness.
This weekend is celebrated as Halloween weekend here in Madison, which is a big deal. Lots of people go out and dress in costume. Streets are filled with people and many drinks are consumed. It has always been something I have avoided in the past, to be honest. I love Halloween but didn’t ever want to deal with the crowds. This year, though, my friend, Jennifer, pointed out to me that one of our local small music venues was holding their annual show of cover bands. I didn’t pay too much attention until she pointed out that one band that was being covered this year was, indeed, Duran Duran along with others like Tom Petty, The Cramps, Stone Temple Pilots, The Offspring and Red Hot Chili Peppers. How could I not go? Sure, it could be pointed out to me that I am still recovering from Durandemonium and still have lots to do to get my house back in order. I ignored that and went out instead!
I tried not to have any expectations at all with anyone who covers Duran. Heck, last weekend, attendees of Durandemonium heard the band at Howl at the Moon in Chicago do Hungry Like the Wolf and Rio. We didn’t think they played the songs particularly well but we had fun, singing and dancing on the stage. I knew better than to expect Duran Duran like quality. I knew better than to expect someone like Rio, the tribute band that Rhonda has been lucky enough to see and interview. I tried to google this band, Boys on Film, before I went. How serious were they? Have they been doing Duran a long time? I could find nothing. Not a thing. It is like they didn’t exist before this. I assumed that this could not be true. Oh, the things I discovered…
Boys on Film had the second spot on the line-up. When they began their set, the venue was just filling up. Jennifer and I had no problem getting as close as possible. While it seemed clear to us that we were the only “Duranies” in the crowd, there were others who knew Duran and liked them. Of course, before the actual band got on stage, we spent time speculating who was who. Which person was Nick? John? Roger? Simon? We were able to pick out one guy early on with his pleather pants, striped shirt, and makeup. The only question would be: Who was he? It turned out that he was both Simon and Andy as the band consisted of 4 guys and a female back-up singer. Their set was, generally, a typical one with many of the hits, including Hungry, Rio, A View to a Kill, Notorious, The Reflex and Planet Earth. Two “surprises” were Come Undone and New Moon on Monday. I couldn’t believe that I had to actually put up with Come Undone in THIS setting. I already put up with it too much at an actual show. The only positive here was there was no finger licking. Thank goodness. New Moon was a nice addition, but also made me a bit sad, too, since this is probably the only time I’ll hear this song live. Here is a little video of their performance of it. Perhaps, it will explain a little about what I’m about to say.
As their set began, I reminded myself that they aren’t Duran. They can’t be. I also reminded myself that I was there to have fun, which I did, but still. They weren’t very good. On one hand, they tried to throw some Duran elements in their look. The John Taylor wig was a bit disturbing but the makeup was a nice touch. But I think I would have preferred either no Duran elements or a full embrace. Then, it seemed very clear that the lyrics were not well-known. I realize that Simon forgets a lot of the words but…not like this. We kept thinking to ourselves that they should just watch us for the words. Now, did the rest of the crowd realize this? I have no idea. I did, though, and after awhile it did bother me, especially when the most botched song was Planet Earth. Really?! My favorite song?! Of course, then, I remembered that I was there to have fun and nothing more. So I had another drink and went along, trying to sing and dance with the band. One plus, though, was that I thought their back-up singer had great stage presence and definitely tried to get the crowd involved. Likewise, they did have a sax player for the end of Rio, which was a nice touch.
After their set, we did manage to chat with them some. I found out some useful information. For example, they had a regular band called the Hometown Sweethearts. They got a list of possible bands to cover and they chose Duran because they like them. Clearly, this was a random, quick deal for them. In fact, they chose the songs before but didn’t practice them together until 5:30 yesterday. Each person was supposed to learn their parts on their own. On one hand, then, I could be impressed that they were able to learn as much as they did with that format. On the other hand, I just cringe, at this. I can’t help it. When I asked “Simon/Andy” what his favorite song was, he said, Come Undone. Jennifer pointed out that I clearly cringed at this. I’m sure I did. I also pointed out that my favorite was Planet Earth. *coughscrewedupsongcough* Now, the guys were very friendly and invited us to their show next week. The picture here is with Simon/Andy and Roger. Yeah…it says a lot.
It was a fun night, though. I enjoyed hanging out with Jennifer and always like hearing live bands. The Stone Temple Pilots cover band was particularly impressive. It was another late night for me and I feel a nap coming on!
