For those playing in the 9th annual TributeFestPgh, participation is almost a yearlong commitment. The full lineup of acts was booked back in February, leaving the cover bands ample time to practice, gather their costumes, and get into character.
TributeFest is chance for local musicians to join forces, dress up, and perform as their favorite bands. The event has taken place for the past nine years after creator Bengt Alexsander moved to Pittsburgh from Boston, where cover bands and dressing up for Halloween is highly celebrated.
“It brings together musicians in the community that wouldn’t normally play with each other. You get to meet each other and see how everyone else plays,” said Alexsander.
This year, for the first time, TributeFestPgh takes place over four nights. The first two shows take place at Cattivo, and the next two at Club Café. Since its first year, TributeFest has only increased in size and participation. More bands want to be a part of it, and those who've played in the past get deeper into their rockstar personas.
“It’s not a competition, but you see how much everyone else commits to it, and it becomes this steeplechase to see like, ‘how much am I going to commit to this and be this character and go into being this band accurately?’ Everyone goes full in, always way over the top, it’s amazing how much people go into staying in character," says Alexsander.
To make room for the growing interest, as well as to alleviate the workload, Alexsander partnered with Julie Devine, who had been putting on her own cover band fest at Cattivo. The two had talked in previous years about the extensive amount of work it was for one person to organize and execute, so they decided to merge the events to make it easier on themselves.
“It did make it easier, but it did make it bigger.”
The one difference between the two events was Devine’s fest raised money for charity. So, this year, TributeFest is raising money for the Humane Animal Rescue.
“We’re doing it for a good cause. It’s more notable, rather than saying, ‘Hey come watch me and my friends be someone else,’” says Alexsander.
Generally, the bands slated to perform during TributeFest are not performers who play together the rest of the year. Someone picks a band they would like to cover and looks for artists who are interested in joining them.
“Like this year, Kevin Koch from the Me Toos wanted to do Elvis Costello, so he built this whole band of people, a lot of who he hasn’t played with before. It’s like a musical form of working out. You take yourself out of your comfort zone and play with people you don’t normally play with.”
The first day of TributeFest takes place Friday at Cattivo and continues Fri., Oct. 19 and Sat., Oct. 20.
Watch the Smiths cover band from TributeFestPgh 8.