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The Almost Awesome Lives of Tribute Bands

On nightclub stages across the nation, dedicated musicians carry out the often thankless job of bringing huge bands to small clubs. Tribute bands take on the personas and sounds of radio juggernauts like Journey and the Rolling Stones. For some, it's a way to pay the bills. For others, says writer Steven Kurutz, it's the closest they'll get to the dream of stardom.

Kurutz recently spent a year on the road with Sticky Fingers, a group that brings the Rolling Stones concert experience to life. He writes about the adventure in his new book, Like A Rolling Stone: The Strange Life of a Tribute Band.

"Most tribute bands are formed by rabid fans of the group," Kurutz says. "There are a select few tribute bands who make a living at it." Successful tribute bands take on the trappings of rock stardom, from managers to groupies. Most end up playing dive bars and fraternity houses.

The guys in Sticky Fingers sound a lot like the Rolling Stones, Kurutz says, except for the nights when the lead singer drinks a little too much beer. Kurutz calls tribute bands like Sticky Fingers a sort of "happy substitute" for the real deal. "The people on stage would probably rather be in the Stones, obviously, and the people in the crowd would rather be at a Stones show," he says. "But since neither of those things are really an option, they'll take Sticky Fingers, and they'll have a great time. I personally had a lot more fun at a Sticky Fingers show than a Stones show."

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