Gotta admit, sometimes this blogging thing completely rocks. I like that because I chose to start writing this monster blog of ours, I’ve had my eyes opened to some brand new experiences. I’ve traveled to different countries, hosted fan meet-ups, forced myself out of my comfort zone (i.e. I have actually left my perfectly good barstool at the bar to say hello to people), and I’ve even gotten to do a couple of super stellar interviews that I couldn’t have ever imagined possible. Most of it I would have even done anyway, without the blog, but having this as a sort of backbone gave me the extra push I needed. I mean, sure I wanted to go to the UK well-before I ever even gave this blog a thought. However, it was the idea of being able to write about it for the blog that really gave me the necessary motivation to bring the plan up to my ever-supportive, loving and understanding husband. Twice. *coughs* I really liked the idea of meeting up with fans before shows on the road. The thing is though – I don’t know that we would have gotten quite the traffic or interest if we hadn’t mentioned it here on Daily Duranie simply because more people read this blog. I’ve gotten to meet so many people, and a lot of that is because I knew that since I was hosting a lot of these parties, I had to actually get up off the barstool and say hello. Nerve wracking for me on nearly ANY level, but I did it. Interviewing Dom Brown? Are you kidding me?? I am not sure I would have worked up the nerve without knowing that it was “business”, as in The Blog. This blog was a great idea! And now, I’ve gotten to do my second interview. This time a very-special, live, in-person interview with not one, but five very-special men. My palms are beginning to sweat just thinking back on it. Before you get too excited, no, it wasn’t Duran Duran, exactly. Or was it?? It’s Saturday night and I’m sitting at a club. My husband and I are huddled into a small corner of a banquette, having some dinner as we wait for the place to fill and the scene to unfold. We’re here to see the fab five, of course…and we’re just waiting for time machine to deposit us in the correct decade so that the party can begin. I just finish my steak salad when out of nowhere, a face comes out of the darkness, followed by a body (…and yes, the body is attached to the face but just go with it, I’m trying my best to describe a scene here!) She beckons me to follow her. I put down my napkin, grab my phone and do as she says. Let’s face it, any time someone comes up to me and says the fab five is ready to meet me – I’ll follow. Call me crazy, but I’ll take my chances. So we head upstairs, into the “green room” (Why is it that these rooms are never really green??), and what awaits me is a gathering of, yes…five fabulous guys. Men, actually. They’re hanging out on some couches, surrounding a coffee table. I can already feel that I’m out of breath. (Funny thing about me, when I start to panic or get nervous, I immediately get out of breath. It’s a nice touch when you’re trying to act cool and yet you’re gasping for air like you just ran six miles.) I take a few gulps of air, still trying to seem as though I’ve done this a million times, and I set down my phone, explaining that because I’m an idiot – I have to record the entire interview or else I’ll misquote them. I don’t even know if that’s what real journalists do, but then again, I’m just a fan. A Duranie. And these guys? Well, I didn’t even look at them too much yet out of pure fear (If I stare into their eyes will I forget my questions?? No…I brought a list of them with me that I only looked at twice during the entire thing…), but I can tell you all one thing: this is not Duran Duran, it’s not the 1980s, and I am definitely not in Birmingham. It’s 2013 and I am in Hermosa Beach, California. Who are these guys then? They’re Rio, a Duran Duran tribute band that is playing at Saint Rocke. What you, as Duranies need to understand about Rio is that they’re genuinely good.(I’m assuming that if you’re reading this – you’re a fan of Duran Duran, given our catchy blog title and all. If not…well hey, I’ll sell you on that band another time.) These aren’t just a group of guys who came in off the street that think they look a little like Simon, John, Roger, Nick & Andy (actually they really don’t look all that much like them). They don’t just stand up there, pretend to play and lip sync their way through Girls on Film. When they do a set, it’s a show…and that show lasts from “wig-on” to “wig-off”. Its not enough to just be a musician or to just act the part. This is the real deal.
L-R: Gil “John” Barron, Danny “Roger” Alfaro, Jake “Simon” Jacobs, Chadwick “Andy” Steinmetz, Curt “Nick” Clendenin
The first time I saw them, several weeks prior at the same club, I had my husband follow Curt (Nick..or “Click” as he often is referred as a variation of his alter-ego.) around the club after the show. My evil-intention being of course, to find him out of character. My husband failed. Miserably. Curt elaborates, “I didn’t want to destroy the illusion whatsoever. I want people there to feel like they are watching a Duran Duran show. I want them to feel like they are in a time machine.” This show doesn’t stop when they leave the stage, it carries throughout the night. When “Nick Rhodes” comes up to introduce himself, there is a moment when your heart, well…my heart anyway…desperately wants to believe you’re in Birmingham, experiencing a moment at the Rum Runner. Who am I to argue with my heart?!? So yes, they got me: hook, line, sinker…but I’m getting ahead of myself. So I’ve established that no, I really am not in Birmingham, but in Southern California at Saint Rocke, a cute little club that I am spending time in on this particular Saturday night…and these guys are kind enough to be my guinea pigs for the next half hour. (So the real truth is that I have over an hour of footage from this interview, but after about the first 28 minutes – we really don’t talk much about the questions I’ve brought. I had forgotten to shut off my recorder, because I’m super cool that way. Amateur. Geesh. I have a lot to learn.) After I flub up my opening lines which consist of thanking them for taking time to talk to me, I start to feel as though I’d better ask some questions or else the crickets…that seem to be getting louder and louder in the room…are going to run me right out of there. So I begin with something easy: The Music. I want to know how tough it really is to get Duran Duran right. Do they have nearly impossible songs to replicate in their set list? The answers surprised me. They ranged from Hold Back the Rain as Gil (John) explains “John plays with a pick on the record and I don’t play with a pick. It’s a real fast gallop and in addition to that I’m singing my ass off as back up….the whole ‘hold back the rain part’…so that song ages me every time.”, to Danny’s (Roger) answer of Come Undone. “Its just that beat. It’s obviously a loop, but I try to make it stick, make it sound like a loop. It doesn’t have a lot of swing to it though, so it’s kind of hard not to swing.” My own head begins swinging just as I begin to understand the monumental task it must be as they dare to replicate Duran Duran onstage. Then the guitarist for this entourage, Chadwick, breaks into my thoughts, “The hardest aspect of what I do in this band is making the guitar sounds. It’s not so much the technical proficiency of it, it’s dialing in the tones…it’s really a challenge and I’m not very close but I’m not very far either.” I can’t imagine. In no way do I understand the amount of track layering and tinkering with the sound that happens in this band, but I know enough to realize that one person simply can’t replicate that onstage. You’d need someone constantly dialing in your guitars, and Rio doesn’t have that luxury. “I mean, there’s one song where you’ll need a whole lot of drive and a whole lot of grit and distortion, and then there’s another where you’ll need a funky ‘chanka-chanka-chanka’ kind of thing, and you’ll need a chorus…” Chadwick continues, “…and then there’s Come Undoneand you’ve got a lot of super duper heavy effects and…there’s only so many things that you can have with you up on stage and so you’ve got to make your gear get as close to that as you can. You can’t go running back and forth to your amp and redesign the sound because those studio sounds…they’ll sit down with the producer and they’ll spend all day long dialing in the sound that they want for one sound, and then they’ll layer the guitar tracks. So there’s two or three guitar parts going on at the same time…We’re all playing the same sport, so yeah, it’s a challenge but the guitar parts are cool, well-written, they’ve got a real R&B kind of Motown kind of practicality to them, and that’s cool. It’s neat, it was a lot of fun learning all of them, but the actual tonality is much more challenging.” I don’t know that I’ll ever listen to a Duran song the same way again.
