Atomic Punks
Atomic Punks

Long Live Mock 'n' Roll

The difference between a cover band and a tribute band is the difference between a slut and a prostitute — one just plays with all sorts of people's stuff because it's fun and they like it. The other plays with particular people's stuff only because it's a profession with a paradigm. But tribute bands can be pimps as much as prostitutes because they're peddling the music and mirror-image of certain famous bands.

This week promises to be a tribute band blowout in the PHX, as national acts the Atomic Punks and Badfish get a corner on Van Halen and Sublime, respectively, while the Valley's own Unskinny Bop and Budweezer window-shop hair metal heroes Poison and alt-rock greats Weezer. We've done a breakdown below to see who's truly pimp.

Atomic Punks: Certainly the best-known Van Halen cover band in its home state of California (and possibly the nation), Atomic Punks are the Heidi Fleiss of tribute bands. They're glam-trash pretty (how could they not be, doing only Roth-era Van Halen?), and they've got a list of exclusive "clientele" that includes Roth himself, who's taken two Atomic Punks ax men on solo tours with him. They've gotten accolades from VH bassist Michael Anthony, too, who performed with the Punks at Anaheim's House of Blues in 2003. Best of all, they're not afraid to show us their hits, flashing big ditties like "Runnin' With the Devil," "Hot for Teacher," and "Panama."


Tribute bands

Atomic Punks and Unskinny Bop are scheduled to perform on Saturday, May 19, at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe. Budweezer is scheduled to perform on Saturday, May 19, at Last Exit Bar t are scheduled to perform on Friday, May 25, at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.

Badfish: Like a phallus in wonderland, Badfish is on the rise as one of the nation's premier tribute bands, and they claim to turn hundreds of fans away from their sold-out shows each night. The Rhode Island trio performs a plethora of Sublime songs, from the well-known ("What I Got," "Santeria") to the more obscure ("DJs," "Don't Push"), and although they don't necessarily go out of their way to look like Sublime, they do sound just like the Long Beach legends.

Unskinny Bop: Dubbing themselves an "outrageous" tribute band, these guys seriously work harder than any hooker. They spend countless hours doing their hair and makeup and squeezing themselves into skintight red pleather pants, all to pay homage to the baffling butt-rock blitzkrieg that was 1980s Poison. Singer Donnie MacDonald does Bret Michaels exceptionally well, right down to the pelvic power thrusts and frilly mic twirling. Besides, who can resist a sonic streetwalker that begs "Talk Dirty to Me"?

Budweezer: Call these guys for a good time. Although the local lads focus mostly on Weezer's first album (commonly called the "Blue" album) and its follow-up, Pinkerton, they'll also love you long time with B-sides and songs from the "Green" and Maladroit albums. They may not gussy up like the others, but anything other than sweater-and-pants geek chic just wouldn't be Weezer. Besides, they do promise they'll "soon be naked" if we watch them unravel in "The Sweater Song."


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