Growing up, there were local shows at teen centers, VFWs, and in friends’ basements nearly every weekend. My parents retired to Palm Lagoon, a shitty beach town on the Florida panhandle, and due to health issues, I came down to help them out. I started going out and exploring the local music venues, with the goal of giving back to the DIY scene that gave so much to me.
I decided to apply the same support check-list I adhered to in my hometown:
I figured since this place is basically sandy Alabama, the bands would be playing country and covers. I started at Bruno’s Barefoot Bar to see a band called Dirty Work, simply because of their name, which seemed like it would be a hard rock group. Nope, Steely Dan tribute band.
I think Steely Dan, like most classic rock bands, is fine. I wouldn’t buy their albums or anything, but if they come on somewhere, I don’t complain.
The next week, I went to Don’s Hideaway and saw Reelin’ In The Ears, another Steely Dan tribute band, except they dress up. I made it a point to go see a different show for the next two weeks, and it was literally all the same. Every single group was a slight variation – There were The Show Biz Kids, who did deeper cuts, Steely Ann, which was the all-female group, Steely Drum which did reggae versions, the goofs in Yacht in the Act focused on Steely Dan songs, and Old McDonald’s Farm the Michael McDonald impersonator from Tallahassee only does Steely Dan songs from when he was in the group. The “Live Band Karaoke with Aja” had a song binder exclusively of Steely Dan, even the “Pretzel Logic Trivia” hosts would get booed if they didn’t have Steely Dan questions.
Even when the local shows were two hardcore bands in hockey jerseys opening for 12-year-olds covering Sum 41, I never felt this alienated.
Recommend Them To Perform At Venues
No need. Everywhere I went: Rum Shack, Hurricane Huey’s, Johnny Rebel’s, and The Typhoon, all had one of these Steely Dan cover acts playing. They play every night, sometimes at the same bar during the same week, and sometimes they open for each other.
If you are looking for live covers of Steely Dan, you have your pick. Right now, I’d kill to see an old man in a Hawaiian shirt and parrot hat doing Jimmy Buffet songs.
As a teen, my battle vest was covered in pins and patches, and I covered my Plymouth Reliant in stickers. It was a way of expressing ourselves and throwing up a flag for like-minded folk and a cheap way to financially support the bands. Aside from Dread Zeppelin, I’ve never seen merch for tribute acts, but these dudes’ merch tables take up half the room. It’s not stickers and t-shirts, these are premium items for the modern boomer – polo shirts, windbreakers, golf balls, golf markers, and visors. All for a fake band!
Put up Flyers or Posters
My Kinko’s was the scene’s base of operations. I worked the overnight shift, collecting all the copy cards, and once my manager left, I hooked up everyone. Zines, fliers, CD inserts, if you asked nicely, I got you. I used those connections to start promoting shows and putting out 7 inches. Down here, they don’t need to promote. Unless football is on, one of these Dad band rejects is playing.
Support them on Social Media
I added these local groups on Instagram and it fucked my algorithm. Now I’m getting ads for reverse mortgages, watching bathtubs, and Fox Nation. I’m permanently cursed for following the musical equivalent of the CVS orthopedic aisle.
Help Them Collect Tips
To help ends meet, we’d regularly pass around the bucket. Most of the time, no matter how small the crowd, they’d drop whatever they had in. One night, during the merciful interlude when Donald Fakin’ drops some trivia about how the original drummer was Chevy Chase before going into a welcome medley of “Holiday Road,” “I’m Alright,” and “You Can Call Me Al,” I passed around the empty tip jar from the bar. I encountered nothing but venom.
Tell The Venue How Much You Enjoy Their Music And That You Came To See Them
Here’s the thing: None of these bands are even that good. They’re always drunk, but not in a chaotic way, just sleepy. I tried to contact old acts from my youth and try to book them down here, but the travel is too much, and I can’t honestly sell it as a vacation spot, since the only beach in town has more syringes than grains of sand. So I’m stuck here, being the sole supporter of a scene for bands I fucking hate.