Like any good frontman, Jake (Simon) has his own answer, not be outdone by his bandmates. “The Reflex”, he says with certainty. “Yeah, it’s just out there….’Park’ and ‘dark’. There will be nights when it is effortless but it’s not an easy note…I’d just played (with) this (other) band ah, a week ago, and I’m looking at the set list and I’m ‘alright, so I know I’ve got to do Don’t Stop Believing (Journey) and I’ve got to do Sweet Child Of Mine (Guns N Roses). Not a problem. Something about ‘park’ and ‘dark’..” The group breaks up into laughter, clearly aware of the challenge in a way that I am not, which speaks a little something for the professionalism of this group. I would have never known those notes were a challenge for Simon, er..I mean Jake. I found it easy to laugh along with the guys on their trials, tribulations and missteps with the music. As nervous as I was, and believe me, I was shaking for quite a while as I asked the questions, the band kept me at ease. As a group, Rio is very easy going, and just as we fans see with their counterparts, it’s easy to see the love that flows between them. I mentioned as much to the band, trying not to swoon as I looked each of them in the eye (I am now convinced that there really IS something going on in the music that keeps us under a spell, not to mention that these guys? They’re good looking. I have no trouble admitting that when it comes to this band, I’m a Simon-girl all the way *gasps*…with a side of Nick *gasps again*….what IS it about Duran Duran that automatically has us choosing our favorites?? I digress.) “We have so much fun,” Chadwick (Andy) explains as I ask about the group chemistry, “You
Rio’s manager Dina and I
guys just don’t realize. …for me at least, this isn’t about what’s happening onstage. For me it’s about the whole experience. These two (motioning to Danny and Jake) show up at my house and we throw my stuff in the back of the truck and we drive there. We’ll spend two hours clowning around and we get there, and we see the rest of the group and Dina. (their fearless, hardworking manager – I must give her mad props and respect because she is the only female in this entourage, and she keeps those guys on their toes. Go Dina!) There’s big hugs, laughing and poking fun at each other, its like the whole experience to the packing down afterwards and taking pictures. There’s a community that is much bigger to me in my mind than just what we’re doing on the stage.” Gil adds, rather aptly, “I was telling her (Dina, their very capable and kind manager) this on the way here that its not necessarily the destination, but the journey.” That is so important. I think every single fan who has read our blog with any kind of regularity would agree. There really isn’t a destination in mind when you’re a fan – I mean, sure, we all (well, most of us) wanted to marry a band member at one point or another. After fire has been properly set to that fairy tale though, where do you go?? Its the journey, it is exactly what being a fan is all about. And Rio…are they fans of the band they emulate? I have to laugh because when I posed this question, those crickets I wrote of earlier seemed to get extremely loud for about five, very long seconds. Danny was the first to answer, “I’m a fan. I’m not a fanatic, I mean, I don’t know trivia and all that, but yeah obviously I love Duran Duran so…” I looked around and all of them nodded. Chadwick added his own prospective by saying, “I wasn’t a huge DD fan before this… Over the years..I mean I can sing all of their hits, but when you dig in and start doing your homework and you learn all of Andy’s parts from the guitar players perspective, you connect with the music in a different way certainly, and it means like I’m a much bigger fan now than I was in the beginning.” Fair enough. Maybe this was the wrong question to ask, and in hindsight, precious…precious hindsight, I can understand where I went wrong. To begin with, just because one plays a certain type of music as a paying gig doesn’t mean they are automatically a fan, and to be honest – I think sometimes being so close to it (by being a fan) can truly cloud the big picture vision. That doesn’t mean there aren’t true blue fans in Rio, though, as Jake clearly states, “I think there are two Duranies in the five of us, and then there’s all these guys who love Duran.” Danny explains, “I mean, to be in a proper tribute…you kind of have to study you know, so it comes off as legit. So I appreciate it (the band) much more.” I can see that. I’ve written about other tribute bands I’ve seen, and at least for myself, the “cheese factor” gets a little thick at times. No one wants to pay money (or not pay money for that matter) to see their favorite band get made into a shtick for comedic purposes. I count myself in that group: I wouldn’t tolerate that, and I certainly wouldn’t expect any other Duranie to stand by and laugh it off, either. I want to be completely clear: Rio is anti-shtick. Their act is as authentic, real, heartfelt and respectful as you’re going to get. Yes, they have fun with the music when they’re up onstage, but that’s because Duran’s music IS fun. They enjoy what they do, and the audience sees and feels that. They are the real deal in every way. So I gently ask the guys how they feel about that, and how they get around the “schtick”. “It’s like you know, the dudes are in their mid-40’s with True Religion jeans and the Affliction t-shirts and they’re trying to look like Boston.” Jake rolls his eyes in disgust and continues, “It’s disheartening. I’ve been blown away by some tribute acts too. I think for me, and I can speak for the rest of us, it’s like…it took a little bit to get this, this line up. The reason I feel this line up has executed the band as well as it has is because previous band members just wouldn’t commit. You know, with all due love and respect, it’s like ‘look man, it’s a tribute act.’ There is a difference between a cover band and a tribute band, and we’ve all been in our cover bands and whatever it is….I think it’s safe to say I agree with you 100% on the cheese factor.” Somehow, it’s comforting to hear the frontman say those words and know he means them. Jake continues, “Being a DD fan, there’s…if you do it wrong, it’s going to be…well, it’s Duran Duran. It’s unique. It’s DD, it’s a very different style of music, and a very different…in their own right amazing musicians and very unique musicians and so yeah, I understand exactly what you mean, and I wouldn’t do it any other way.” Rio definitely has its work cut out for them, because lets face it: we are very tough customers. Duranies can be snobby, so to speak. I’ve said that before here on this blog, much to the ire of others, but it is true and I mean it in the most respectful way possible – remember, I’m a Duranie too. Let me say that Duran Duran is coming to town, and everyone is ready and willing to spend hundreds on tickets, even if they’re grumbling in the process. Conversely, if I were to say that Rio is playing somewhere – far less are willing to spend even $10.00 on tickets, much less drive anywhere to see them. That’s a tough bridge to cross. A similar feeling holds true for fan conventions – people want to hold on to their money to see the band, not so that they can meet other fans, and you know, there’s nothing wrong with that even though it’s not my vision of what being a fan is like. We are all here for our own reasons, and we all want our own experiences. When you’re ready to give this band a chance, you won’t be disappointed. We chatted about this problem, because it’s clearly a challenge that most tribute bands face. Gil, the original, founding member of Rio, had this to say on the subject, “You’re an example as well. You’re a huge Duran Duran fan, but you have the option of seeing the real band because they’re still active. People have the choice of seeing the tribute band which might be hokey and cheesy or the real deal. That’s the drawback for us, because especially when they’re on tour, we don’t work as much naturally. But the thing is, when you do finally come out, you are sometimes blown away, and it’s just a word of mouth thing, and that’s where it’s gotten us for now. We’ll take it, even if there’s one new person at each show, it’s OK and hopefully they’ll go on social media put the word out for us.” Or they beg for an interview and attend several shows… This band wins skeptics like myself over at nearly every show. Recently the band was in Arizona and played two sold out shows where yet another skeptic left the show as a fan. Curt describes, “…I saw this transformation take place, when we got up on stage in Arizona there was this older lady like right up front… and she just had this smirk on her face like she was just not having a very good time, then he (motions to Jake) starts singing to her and she starts smiling a little bit and then he’s out there and he’s dancing with her a little bit and before I know it she’s up on stage for Girls on Film and dancing.. hugging Chadwick and looking at his hands while he’s playing guitar and like it’s amazing to see this evolution take place in this old lady…” Jake agrees, “Those shows can be, they can be…they’re just so fun, because of the interaction with the crowd and the way we feed off the crowd and back and forth…it’s hysterical and people, you know like I said, going back to the whole Duranie thing, it’s like these people you know, you gotta give them what they deserve.” Its true, we deserve good shows, and this band delivers, each gig being like their own musical happening rather than just a 8 or 10 song set that any cover band could perform.
The members of this band come from different walks of life. Gil seems to be the most serious musician in the group…he plays nearly every instrument known to man and was self-taught on all of them. (which I have to think comes in very handy when you’re trying to replicate Duran Duran…I should have asked which one handles the Ocarina amongst them…alas, another question for another interview..), whereas Jake and Curt both come from a musical theater background. Danny and Chadwick have both been in previous bands with Jake, although I have also heard a rumor that Chadwick attends med school… a topic I didn’t have a chance to ask about during my time with them. Rio is not their “day job”, although I suspect that if we gave them half a chance and a fraction as much loyalty, they might have a serious shot at making it that way if they so wished. Gil explains, “We’ve made up a sort of unofficial agreement that we’re just going to have fun with it and not put a lot of pressure on ourselves. If people want to continue to book us, we’ll go.” The most interesting observation came when I saw them do their set during the first show I attended. It is true, the band has work to do in winning the Duranie crowd over as a whole… it is tough to get people like me to come to shows, and when they do, they are skeptical. However, they definitely have their fans. That first night at Saint Rocke, I had the unique vantage point of watching the room fill for their set (which was admittedly short that night). Not only do people show up, they stake our their spots early. They still want that front row spot right in front of the band member of their choice. They wait, and they swoon when the band arrives. The band seems to have a tradition of inviting the women in the audience to come up on stage with them during Girls On Film…something that would never happen with the real band, and even with Rio – I genuinely worried for their safety the first time I saw it. I mentioned as much to them during our interview, explaining that from my point of view, the girls fall all over them, as if Jake were really Simon LeBon or if Curt (who does a fine job of drinking wine and taking photos from the stage while playing) were truly Nick Rhodes. Jake slyly grins and says “And so you’re asking why we do it…?” Not really so much when you say it that way, no. Point well-taken!
