Six in the Six – Top Tribute Bands
In 2019, the music world said goodbye to a number of heavy weights: Ginger Baker (Cream), Ric Ocasek (The Cars), Robert Hunter (The Grateful Dead), Dr. John, Eddie Money, Dick Dale, and Peter Tork (The Monkees), among others. And while icons like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, and The Who may still be taking to the stage on occasion, it’s clear that the opportunities to witness these legends in their natural element are becoming increasingly rare. Fortunately, through their music, they’ve contributed a legacy assured to withstand the test of time, and Toronto is chock-full of talented performers committed to keeping the spirit of the original music alive. On any given night, in any number of venues, we can head to a packed house where local acts recreate the music of Floyd, Zeppelin, The Hip, and many more. So, if you’re ready to kick those winter blues with a bar full of diehard fans, here are our top six favourite tribute acts. As the late Gregg Allman once wrote, “the road goes on forever.” In Toronto, those words have never been so true.
- The Last Waltz – A musical celebration of The Band – Live
Under the direction of Juno-award-winning producer and musical director Lance Anderson, this all-star Canadian cast of blues and roots musicians recreate the atmosphere of The Band’s final concert, famously captured in Martin Scorcese’s concert film, The Last Waltz. On the American Thanksgiving of 1976, at San Francisco’s famed Winterland Ballroom, The Band performed what they called their “Last Waltz,” and invited many friends to perform in the celebration including Bob Dylan, Ronnie Hawkins, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, and Neil Young. In this homage to the Last Waltz, Anderson’s special guests perform the songs played at the memorable concert, as Anderson offers unique insight into the music. Normally backed by a 9-piece band that includes Jerome Levon Avis (Levon Helm’s godson) on drums and vocals, Terry Blersh on guitar, Dennis Pinhorn (The Hawks) on bass, Rob Gusevs (Blood, Sweat and Tears) on organ, and Anderson (Shakura S’Aida) on piano and vocals, this is a group of seasoned veterans who love the music.
2. Mars Hotel – The Grateful Dead
Just like the Grateful Dead, Mars Hotel delivers on the promise that community, meaningful songs and amazing musicianship create lasting, memorable moments. Each show offers audiences a unique experience with an entirely different setlist and vibe drawn from the 30-year history of the band, while artists and a projectionist work to incorporate the imagery of the songs on the backdrop. Not only is every member of the band an accomplished musician, each is a lifelong fan of the Dead with a personal connection to the music. Brothers Jordan and Lorne Lampert lay down the rhythm with dual drum kits. Jake Sadikman drops bombs on the bass. Larry Feldman and Mark Arbus share rhythm and lead guitar duties, setting the stage for extensive improvisation. Josh Barkin rages on the keys, while Ryan Hanlon helps round out the vocals. And, as charitable as they are talented, Mars Hotel has raised over $100,000 for Sick Kids through their annual Jake’s Collection fundraiser.
3. Tommy Youngsteen – Bruce Springsteen
Tommy Youngsteen is the premier North American Bruce Springsteen tribute act featuring members and alumni from top Juno-winning Canadian acts: The Sam Roberts Band, The Stills, Stars, The Dears, The Trews, Sloan, Serena Ryder Band & The Arkells. Over the last 10 years,
its members have logged well over 5000 shows with their respective groups, from Canada all the way to Japan, and have shared the bill and opened for artists such as Paul McCartney, The Eagles, Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, AC/DC and Coldplay. They regularly play shows across Southern Ontario where you’ll dance the night away to classics like Rosalita, Thunder Road, Badlands and The Promised Land. A must for any fan of The Boss!
4. The Lizards – Phish
The Lizards made their debut in November of 2013, playing sold out shows and festivals to hundreds of fans. Today, the band faithfully recreates the Phish experience. Whether through their ever changing setlists, synchronized dancing, or touring with their own lighting rig and director, the band is committed to giving audiences an authentic night of Phish. Regularly playing local venues, The Lizards make it possible to gain that experience in our own backyard, bringing together a congregation of like-minded people that all want the same things: good times, good music and sore legs! The Lizards features Benjamin Weigensberg on drums, Joel Visentin on keyboards, Mike Meusel on bass, and Rich Grossman on guitar. Toby Gottlieb rounds it all out with a great light show. So have fun, but whatever you do, take care of your shoes.
5. Pretzel Logic – Steely Dan
At the nexus of jazz, blues and rock lies Steely Dan…the musician’s band. Though the music may be elusive to some, there’s little doubting the virtuosity of core members Donald Fagen and Walter Becker who first brought Steely Dan to the public conscience in 1972, staying there with such hits as Reelin’ In the Years, Rikki Don’t Lose That Number, and Babylon Sisters. Today, Pretzel Logic, named for the famed 1974 album, can be regularly found playing throughout the city. The 10-piece band, led by saxophonist and vocalist Peter Graham, is dedicated to exploring the Steely Dan songbook. If you are a fan of the Dan, or just on the lookout for great live music, Pretzel Logic will not disappoint.
6. Eat a Peach – The Allman Brothers Band
Founded in the spring of 2016, Eat A Peach brings together some of Toronto’s top musicians to perform the music of the legendary Allman Brothers Band. Featuring powerful guitars and soulful vocals, this local act faithfully recreates the sound, energy, and spirit of the pioneers of Southern Rock. Performances include a repertoire from all eras of the band’s catalogue, including classics like Whipping Post, Blue Sky, Dreams, Midnight Rider and Jessica. Featuring the dueling guitars of Mack Jordan and Joshua Skye Engel, Josh Barkin on keyboards, Eric Stein on bass, Jamie Grossman on drums and Daniel Shlagbaum on percussion, this sextet of seasoned musicians regularly packs the house and never let up until closing time.