While some local musicians may be gearing up to play a one-off Halloween covers set, several local tribute acts play out regularly and have built a following by playing other people's songs. Cover and era-specific tribute bands are nothing new to Atlanta. Even when the Sex Pistols made its American debut here on Jan. 5, 1978, local 1960s revivalists Cruis-o-matic opened the show. However, there seems to be a trend now, where show-goers are more likely than ever to walk into a packed-out club and hear a set of Bad Brains, the Smiths, or Weezer songs played by local musicians.
One band that stands out among the city's current crop of tribute acts is Nirvana cover band Nameless Nameless. The band features Ben White (Pacifico, Pasadena, Molly Parden) as Kurt Cobain, Tom Bruno (Tikka, Pet Cobra) as Dave Grohl, Aaron Strickland (Split, Pet Cobra) as Krist Novoselic, and Ben Bishop as ex-Germ turned second guitarist Pat Smear. All four took time to answer a few questions about Atlanta's cover band boom and their shared love for Nirvana.
For some, a cover band is a Halloween project. Some tribute bands pop up in late October play a couple of times per year, at most. That's not the case with Nameless Nameless, as you guys play out often. Why make this a year-round project?
White: We actually did start as a kind of joke for Halloween 2011. Then we played two shows for Halloween 2012. This year, we've just started playing more often for fun and really just keep doing more because people are showing up.
Bishop: It started off as a Halloween project, but we got a great response and we loved doing it; so we kept it up.
Strickland: Ben White and I have been playing Nirvana songs together since seventh grade. It's just a lot of fun, and people seem to dig it.
Though cover bands have always been around, they seem to be a local trend right now. When you played the Star Bar on Sept. 13, Weezer (Undone Americans) and Smashing Pumpkins (Siamese Dream) cover bands were also on the bill. That same night, the Earl was headlined by the Smiths (Smithsonian) and the Clash (Clashtinista) tribute acts as well. Why are there so many cover bands playing out all of a sudden?
White: The Star Bar show was one we planned in February because it was the 20th anniversary of the release of In Utero, and it happened to be a Friday. We originally wanted to have or create other '90s bands to play so it would be kind of nostalgic. The Weezer band was put together by me and some friends specifically for that show, and we knew Siamese Dream as a legit tribute act from around town. We're playing Sept. 25 at 529 for the 20th anniversary of Pat Smear's first show in Nirvana with a Cramps and another Weezer tribute band.
Bishop: There's a lot of crappy music on the radio now and people want to hear good stuff, so a great cover band of an older great band just makes sense.
Strickland: I think it's a nostalgia thing. For people that never got to see their favorite bands growing up, it's sort of a way to experience the songs in a new way.
Why Nirvana? What about their music makes it vital enough to the four of you that you'd do a cover band?
White: Nirvana is the reason I started playing music in the first place. None of us got to see them live, so we thought it would be fun.
Strickland: This goes back to the second question. They were the band that really got me into music. It's a fun way to pay respect back to such an influential band.
Bruno: Because it's fun.
Nameless Nameless (Nirvana Tribute), The De Lux Interiors (the Cramps tribute), and Tracer Metula (Weezer tribute) play 529 tonight (Wed., Sept. 25). $5. 9 p.m.
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