Posting one more time, because I can!
As I touched back down into reality and was escorted back downstairs from my interview, I realized I was no longer feeling as though I was going to suffocate. My nerves had finally settled, and most importantly – my phone really did record the entire interview. There were moments during the interview when I secretly wondered (and prayed to the Duran Gods) that my phone was actually recording. Yep, I’m as smooth and professional as they get, baby! I survived…the band survived, and while I might not have met the original fab five in some back room at the Rum Runner that night, I did meet some of the nicest, most talented men I’ve met since this whole dizzying experience first began. This blogging thing certainly has it’s perks..and maybe someday I’ll have the whole journalist thing nailed too. Well, distant goals are good, anyway. If you are the least bit intrigued, I encourage you to come join me on Friday night at Romano’s in Riverside as the time machine drops us all of in 1985 for a night. Rio takes the stage for a full set, and I hear it’s going to be quite a show. Drop me a line and let me know you’re coming – I’ll meet you there! I’ve already done my duty and begged for Secret Oktober…because I must…but I’ll settle for Is There Something I Should Know anytime. -R My apologies for not including this yesterday – for more information on Rio, as well as their schedule and a ton of photos, videos and other treats: Rio’s website: http://www.durandurantributeband.com Rio on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DDTribute Rio on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DDTribute
Guess what I did this weekend? I went to see Duran Duran! Didn’t you hear about the show???
Gotcha. It wasn’t quite Duran Duran, although it was a pretty close facsimile thereof. This weekend I jumped at the opportunity to go and see Rio, the Duran Duran Tribute Band at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach. They played there a couple months back, and I was made a believer at that show. So when this show was announced, I was ready to go again. What’s more, I was given the opportunity to sit down with all five guys before the show and have an interview. This was a very big deal, because I’ve never done an in-person interview before. Of course, I didn’t tell them that as I sat down with my cheat-sheet of questions that I almost didn’t refer to at all and nearly forgot some of the questions I’d meant to ask. I just tried to stay composed and keep it more like a conversation, less like a drill session. Remarkably, the band didn’t throw me out, nor did they seem too terribly bored. I’m working on getting the interview transposed, and you’ll be seeing that interview in the next couple of weeks here on the blog.
Not only did I get an interview that night, but I also finally have my very own picture with the band. This is miraculous (for me)…and I think it’s rather fitting that my first picture with a band as a blogger for Daily Duranie (quite frankly its my first picture with any full band) is with Rio as opposed to the well, real band. That’s OK by me, and they were great sports. I dare say that “Nick” (he actually goes by “Click” in the group, but that’s just too confusing for my feeble brain) has a pout that rivals anything I’ve seen from the real John Taylor, and “Simon” is a better dancer…but you didn’t hear that from me.
From L:”Simon”, “Nick”, me, “John”, “Roger” and “Andy”
While I’ll admit I’m among the converted for this band, and I’m happy to be of any help I can to these guys, I think it’s interesting to note just how difficult it really is for a tribute band to be taken seriously – or even to be embraced at all by the diehard fans out there. The subject came up quite a bit during our interview, and I can tell you – it took me going and actually seeing a show of theirs to really be won over.
No one wants to see their band, the band they’ve grown up listening to and (in my case) plastering their bedroom walls with pinups of turned into stinky cheese on stage. Nobody wants that, and yet there IS a certain schtick that goes along with being a tribute band in many, many cases. Yet, for the ardent few – there truly are tribute bands that take their craft seriously. The way I see it, there are two roads for a tribute band: one that makes a joke out of their predecessors, and one that truly treats their work as an art form and duplicates their work to the very best of their ability. Now, both ideas can work nicely. Some people enjoy going to see a swanky, over-the-top Elvis Presley impersonator. They want to laugh, they want that comedic tinge to the performance. Then there are others that want the true Elvis Presley experience brought “back to life” (yes, I really did need to use those words, thankyouverymuch). The same holds true with The Beatles. I’ve seen three Beatles tribute groups now. Two out of the three took their jobs very, very seriously – and the third made it a joke. I liked the first two best, but that’s just me. I know of people who were with me that absolutely loved the over-the-top jokes of that third group. So, it takes all kinds.
I suspect that the diehard fans amongst us tend to want to see as authentic of a performance as possible, and Rio very much has that about them. They aren’t trying to mutilate the bands music, they’re definitely not trying to turn Duran Duran into a synthetic, neon-fringed, circa 1980s “statement” of how pathetic that decade must have been. (I LIKED that decade!) They get up on the stage and for that performance, become Duran Duran. I fully believe that there is a place for that in this fandom, and believe me – I wouldn’t support them if I didn’t buy into what they were selling 150%. One doesn’t write a daily blog about being a Duran Duran fan and then go see a tribute band turn them into a joke with each performance. I stake my “incredibly illustrious” reputation as a blogger on that. (For those of you who do not understand sarcasm…that was definitely a dose of pure sarcasm right there.) In all seriousness though, I know what Duran fans are like. We’re just a little on the snobby-side about our band. Maybe ALL the way on the snobby side. It takes a lot to convince us to go to a tribute show without serious eye-rolling. I don’t honestly know if that’s just a US fan thing, a California fan thing, or if it’s a symptom of being a diehard fan across the board, but it absolutely exists. I know because I recognized it even in myself.
