'70s Explosion', a 70s tribute act playing anything from ABBA to ELO https://www.alivenetwork.com/bandpage.asp?bandname=70s%20Explosion

Everyone hates a music snob. How could you not? They’re sneery, exclusive and far too keen to drone on condescendingly about their latest discovery — usually something tragically, self-consciously bizarre (industrial noise meets Egyptian folk-singing) or a band that’s really not as niche as they seem to think: “You won’t know them, they’re called the Velvet Underground”.

Yet no one is immune to that highly intoxicating feeling of superiority, that tiny glow of smugness that flares when you play a beloved song that your friends have never heard, or casually introduce them to a quirky new track. But one-upmanship brings only a shallow, egotistical joy. True happiness comes from sharing music. Nowadays, we have instant access to almost every song ever written, making it all the sweeter when someone recognises your band posters or cues your forgotten favourite at a party. As avant-garde as we like to appear, what we really crave is familiarity, and the chance to genuinely lose ourselves in something we are certain to love. Never underestimate the comforting, universal appeal of tried-and-tested smash hits. Hence the abundance of sold out Lola Lo’s themed club nights, which feed Cambridge’s astonishing (and painful…) obsession with Taylor Swift and Abba.

“Self-consciousness evaporated in such an accepting environment; over the music, strangers swapped names, drinks and bucket hats, exhorting us to see the real Stone Roses”

This is where the tribute band shines. With the sincerity only an amateur can muster, they will play an earnest and faithful set of your favourite band’s hits, free from weird experimentation or a pretentious desire to share new material. Your response will be equally endearing — gleefully singing out every word. I had never quite experienced the joy of recognition until I saw my first tribute band, a Stone Roses copycat playing at the Portland Arms. I could only persuade one friend to go, but as an actual Mancunian (or more of one than I am) she assured me she was mad fer it.

Unsure what to expect, we arrived at the pub one Friday evening, made our way to the chilly venue at the back and entered a dark, smoky room soundtracked by a well-chosen Spotify playlist called ‘Manchester Calling’. Being female, 21 and not white, I felt a little conspicuous among the middle-aged crowd dressed in genuine 90s rave-gear. But when the music started, I realised that our differences were only superficial.

The tribute band tours all over the UK, with thousands of subscribers and followers on their various social media channelsThe Total Stone Roses

In an environment where everyone knew every song, it would have been impossible not to bond, forming an intangible community through our shared knowledge. The band wasted no time in belting out one of the Stone Roses’ most hallowed tunes, ‘I Wanna Be Adored’. A slightly stiff crowd soon warmed up, and a space was cleared at the front as three wildly enthusiastic strangers engaged in increasingly frenetic dancing, circling each other in rapturous joy. Suddenly, the room seemed full, each participant sharing a knowing smile and an appreciative cheer with every song they recognised. Self-consciousness evaporated in such an accepting environment; over the music, strangers swapped names, drinks and bucket hats, exhorting us to see the real Stone Roses.

“Rather than deficient versions of the real thing, they should be viewed as access points to legendary musicians”

The band itself knew exactly how to create such an environment: the frontman, a passable imitation of a young Ian Brown, encouraged this sense of community by recalling past gigs, identifying fellow northerners and pointing out faithful fans he recognised from previous shows. The climax of the night was a dutiful eight minute and twelve second rendition of ‘I Am the Resurrection’, the penultimate track on the Stone Roses’ self-titled 1989 debut. The audience easily matched the band note-for-note, swaying in a collective trance broken only when the lights came back on.

Any apprehensions I had of cover bands were lifted. Rather than deficient versions of the real thing, they should be viewed as access points to legendary musicians. The band was never trying to fool us — all that mattered was that they sounded enough like the Stone Roses to galvanise a deliberately uncritical audience. Their tribute was laudable because it captured the right spirit, conducting the whole room’s obvious expression of adoration of the Stone Roses.


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In our search to be cool, we often pursue relentlessly the new, the edgy and the exclusive, and while challenge is undoubtedly enlightening, there is much to be gained from appreciating the known and enjoying the mundane. It almost requires an extra level of boldness to do something just because you like it, regardless of whether it fulfils some higher productive purpose. I’ll keep searching for the novel and offbeat, and take pride in any claims to eclecticism, but equally appreciate the simpler pleasures. Everyone strives for greatness, but my experience at the Portland Arms showed me that sometimes it is enough just to imitate it.