VIDEO | 'Fakefest'

Anyone Hear an Echo?

Elvio Nardi strikes a Jon Bon Jovi pose  with Runaway band mates Rob Camaro, left, on guitar, Joey Riott on drums and Bobby Henesey on bass.
Elvio Nardi strikes a Jon Bon Jovi pose with Runaway band mates Rob Camaro, left, on guitar, Joey Riott on drums and Bobby Henesey on bass. (Photos By Helayne Seidman For The Washington Post)

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By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 25, 2007

ATLANTIC CITY

On the bayside deck behind the Trump Marina Hotel Casino, amid the bronzed women spilling out of their sundresses and the leathery men in Tommy Bahama, we find Rod Stewart*, strutting around the bar in a double-breasted pinstriped scarlet-red suit. His shirt: silk, white, French-cuffed. Tie: obscenely yellow. Hair: blond, rooster-like, spiking every which way.

He's singing "Every Picture Tells a Story," and he's doing so while posing for photos with any and all comers. Get out your cameras and get over here, he says into a wireless microphone between stanzas. Such a man of the people, that Rod Stewart*!

*Of course Rod Stewart is not his real name. It's actually Tommy Edward -- although at the moment, while working the crowd at the beery venue known simply as the Deck, he's calling himself "Sir Rod."

Edward is a professional Fraud Stewart, the frontman for a Rod Stewart tribute band known as Sir Rod. His most notable qualifications for the job are that, with enough hair products and the right wardrobe, he can make himself look a lot like the real Rod Stewart; that he's learned how to replicate Stewart's fancy footwork and mannerisms; and, most significantly, that he can sing like Stewart, with a soulful voice that's raspy with a touch of sweetness to it.

And so, with a three-piece band behind him, Edward is performing a Saturday afternoon set, thus kicking off the second day of one of the more surreal -- and unreal-- entries on the summer festival circuit: Fakefest, Trump Marina's annual outdoor gathering of the tribute-band tribe.

Launched five years ago more or less to spike bar revenue at the start of the summer season (and, perhaps, to get even more people to lose more money at the adjoining casino), Fakefest celebrates popular rock-and-roll music played by popular rock-and-roll artists without actually employing said artists to perform said songs. Instead, you get Runaway being Bon Jovi, Warped running through the Red Hot Chili Peppers' songbook and Hotel California doing the Eagles.

Eight bands in all, performing two 50-minute sets each on a single outdoor stage surrounded by million-dollar yachts while perky, leggy waitresses in criminally skimpy black short shorts and super-tight sky-blue tank tops keep the beers coming.

For those about to rock, we imitate you!

"There's a never-ending thirst for tribute bands," says Bill Schmal, Trump Marina's director of entertainment. "People don't have to pay a premium for a ticket, and they get to hear their favorite tunes on a personal level, performed live. Just not by the artists who wrote them."

Tribute bands (and their cousins, cover bands, which perform hits by multiple artists) are a staple at bars and nightclubs and private parties around the world -- particularly in places like Las Vegas and Atlantic City -- and have been pretty much since the Beatles broke up and Elvis died. But being feted with festivals is a relatively new twist for the tribute scene, which suddenly has something like a circuit: Last month, in England, there was Glastonbudget (a play on Glastonbury, a massive annual rock concert), and on July 29 comes Rockstock, at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va.

"There's plenty enough to go around," Schmal says. "Especially in classic rock, where there's gotta be a thousand Led Zeppelin bands, a thousand Doors bands."


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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