A tribute band is a music group who specifically plays the music of a well-known music act, evoking a sound, look, time, place of a past (or, in some cases, current) popular artist whose loyal fans want to recapture the spirit of the original. Sadly, many music purists think that being a tribute band is equivalent to being a cover band – skilled musicians who play other artists’ hits you hire for a wedding or filling out the weekly performance bills at clubs and bars. But it takes a considerable talent to actually inhabit the style, the musical interpretation and the stage delivery of a respected artist who is no longer with us.
Yes, a true tribute band is something very special: they play lick-by-lick, capturing the unique sound of the original artist. The vocals, the staging, the wardrobe, even the instruments played are the same or as close to original as possible. The supremely gifted DAVE RYAN, Founder and lead vocalist/guitarist for The SRV Experience and, more recently, The ZZ Top Experience, goes even further; he has sync’d his band’s live performances with videos of their inspirations – Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble and ZZ Top – which are played on giant screens behind the band on stage. To watch such an accomplished artist as Dave and his musicians is to be back on the road with Stevie or the ZZ’s – his presentations are a fully immersive audio/visual experience that amaze dedicated fans as well as engaging audiences new to the now-legendary artists. Stevie Ray Vaughan was killed in a plane crash over 30 years ago, but just listen….Dave will transport you back in time to one of Stevie’s exciting concerts (he even sports Stevie’s blue peacock tattoo on his chest!). I asked Dave to share his thoughts on performing in front of die-hard SRV and ZZ Top fans and here is what he told me….Dave, when did you first pick up a guitar and/or any other instruments? Apparently, I started playing the drums at age 2. I switched to guitar at age 13 and fell in love with it, averaging 4 hours of practice a day some days.
Prior to launching your own SRV Experience, did you play with any other bands? I played in some other bands but nothing as focused or as enjoyable.
What first drew you to Steve Ray Vaughan’s music? And when did you realize your amazing resemblance to the guitar legend? I always knew about Stevie; I first saw him on the MTV videos but it was watching his El Mocambo performance in Toronto in 1983 that gave me the “deer in the headlights” reaction. I started learning one of his songs then another and another and suddenly I had 7 songs. I decided at that point to start up a tribute show…having to learn another 30 songs, of course. I give a taste of what it would have been like to see an SRV show. I realized several years ago that I was able to deliver a very high-level respectable facsimile of Stevie Ray.
You must have put in thousands of hours of rehearsing and learning his playing style, vocals, stage presence – how did your early audiences respond to what you presented on stage? Yes, I’ve averaged a thousand hours per year over 16-17 years. Early on audiences were very receptive. As the project grew and became more polished, we started getting standing ovations and booked many theatre shows. We always got a very appreciative and receptive audience.
“This is music of the highest order, playing and paying proper tribute to these Texas Blues/Rock legends. Not to be missed”…Q 107 Radio, Toronto
Vaughan’s influence has inspired hundreds of artists since his untimely death, and his legacy lives through you with the SRV Experience – do you feel the responsibility and weight of perpetuating his legend? I don’t feel a responsibility but It feels really good to know that I’m helping to keep and build his legacy, keeping his music fresh in people’s minds.You’re a brilliant artist in your own right, do you ever feel like stepping out from behind the “tribute” brand to pursue your own original music? I’ve written many songs and would like to revisit that one day and finish the many songs that I’ve started. Possibly become my own recording artist.
More recently, you created another performance entity, that of legendary southern rockers ZZ Top. Combining the two bands on one bill satisfies both blues and rock audiences – how are people responding to the ZZ’s? People are very receptive of the dual show as well as ZZ Top on its own. We go all out and model our show on the 1979-1980 Rockpalast era (an annual televised German concert) of ZZ when they were in their musical prime. We have the authentic look, beards and all, and are delivering note for note performances of their greatest hits. At a recent show at the Aeolian in London, Ontario, we were honoured with standing ovations for each band. “Musically and visually the real deal…a must-see performance!” Q107’s John Garbutt
2024 looks like it may be a busy year for you – can we expect to see SRV/ZZ perform at any of the big music festivals now that Covid seems to be in our rear-view mirrors and crowds are coming back to the big gigs? We’ve played many blues / rock / RibFest shows in the past and we’re looking forwards to playing more this year! We’re hoping to be booked into the Orangeville Blues/Jazz this summer and working on many more. With Covid fading, audiences are starting to come back to live shows and we’re hoping that venues will keep filling up more and more as this year progresses.Thanks, Dave, I can’t wait to join your next audience! Look for The SRV & ZZ Top Experience performing in your area over the summer and early fall, and music festivals are confirming their appearances as I type!