The Duran Duran fans I know are a tough group to crack. We’re opinionated. We’ve been around a very long time, and I think that to some small degree, there is a sense of ownership, entitlement and privilege about us that makes us incredibly snobby at times. Hell, we’ve had an extremely tough time just convincing people to part with some precious dollars and come spend a weekend having a party with other fans in Chicago. They’re not interested unless my name is Simon, John, Roger, or Nick….or at the very least…if I can get them there. That’s been a serious blow to my ego at times this year. No, not the part where my name isn’t LeBon, Taylor, Taylor or Rhodes (I gave that up a few decades back!)…the part where people aren’t even interested in coming to meet and hang out with other fans at a weekend that I’ve devoted much of my time to planning. They want the band, and only the band. They aren’t interested in spending time with other fans, and they’re not interested in making friends unless those friends can get them in front of the band. I can’t quite figure out the thinking there, and perhaps that’s a fault of my own rather than that of others. My own thoughts are that it’s not as though I’m destined to become a friend of the band…the real band in this case… if I can just get myself in the same room with them for long enough. Friendship and relationships aren’t something that can be forced. John Taylor or Nick Rhodes isn’t going to suddenly decide you’re OK to befriend if you’ve been outside their homes, or their hotels while on tour, or anywhere else, waiting for them every day for the last month, for example (I might argue that perhaps that would be reason to call for extra security). Even if we have a great moment with them while they’re on stage, that’s probably not going to be enough to make them think that we’ve got some amazing connection that is worth checking out. Those friendships happen organically, on their own, and not likely in situations where one has used pinups of said potential friends as bedroom wallpaper. I understand that, and I have much respect for that boundary. It’s a strange place to occupy, as much for me as the fan as it might be for them as the idol. In any case, trying to surmount that obstacle to convince people to come to the convention in Chicago has been incredibly tough, and at times I found myself really wondering if it was all worth it. So, when the band and their manager explain this as being a major challenge for them – convincing fans like me to even give them a chance – I completely understand. It’s difficult for us to convince fans to even give our BLOG a chance.
The only thing Amanda and I have done to combat the resistance, so to speak, has been to try our best to keep our heads down, keep writing, and stay out of the drama. Naturally, that doesn’t always work. Sometimes our subject matter causes a minor uproar, and sometimes we take natural offense to some of the conscientious objectors out there. I suspect that our route – to just keep going – is the route that Rio should take as well. The more they continue playing, the better skilled they will become, and word of mouth about that talent will spread. There is no way it cannot. Even so, friends are helpful. They become a source of support, and they make the journey fun. One of the questions I asked that night during the interview was about long term goals for the band, and one of the more insightful answers I received was from “Andy” (Chadwick Steinmetz), and basically he said that they’re having fun, and that it’s about the journey, not the destination.
In a recent blog, I explained how I wanted to know more about how some people express their fandom. As we all know, Rhonda and I talk a lot about conventions, meet ups, discussions, etc. but rarely do we focus on those more individualistic and/or creative ways to express one’s fandom. Thus, I put out an all-call to the fan community to have people share how they express their fandom. Thankfully, lots of people responded to the call and were willing to open up to me and the readers of the blog. Today, I present the first of many fans. Her name is Patricia and she expresses her Duranieness by being a member of a Duran Duran tribute band, Nightboat, which I think is way, way, way cool! Thankfully, she included ways for all of us to check the band out! How do you express your fandom?
While I do participate in Facebook groups, Twitter, and message boards, in both English and Spanish, and have been doing so for many years, my biggest means of expressing my fandom is being a member of a Duran Duran tribute band.
Describe what you do exactly.
I’m the drummer in Nightboat, the Argentine Duran Duran Tribute Band. Why did you choice this means to express your fandom?
Up until our guitarist called for auditions to start the band in early 2006, it had never even occurred to me that I could be part of a tribute band! I’d been a Duran Duran fan and a drummer for many years, but I’d never thought of a tribute band. Then, when that call for auditions came in on an Argentine Duran Duran forum, I submitted a demo tape of a cover version of “Come Undone” that I had played with the band I was in at the time. I remember crossing my fingers, hoping to get picked! I wasn’t sure what the approach of the band was going to be and didn’t know how it would be with me being a female drummer. I thought, maybe, they’d pick someone else. Maybe, they would pick a male drummer, first and foremost, or maybe they would pick someone more skilled than I was at that time. While anxiously waiting for that callback, I realized I’d found THE way to express my fandom, by playing Duran Duran’s music.
For some reason, I got picked in the end. Maybe no other drummers auditioned?! Who knows?! Then, my whole fandom changed. I’m definitely not the same type of fan since joining the band. Learning how to play Duran Duran songs changed my way of connecting to their music completely. I learned to do an in-depth analysis of Duran’s music, from a musician’s perspective. It’s an ongoing learning curve for me, not only from the music itself but also from my bandmates. I became a better drummer, a better musician and learned a lot about myself by expressing my fandom this way.
