Saturday, October 15, 2011

Tragedy Happens, Luckily

I saw Tragedy, who are the self-proclaimed # 1 Bee Gees heavy metal tribute band in the world (or the New York tri-state area, depending on where they are and how much they have been drinking.)  They were at the State Theatre in Falls Church (although they constantly referred to it as Falls Church City, and no one calls it that.  Where they goofing on us or did someone tell them to say it that way?  Maybe as a goof on them?)  For $10, what did I have to lose?  If it sucked, I could always leave.  The beer costs $6 and Mike’s deep fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich costs $7 so the price for the show is a bargain.  I consider this as the first tribute band concert I’ve seen because although I’ve seen Abba: A Tribute, they were more of an Abba cover band.  They did not perform in character or dress like the band.  Tragedy did.  Boy did they.  There was more glitter in the air than at a Ke$ha concert.  Their costumes were a perfect blend of 1970’s Bee Gees inspired disco garb and 1980’s hair metal outfits.  Rarely do sparkles and studded arm bracelets go together but this night it worked. 

The band found that precise balance between the campy humor and cool, competent playing that I think is necessary for a tribute band to work.  I’m not sure why I would want to see a straight forward tribute band- it would just make me long for the original.  A humorous take such as this brings something new to the table.  The concept of the band- Bee Gees songs done in a heavy metal style- works so much better than you would imagine.  What people forget about the Bee Gees is that they built their songs on guitars as much as they did synthesizers.  They had some amazing guitar parts that translate really well to heavy metal, which is all about guitar prowess, wailing vocals and heavy drumming.  Does that sound familiar?  The Bee Gees had a good guitar sound (all three brothers played guitar for the band), wailing falsettos and disco is all about the beat, just like with drumming. 

One thing I didn’t realize until I heard it was how their lyrics fit right into the metal framework.  Metal lyrics are all about chicks or sex or excess and the Bee Gees lyrics are all about failed romance, love and sorrow.  There isn’t much difference between choruses like “Pour some sugar on me” and “Love you inside and out”.   Both are metaphors for the same thing.  Tragedy did a great job of making the connections between the two genres.  Often times a song would start and you didn’t know if they were playing a metal intro or a Bee Gees intro.  One song in particular, Mike and I looked at each other because it sounded like they were doing Queen’s “We Are The Champions”, then it seamlessly segued into Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock & Roll” before merging into an actual Bee Gees song.  It was astonishing and entertaining.  I spent a lot of the evening trying to spot the musical reference- Ratt, Led Zeppelin, Scorpions, Kiss, Joan Jett, Queen, Motley Crue.  It turns out I paid attention to, and enjoyed, 80’s hair metal more than I thought. 

Some of the influences were obvious because the lead singer would introduce the song in a way that let us know the style they were about to appropriate.  For instance, when they branched out into one of their non-Bee Gees disco songs, he said “We’re going to play some KC/DC and then they launched into KC & the Sunshine Band’s “Get Down Tonight”.  They also covered Donna Summers “Hot Stuff”- lead singer Barry Glibb intro’ed it by saying “We are going to rename the band for this next song.  How often do you see a band break up right before your eyes only to reform as a new band right before your eyes in a totally spontaneous, completely unrehearsed way?”  You Make Me Feel Like Dancing got the treatment too (That’s a song by, as Glibb said, their protégé “Leo Slayer”.)   

The onstage banter and antics were part of the fun.  Lance would come out in his white jumpsuit and toss around glitter or to mop off the performers sweat, “Robin” played cowbell and disco danced when not swiping drinks from the other band members, the lead singer captured the unspoken superiority of Barry Gibb to the other Bee Gees and Andy Gibb.  At one point, “Barry” asked the audience to vote on what the next song would be although there was a caveat (“Maurice” asked “What’s a caveat?”)  It had to be from one of these choices- “Lemons Never Forget” from 1968’s “Horizontal” album or 1972’s “Paper Mache, Cabbages & Kings” from the “To Whom It May Concern” album.  I really wanted “Lemons” because I like the song, even though most people have never heard it (or think it is stupidly named, which it is.)  Also, I don’t think I’ve ever hear the other song or the album it is from.  Still, the vote went for the second song which they started playing (I think, not knowing the song) but stopped abruptly to give us one more choice- Staying Alive.  Guess what won the vote?

The metal clichés were there too- there was an extended part about oral sex on the flying V guitars, culminating in two V guitars scissoring.  The vocal wails on some of the songs went almost over the top but stopped just short of parody which is why they worked fantastically.  The did the standard metal guitar stuff- synchronized guitar bobbing, “chase and follow” and “back to back” guitar playing and the lunk- headed, shirtless drummer.  “Barry” talked the bands greatness- their album titles are “We Rock Sweet Balls And Can Do No Wrong” and “Humbled By Our Greatness”, and how they play in front of huge crowds. 

