Please note, The Knockouts have been rescheduled from July 27 to Aug 3.
Unofficial music lore puts responsibility for tribute bands on Australia. A million miles from nowhere, the great outback was too remote to attract big British or American acts, so she was forced to make her own copies.
Aussiebands.com lists no fewer than 70 tribute groups, from the awful — Bjorn Again, ABBA — to the obvious — ACCA/DACCA, ACDC — to the dreadful –The Absolute Kylie show, Kylie Minogue.
But as proud as Australia might be of her tribute bands, the real history of the genre starts elsewhere. If any one person can lay claim to sparking the movement, that would be Tupelo, Mississippi’s Elvis Aaron Presley, who had impersonators almost from day one. If any one band can lay claim, that’s The Beatles, whose tribute act The Buggs released their first and only album, The Beetle Beat, in 1964.
Until the late 1990s, however, tribute acts remained largely under the radar, little more than novelty knock-offs of the real thing. Then sometime around the turn of the century, tribute bands evolved into a viable genre of their own.
For Las Vegas native Kace King, a punk-rocker in his youth and now the lead singer for The Knockouts, a Social Distortion tribute band, the transition was driven largely by necessity.
“Fast forward from my punk rock band days to trying to make money, because local bands don’t usually make money,” King recounts of his days in Pimp and Never Was, both successful Las Vegas punk acts. “We did play Hard Rock, we did play Mandalay Bay, we did play big venues back then, but it was really difficult to make ends meet as a local band.”
The older King got, the more necessary things like food and shelter became, and questions about the obvious became harder to ignore. “A lot of the local bands were starting to see that ‘Hey, we can’t make money.’ How do we make money as a band?”
In Las Vegas at least, the answer was clear, if not entirely satisfying. “You jump into the casinos — but you can’t play your own music, because people don’t want to hear it. So what was happening was, people were transitioning into tribute bands, and this was the start of the tribute band movement that you see in Vegas every single day.”
All of sudden, paying the bills wasn’t nearly so difficult. “I jumped into an 80s cover band called Loveshack. You play Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights, and you would make good money, that was thing.”
But while the job paid well, it wasn’t entirely satisfying. “I always wanted to put together a tribute band to Social D because I just love the band. And I didn’t care if I made money or not. So that’s what I did on the side to have fun.”
That was 12 years ago, and in fits and starts, The Knockouts have been playing together ever since. They play The FCC Phnom Penh on Aug 3.