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25th Jun 2022

Isle of Wight festival taught me that tribute bands should be treated with more respect

Reuben Pinder

If you want to see Arctic Monkeys live, you’re looking at spending about £80 per ticket. Similarly, for Red Hot Chilli Peppers, tickets for their Wembley gig range between £45 and £85. If you want to see the Beatles, your best bet is trying to get a Glastonbury ticket and hoping you can get within a mile of the front at the pyramid stage for Paul McCartney. Oasis disbanded years ago. David Bowie sadly passed before his time. I could go on. It is a sad reality for many people below a certain age that we missed out on seeing so many of the greats. But you still can, kind of.

Tribute acts carry a certain connotation of cringe, which is understandable given very little about the art form is truly original. You can add your own flavour to covering a band, but ultimately your audience want as close to an authentic experience as they can get, so many are better off just copying everything–with the exception of ‘Elvana’ (look them up).

Before attending Isle of Wight festival, I had never willingly, consciously paid money to see a tribute act before. They are usually reserved for corporate gigs, National Trust events and weddings. But looking at the line-up, I felt more drawn to seeing someone copy Arctic Monkeys for 45 minutes than I was to waiting for the one song I knew from someone I might have passively listened to on the radio.

And so, while bouncing between Plaza Moretti, Strongbow Yard and Old Mout Kiwi Camp, I gave them a go, and had no regrets. Arctic Junkies (great name, much better than Foo Fighterz, I mean come on) were everything you’d hope for in a tribute act to the great Sheffield band. The same intro, transitioning from Do I Wanna Know to Brianstorm, recreating those unmistakeable guitar sounds without error. The only disappointment was the lack of When The Sun Goes Down, but with such a discography to choose from, that can be forgiven.

White Hot Chilli Peppers (another good name) were another to emulate the iconic sounds of their heroes while somehow managing to avoid making you cringe at the same time, even if the lead singer was reminiscent of Spider from No Vacancy in School of Rock.

Noasis were so popular that I couldn’t get into the tent to see them perform. But hearing She’s Electric from just outside, it was easy to see why they attracted such a crowd away from Lewis Capaldi.

I don’t go to music festivals to learn, but my overwhelming feeling leaving the four day fest – other than lethargy – was that tribute bands are good, actually, and there is no shame in opting to see them over a newer, younger, more original artist. Just go and see the music you like.