Even better than the real thing?

The urge to step inside another band’s skin is far more than a local phenomenon, of course. Quite a few groups nationwide have made successful careers not just in choosing a set list heavy on “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” but by immersing themselves into some star group’s whole gestalt, from vocal inflections and guitar effects right on down to stage gestures culled from film or video footage.

In April, TV’s Showtime premium channel will air Tribute, a Michael Dequina documentary that’s been generating buzz since its 2001 release. The film depicts the first-class-wannabe exploits of some of this country’s top-tier seconds. Witness lighters raised to the spandex-defying butts of middle-aged fakers Sheer Heart Attack (a Queen tribute band), Larger Than Life (Kiss), Bloodstone (Judas Priest), The Missing Links (The Monkees) and Escape (Journey, with one segment of “Steve Perry” belting out the tender “Faithfully” to an audience at a strip club).

Because the hand-me-down fans are out there, ready to sing their cozy hearts out to every radio-worn word.

Asheville itself has hosted the likes of L.A.’s ZOSO (we thrilled to “Robert Plant” squeezing his secondhand lemon), and the Athens, Ga.-based Dave Matthews Cover Band (appropriately integrated, almost to the man).

And “AC/DC” is still to come! Knoxville, Tenn.’s almost-as-big-balled Big Gun rides its own “Highway to Hell” into The Orange Peel on Saturday, March 6. Expect schoolboy pants, cannon fire and a blow-up Rosie doll — all for only $10!

Yet perhaps you still scoff. So know this: Ohio-based Beatles tribute band 1964 — now a two-time Carnegie Hall veteran — averages $15,000 a gig.

“A Hard Day’s Night,” my ass.

– Frank Rabey

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