The term cover band can conjure up some pretty trite images—everything from the cheesy wedding singer to band members in bad wigs. But, in Baltimore, dedicated musicians are forming tribute bands to their favorite artists and playing major venues around town. “When I was younger, I very rarely went to see cover bands,” says Abigail Janssens, co-owner of The 8x10 club. “But the tribute bands that are forming now have real talent.”
One of the more popular examples is Talking Heads cover band Psycho Killers, pictured, which recently headlined a sold-out show at the Maryland Science Center and are playing The 8x10 February 21. The band members have been playing in various acts for years, but decided to come together over their mutual love of David Byrne and company.
“There has definitely been a big rise in this type of band,” says Jon Wood, lead singer and guitarist for Psycho Killers. “It all depends on the musicians and how they want to do it justice. There’s a way to take it to the next level.”
Instead of straight mimicking bands, a lot of these acts are bringing their own style to the original. Nothing is more indicative of this trend than Maryland band Yellow Dubmarine, which brings a reggae twist to classic Beatles songs. “With tribute bands, it’s tricky because people know what they want to hear, but at the same time, don’t want to be bored,” says Psycho Killers bassist Ryan Porter. “You’ve got to stretch it out a bit and bring your own flavor.”
It’s hard to look at a show calendar in Baltimore these days without seeing a popular cover band—whether it’s R&B/soul group The Bellevederes at The Windup Space or Several Species, which pays homage to Pink Floyd, at mega-venue Pier Six.
“We do bring our own energy to it,” says Porter. “But audiences love this stuff because, a lot of times, these are bands that haven’t toured in decades.”