Why would anyone start a tribute band? Probably for the same reason that people play Guitar Hero. But why start a Radiohead tribute band, of all things? There are enough bad Radiohead cover bands who aren’t even trying to be Radiohead cover bands, why would someone do it deliberately? If you really feel the urge to sing Radiohead songs just do it in the shower, and make sure no one’s home at the time. And yet, The Karma Police do it in public. As their drunk ex-hippie fathers probably tell them every week: get a real job, guys.
But more importantly, why would anyone go to see a tribute band? Maybe seeing the real band costs too much. Maybe there’s some joy in hearing your favorites being played on stage without silly things like Egos or Artistic Integrity getting in the way. Maybe there’s some sort of collective fantasy going on, where the audience is pretending the band’s really Radiohead, and the band’s pretending the audience are really fans. Then again, it’s kind of hard to pretend a band is Radiohead when the lead singer looks like Patton Oswalt doing his best Fred Durst impression. And it’s hard to enjoy your favorites when the songs are stopped mid-song to complain about the monitors. And if you’re worried about paying too much for Radiohead let me just remind you: In Rainbows: $0.00, £0.00. Go home and listen to your mp3s, fuckers.
But the most ludicrous thing about the Radiohead Tribute show was that there was a line waiting outside. A line. For a tribute band. At 11pm. This says two things: 1) The wrong people hang around Times Square at 11pm, and 2) Their possibilities of entertainment are being greatly misrepresented. You’d think with all the sex shops, comedy club barkers and Naked Cowboys of midtown that your average tourist would get a fairly good idea of how to have a good time on a Friday night. And yet, here they are, seeing a Radiohead cover band. Bevies of frat boys and sorority girls, foreign couples, middle-aged men with college-aged girlfriends, all united by their great love of Radiohead and their overwhelming, incapacitating lameness.
Words (or pictures) cannot really describe the sorts of gyrations these barely-legals were doing. They were hitting all the moves: the white girl sway, the drunk shuffle, the jiggly dance, the swami two-step, the bobble-head, the cross-leg catch (where you cross one leg in front of the other to keep from falling sideways), the whack-a-mole (where you jump up and down in apparent disregard of rhythm), and all variations in between. Which made me realize that the Drunk Tourist Chick is one of those demographics sorely missing at actual shows. If only taste in music wasn’t inversely proportional to hotness.
In the back, in the corner, was a dangerously young chubby-cheeked girl dancing in spastic glee, all by herself. For a moment I loved you, chubby-cheeked girl. Then I remembered you were at a Radiohead cover band show. On purpose.
Also among the crowd was a group of three middle-aged Chinese men who did nothing but take pictures of people in the crowd. You’re my new heroes, guys.
The Karma Police played the songs competently enough, in between monitor issues, but they weren’t really in their element until the heavier Radiohead songs like “Electioneering” or “The Bends”, which just goes to show you how hard some of these songs are to do right without drowning them in drums. The singer, though his voice was high-pitched enough (think Brian Molko on helium) had no ability to match the Thom Yorke trills and falsettos.
Near the end, fake-Thom comes out and says “This will be our last song, but not really our last song. You see, we’ll do that thing that bands do where they walk offstage then come back and play some more. Last time we did that half the audience left.” I wonder why, fake-Thom.