This night it wasn’t true (if it ever was.)  There were about forty five people in the audience, including the bar tenders.  They had their own cheering section in the corner though, who kept things lively even when you could hear a pin drop (either deliberately, like on the dramatic pause of How Deep Is Your Love or accidentally because the audience didn’t sing along as expected).  There was also a cute 25-year-old-ish librarian-looking girl who was sitting there by herself.  She wore a black t-shirt with white long sleeves and a blue jacket.  I couldn’t see who was on the front of her shirt so I kept wondering which she was a fan of- the Bee Gees, metal music or someone in the band.  If it is the first one, I’m impressed, if it’s the first two, I’m in love. 

For the encore, they started by playing Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse Of The Heart”, just because they think it’s a cool song.  (“I’m not sure if we should play this song.  Part of the reason for not playing it is because I don’t know the words.  Part of the reason for playing it is because it would sound awesome.  It’s not remotely related to the Bee Gees but we will play, just because we want to. )”  I knew they couldn’t finish with a n on-Bee Gees song so I was trying to figure what the last song would be.  As soon as they started playing it, I smacked my head and said “D’oh!”  Of course they would play the song “Tragedy”!  It’s the name of the danged band! 

It was a pretty thunderous version.  Some of the songs this night almost verged on thrash metal riffage and this was one of them, in parts.  The band started jamming part of the way through in order to allow “Barry” to invite all the girls in the audience to come up front in dance, and for five of them to get onstage.  Then he changed his mind since there were only about 20 girls in the whole audience.  He told everyone to get onstage so there were then 30 people onstage with the band and 12 people in the audience.  (The cute girl was the second one up there although they had to talk her into it- weird, since she was up by the stage the whole night, taking videos and bopping along to the music.  Barry said “Shy girls are welcome too!”)  The band got on the floor and played to the people on the stage, to give them a taste of what it feels like.  Then something weird happened, something I’ve never seen at a concert.  They gave the lead guitar to one of the audience members to play (“Does anyone here onstage shred?”) and he did so competently, although it wasn’t a Bee Gees song.  That wasn’t the weird part though. 

A few minutes later when the audience guitarist still hadn’t finished playing, I noticed the only Tragedy band member on stage was the drummer.  All the other people were gone.  Nor did they ever return.  The house lights went up and the sound was cut off so everyone started to leave, all without a goodbye from the band.  (I guess “Barry” constantly saying “You’re welcome” during the expected applause parts should have been an indicator of their willingness to be unconventional.)  I did see one band member again though.  Robin was in the lobby, along with Lance, selling t-shirts and CDs.  They were only $10 so I decided to get a shirt and the first CD. 

Me- “I’ll take this CD and an XL shirt.”  Robin- “Sorry, we only have 2XL.”  Me- “Is the one on display the 2XL?”  Robin- “Yes.”  Me- “That looks like it will work.  I’ll take that and this CD”.  I gave him the $20 which he tucked into his jumpsuit.  Robin- “Here, I’ll give you the new CD too.”  Me- “Thanks!  I enjoyed the show.  You guys did a great job.”   Then I turned and Mike and I left.  As we go out the door “Robin says “Drive safe!”  so for $43, I saw a fun show, got two beers, a t-shirt and two CDs.  What a bargain!  Plus the CDs had several songs that the band hadn’t even played so I get some new music too.   Like “Shadow Dancing”, “Too Much Heaven”, “The Woman In You”, Xanadu!  I had a stupid grin on my face the whole night and parts of it still remains.  I’ll leave you with this bio from the band’s website (the humorously named which gives you a taste of the band’s sense of humor:

“Tragedy is the No. 1 Heavy Metal Tribute to the Bee Gees in the Tri-State Area, eastern Pennsylvania, New England (excluding Rohde Island, Maine and New Hampshire), Los Angeles City, Anaheim City, Tampa City, Texas (excluding Ft. Worth City and Corpus Christie City), The Rocky Mountains, and the United Kingdom (excluding Northern Ireland and the greater Leeds City area).  Audiences today are craving a metal Bee Gees experience more than ever, and Tragedy has been delivering quality Bee Gees metalization services since 2007. 

A family business, Tragedy was formed by brothers Barry Glibb, Mo'Royce Peterson, and Robin Gibbens. Rounding out the staff here at Tragedy are little brother Andy Gibbous Waning on bass, and family patriarch, The Lord Gibbeth, on drums.

Tragedy has played such amazing venues as New York City's Bowery Ballroom (where they sold out their last concert), Irving Plaza, Nokia Theatre, and Cha Cha's in Coney Island City. Across the pond they have decimated 02 Academies throughout the UK including Shepherd's Bush Empire in London City, as well as Kentishtown Forum, also in London City. They have toured extensively in the UK, as support for Electric Six and The Wildhearts, respectively, and as a headlining act.

They decimated Emo's Main Room at SXSW in 2008, have conquered Houses of Blues throughout Texas and Anaheim City, and have ruled cities up and down the East Coast.  Their first album, We Rock Sweet Balls and Can Do No Wrong, was highly received, being played by Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson on his radio show, and most recently between sets at the Alice in Chains concert!

Oh, and they also opened for Motorhead at the United Kingdom's Guilfest in 2009, where they annihilated 10,000 unsuspecting now Tragedy fans, whether they are aware of it or not.”

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