What is your fandom story. When did you become a fan and what drew you to Duran?
For some reason, even though I had been listening to pop music for many years during my childhood in the 80s, Duran Duran had never been on my radar. I would listen to The Police, INXS, US and A-ha, my other favorite band. I’d heard of this band called Duran Duran but that was it. Then, back in April 1993, Duran Duran were touring Argentina for the first time. “Ordinary World” was huge at the time and I’d heard it on the radio, but it didn’t get my attention at all. The first Duran Duran show in Buenos Aires was broadcasted on the radio. I was 12 years old at the time and I remember listening to that broadcast at home. I listened and I knew something was happening. I could feel the connection with the music, but I couldn’t pinpoint what was going on at the time. Then, a few days later, the band did a TV performance as part of their Argentine tour. They played “Ordinary World”, “Come Undone” and…then came “Notorious”. That was it. When I heard it, I knew it. That was my band. There was no going back after that! I wouldn’t say “Notorious” is my all time favorite Duran Duran song, but it’s the song that made me a Duran Duran fan.
How else do you participate in the fandom? I do attend shows, of course. Even though it took Duran Duran many years to first come to Argentina in 1993 and then another 12 years to come back in 2005, I think we’ve been very lucky in the sense that they’ve kinda “fallen in love” with the Argentine audiences and have come back to play shows here on a regular basis from 2005 onwards. I’ve been to all of their shows in Argentina since 2005. Also, I’m a guest VJ at an 80s themed video bar here in Buenos Aires, where we hold regular “Duran Duran Special” night. I play Duran Duran videos there. Related to my line of work (I’m a translator and I specialize in media translation–subtitling, mostly), I occasionally subtitle Duran Duran stuff into Spanish to make it accessible to fans who don’t speak English. I do this for free in my spare time. The last video I subtitled was “Girl Panic”.
I also attend meetups occasionally, but I think my biggest way of participating in the fandom is via my own band’s shows. That’s how I meet up with a lot of the fans.
What has the reaction been to the tribute band?
The reaction from the Duran Duran fans during all these years we’ve been in the tribute band has been amazing! Overwhelming, I would say! We’ve received praise from fans all over the world for what we do and also some (mostly constructive) criticism, which has helped us grow as a band.
Do you drum outside of the tribute band?
Drumming is my biggest means of expression. It’s been my therapy for many years now. I find nothing’s more therapeutic than banging the drums from a while when I’m upset or frustrated about something. It’s a great way of releasing stress. I played in many bands for many years, but now I only play in the tribute band.
Where can we find Nightboat?
People can find us at our live shows. Our approach to the whole “tribute thing” has always been focused on the music. We don’t go for the whole “looks” thing, which is quite obvious, if you see us live. None of us look remotely like any of the Duran Duran members, especially me, obviously. We just focus on the music. Here are some links with audio and video clips that showcase what we do:
There have been a few moments. Getting back in touch with my first drumming teacher after many, many years. He loves Duran Duran as well and he’s never heard me play live. He came to one of our shows and he absolutely loved it. Being able to show him that I’d put everything he taught me to good use made me really proud. If it wasn’t for him, I would’ve never been able to play in this band.
Another thing was a comment from a fan on one of our Facebook pages. He said, “I was at one of your shows. I closed my eyes and listened to the music. It was like being at a Duran Duran show, but in my own living room.” That sums up the whole point of our band: bringing the Duran Duran live experience to the fans.
There are a few songs that I hear DD play live and I say to myself, “Jeez! We sound exactly like that! We’ve really nailed this one!” That makes me really proud!
Of course, one of the proudest moments of my life, if not the proudest, was when we got to meet the band in 2012. Through the help of a lot of people, including Duran Duran’s management, we were invited to meet them backstage at the Luna Park Stadium here in Buenos Aires before one of their shows. Unfortunately, only three of us were allowed to go backstage, so two of our bandmates couldn’t meet DD, but we gave the band some of our demo CDs on behalf of the five of us. So we were all there in spirit. It’s hard to describe what that whole experience meant to us. Being musicians and getting praise and recognition from your favorite band, whose songs we’ve been playing for so many years was just mind-blowing. I’d met the band before by myself, but being there with my two bandmates, with whom I’ve been sharing this passion for Duran Duran’s music for so many year, was just perfect. We managed to get a picture taken with all the band. I uploaded the picture to my Facebook profile for my friends to see. They were all really proud of what I’d achieved. Then, I remember getting a call from my dad to tell me that my parents’ friends had seen the picture online and were calling them to congratulate them and to tell them how proud they were of me! That was massive!
Tribute bands have never been my thing, to be honest. I’ve typically found them to be a bit more on the side of cheesy than I like at times, utterly cringeworthy at others. The tribute band has a difficult decision to make: do they choose to recreate the past and risk alienating the diehard fans? Should they recreate the music, using the bands original framework as merely a guide (and once again alienate diehard fans who know every single note?), or do they go over-the-top with bravado, knowing that they won’t be taken at all seriously, intending for the act to be seen as more of a joke than anything else (and again, risking the scorn and alienation of diehard fans)? The slope seems to be a rather slippery one at best, and I’m curious what drives a musician to go the route of tribute band member.
As a fan, let’s face it – I want the real thing. Who doesn’t? In my head I’m thinking that whatever tribute band I see is a distant, yet semi-effective (at least in some cases) “second” of whatever band we’re talking about. What I’m about to say will sound like the words of a desperate addict, but it’s true: sometimes, you just need a fix!!
