The Doors Live at the Club Soda: How to do a Tribute Show

Quebec’s very own Doors cover band Feast of Friends played a free show last Saturday night at the Club Soda on Saint-Laurent. The four cosplayers, dressed in leather pants and floral shirts, managed to amass a full house - with Jim-Jean-Francois-Morrison’s haunting voice drawing in all the boozers and smoochers from nearby streets.

Tribute bands are never far from controversy. It seems like every weekend another tribute show pops up at either La Petite Grenouille or the Piranha Bar. I don’t necessarily have a problem with four dudes dressing up on a Saturday night and playing Iron Maiden covers, but in my opinion, when there are entry fees and tickets involved, the situation begins to sour.

If you’re strictly playing another person’s material note-for-note, then gathering an entry fee in addition to creating your own brand of pseudo band merch (seriously, who’s walking around wearing a Möntreal Crüe t-shirt?), then what’s the point? You might as well come up with a generic name, swap out some riffs and lyrics here and there, and end up playing to about the same crowd of people at the exact same venue. Or just do what Greta Van Fleet is doing and you’ll be fine.

However, this doesn’t mean that tribute bands are necessarily always unethical. There are instances where a band’s music will never be performed by original members again (take the Beatles or Led Zeppelin, for example), and hasn’t been for a good forty years or so. You could argue that all the John Lemons and Billy Hendrixes taking the stage out there are perpetuating beloved artists’ legacies, and if you read your boyfriend’s horoscope every Saturday in the weekend paper, that their spirits are being kept alive in concert form, too.

Regardless of what you think, there is a clear line between people profiting off dead artists’ work and just getting some guys together so barhoppers can hear “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” played with a live guitar.

Anyways, Feast of Friends know how to pull off a damn tribute show. Everyone and anyone were allowed admission to the free gig at Club Soda, which filled to max capacity pretty quick. The group played pretty much every Doors hit you can rattle off in under 10 seconds, from the perpetually-penetrating “Break on Through” to the biker-bop “Roadhouse Blues”. The band also gave concert-goers the opportunity to hear rare concert hits off the L.A. Woman album (Jim Morrison passed away shortly after its release, and thus, songs like “Love Her Madly” and “Riders on the Storm” never got a chance to be played live very much, barring a few early versions played spontaneously in his pre-posthumous years).

Of course, this isn’t the first Doors tribute band out there, and it certainly won’t be the last. However, there are a number of things the band did right which made me more than happy to go see them and support the venue.

Firstly, Jim Morrison is dead. He’s probably the most famous dead person alive. Thus, imitating him is cool, hip, and actually worth your salt because you’re keeping this person’s legacy alive while playing their music to people who would otherwise never get this opportunity. Plus, you’d rather step on someone’s grave than piss off someone who’s still alive, right? Why would you want to impersonate Mick Jagger when the dude is still stutter-stepping somewhere in Europe right now?

Secondly, neither the band nor the venue charged an entry fee. Charging people twenty bucks a head to see a tribute band is silly - that’s just a money grab. Perpetuating an artist’s legacy by keeping their tunes alive in bars and clubs is about recreating that artist’s vibe for those who missed them. Read reviews of Doors concerts from the ‘60s, man. Tell me you can experience that in today’s world of cell phones and drug crackdown. Feast of Friends recreated what those kids who say that they’re “born in the wrong generation” complain about in YouTube comments.

This Club Soda gig was mostly an older crowd - dancing around and having a good time. There was also a good amount of younger people there, but I only saw a handful of cell phones during the entire performance. It was a really refreshing experience and honestly, even though I mostly go to metal concerts which you’d think are always crazy, this tribute show had one of the best crowds I’ve been a part of. People were just having fun, and in the Doors concert kind of way, which doesn’t happen all that much anymore.

I could end off with a cliché, saying that Jim Morrison’s spirit was truly still alive on that fateful night or whatever. But he wasn’t. The frontman, despite his nearly impeccable Morrison impression, clearly had a Francophone accent when talking between songs. I’m still convinced that his entire knowledge of the English language is limited to words used in songs by the Doors. And the guy playing Robby Krieger clearly hasn’t seen the Doors live recordings, because our friend just threw on his grandfather’s Hawaiian travel shirt and called it a day. But the whole thing was loose, fun, and it didn’t feel like they were ripping anyone off. They put on a great recreation with little smart nods to the real band here and there and that’s it.

At the end of the day, I don’t want to see the best popular artist clone there ever was. I don’t want to buy tickets to see four dudes pull off their absolute best impression of some famous band, when my ticket fare could and should have gone to see a band struggling to get paid for performing their own material. Do it for free like Feast of Friends: have fun playing dress-up on a Saturday night, get a crowd going, and make your hundred bucks or whatever it was and call that a success for giving an audience something they can remember.

My only complaint: Jim Jean-Francois Morrison’s leather pants could have been a little tighter, but I’ll let it slide.