Rio, the Duran Duran Tribute Band, has had a few shows this past year or so, and invariably, I haven’t been able to attend. So when I saw that a show for this past Friday was announced at a club in Hermosa Beach California called Sainte Rocke (Very cool club – if you live here and can make your way over there for a show, you absolutely should!), I jumped at the opportunity. Was the jump due to lack of show desperation? Curiosity? YES. My plan was simple: go to the show, sit near the back or at the bar, and watch the scene unfold. I had no intentions of getting near the front or dancing like a Duranie with her head cut off, I just wanted to give the band a fair listen and really see how they were in person.
The first part of my plan went just fine. My husband and I got to the club early and found a great spot at near the back that was at the bar (my favorite place to be, don’t you know?) – we were at the very corner, and it gave me a great vantage point to watch the crowd and get the greatest effect from the band. Funny, I can’t remember the last time I willingly sat in the back to listen to Duran songs… The band came on precisely at 10pm (already they were impressing me), making their way to the stage as the background song of Tiger Tiger played. That song is like the Pavlov bell of Duranies. We come when called, and this night was no exception. The front of the room near the stage was already filled, and I found myself wondering: were they Duranies or fans of Rio? “Simon” (Jake Jacobs) made his way to the stage, announced – in full character – that we’d be taking a trip back in time to 1985, and it quickly became clear that this was no ordinary tribute band as they began their opening song, Planet Earth.
I’m really not one to gush…much…but I was shocked at how good they were. This is a band who has taken their time and watched Duran’s performances over the years. It is obvious that Jake in particular has studied LeBon’s movements because every hand gesture, hip sway and yes…dance move…has been replicated. I found myself giggling in delight and my eyes floating from band member to band member to see if all play their part. “John” (Gil Barron) has the brooding shyness and bleached bangs of a young JT, “Andy”(Chadwick Steinmetz) plays his guitar with all of the towering overconfidence of Andy Taylor (minus the cigarette, because let’s face it – this really is 2013), “Nick” (Curt Clendenin) takes photos during the show and STILL doesn’t sweat much, and “Roger” (Danny Alfaro) very much reminds me of a young Roger Taylor back on his set – although he seems to be a bit more comfortable with the crowd.
Almost have to take a second glance…this is pure JT!
As the band began Hungry Like the Wolf (oh yes…even that one) and “Simon” asked if anyone was hungry and I groaned in response, I really paid attention to the music. Let’s face it – fans are tough. We know every single note, and I don’t think I’m the only fan out there to say that if a band is going to play Duran Duran – especially as a tribute, they’d better do an outstanding job. While there may have been differences in some of the arrangements (they definitely do not have the same set up as our Nick for synths and I’m sure that has to make a difference somewhere) – the differences are not glaring, and in some cases, I think they’re even better than what the band plays. I had to wonder if there was a backing track somewhere to make up the back end that they might be missing – it was truly that close to the original. This continued throughout their set, which included songs such as Friends of Mine, Save a Prayer, Careless Memories and even The Chauffeur (“Andy” did a fantastic solo on this one). I meant to watch the end of Notorious very carefully to see if “Simon” could replicate the cool karate moves of our fearless leader – but somehow I got distracted and forgot to look, which only means I’ll need to see them again at some point to watch.
The audience did not disappoint either – although I will admit there wasn’t quite as much exuberance with clapping or hands in the air as there is when Simon and John are in command. However, the crowd was good and very welcoming. I did make my way down to the front for a couple of songs thanks to a few friends, and the effect was no less powerful in front than in the back. At one point “Simon” sang to a girl in the audience, literally grabbing her hand and singing to her – and I honestly thought oxygen might be needed. Yes, even this “Simon” has an effect on women. Clearly the rock star training works, and let’s face it – Jake Jacobs has all of the good looks necessary to pull it off. If Simon looked like Jake, I might have just been a Simon-girl after all.
Well, probably not…Roger always did have my heart back then…but you get my point.
At the end of their 50 minute set, they played the classic Girls on Film, where they had women from the audience get up on stage (a very tiny stage at that) with them and dance. I did not partake…choosing instead to sit at the bar and continue to nurse my vodka tonic and watch. I suppose there are some benefits to a tribute band, one of which being that the band isn’t afraid to have fans on the stage with them, and they do seem to have their fans! The best moments of the show were yet to come as they played Rio. Out of their entire set that night, it was this song that had me doing a double take at several points. “Simon” remained in full-command of his audience and the stage, and if I would have shut my eyes, I would have believed it really was Duran Duran playing. Yes, they really are that good, and I hope to be a more frequent visitor to 1985 from here on out, and I would encourage fellow fans to make a point to catch them at a future show.
Here’s a small taste for the curious and doubters alike out there…it’s Girls on Film from a previous show at the Waterfront Center (I especially love the passing of the shot in this one, but that’s just me.) It’s very easy to see this is a party – and all are welcome!
Yes, my evening at Sainte Rocke didn’t disappoint, and more importantly I found a new band to follow during my Duran downtime. I look forward to seeing great things in years to come out of this one, and so should you. Their next scheduled show is October 11th at the Spotlight 29 Casino in Coachella. I hear that this may be a free show, so I think we should make this a Duranie get together. More on that in the coming months before the show!
For more information on Rio, the Duran Duran Tribute Band, check out the following: