We’ve all been to Walt Disney World. And unless you’re a complete buzzkill, you’ve loved it, too. But when you think about heading down to the Florida dream park, you might not immediately think of music: You’d maybe think of the spiny, palm tree-studded Spaceship Earth. Visions of international villas—at their World Showcase—might appear. If you’ve read any of This American Life regular David Rakoff’s work, you might ponder the bizarreness of Future World and the Innoventions within. All are quintessentially Epcot—but few equate the Orlando paradise with music.
Dig a little deeper though, and there’s plenty of music to be found. At their Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, Dee Dee Messina, Rick Springfield, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy score the proceedings. There’s a musical for Finding Nemo (which, we assume, will play death metal during that part when the vegetarian shark sniffs blood). But the best part? They’ve imported some real-deal tribute bands to play there this summer.
Make no mistake—these aren’t bar bands. They’re tribute bands with an eye for accuracy, hilarity, and massive productions, and Walt Disney World has recruited seven of the best. Like who?
Hotel California: A Salute to the Eagles
The relationship we have with the Eagles is complicated: Robert Christgau wrote a famous essay about why he hates—but can’t stop thinking about—the Eagles back in 1972, and 40 years on, we’re still debating the band. The reviews of Hotel California, however, have been less controversial—they’re booked for upwards of 200 shows a year, and that’s because they’re universally hailed as kick-ass. No wonder: Unlike the Canadian tribute of the same name, they’re made up of musicians who’ve shared stages with Van Halen, Huey Lewis, and the Commodores. How’s that for a CV?
Don’t Stop Believin’: A Journey Tribute Band
L.A.-based Don’t Stop Believin’ tote themselves as second best—but that’s no slight. It’s just an admission that they’ll never top Journey (and like, duh). But they’re no slouches in their own right: Their singer, Juan Del Castillo, has a damn successful solo career. Their drummer produces Disney records (and has performed music for shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Party of Five). Dean Cain’s—ahem, SUPERMAN’s—brother plays in the band. But the real kicker? They play a whole ton of Journey songs. And let’s not kid around: That’s all we want to hear anyways.
Good Vibrations: A Tribute to The Beach Boys
Is there anything more summery than the Beach Boys? (Hint: NO.) Heck, we love Pet Sounds and Smile so much, we willingly drag ourselves to see whatever incarnation of the band’s playing the closest local casino like, every summer. It’s always good, even if Brian Wilson’s not on hand, and the same rationale is true of Good Vibrations: These dudes sound exactly like the Beach Boys. Heck, they’re so accurate, they’ve even played in front of the Beach Boys themselves—they were chosen to perform at a commemoration of the Wilsons’ childhood home in California. And if they’re good enough for Brian, Dennis, and Carl, they’re good enough for us.
Don’t Look Back: Boston Tribute Band
If it’s attention to detail ye seek, look no further than Don’t Look Back—photos of the band reveal them Boston doppelgangers. And apparently, they sound like them, too: Their picture-perfect renditions of “More Than a Feeling” and “Amanda” are so scintillating, their supporters have dubbed the band Better Than Boston. High praise, indeed.
Stayin’ Alive: A Tribute to the Bee Gees
The world’s most beloved tribute to Bee Gees, the Australian pop-disco act, comes from… Canada. Who knew? Comprised of a bunch of Cancon pros—who’ve also played in tributes to Abba, Tom Petty, and more—Stayin’ Alive have been going strong for a decade. And they’re not limited to playing concerts: They’ve also recorded a CD which, if you’re not paying close attention, could double as a live Bee Gees recording.
Slippery When Wet: The Ultimate Bon Jovi Tribute
Slippery When Wet singer Jason Morey’s such a dead ringer for Jon Bon Jovi that it even fooled Dave Chappelle, who was so convinced of their likeness, he invited Morey backstage after a show. (We won’t fault Dave, here. I mean, look at the dude.) Thankfully, Morey and crew have the talent and studiousness to back it up: They perform precise renditions of the “Livin’ on a Prayer” singer’s biggest hits, and have even analyzed Bon Jovi’s live sets for tips. Anything for accuracy’s sake, right?
2U: A Tribute to U2
You get the sense that 2U are perfectionists: According to MusicRadar, they’ve gone through eight Bonos, four Larrys, and three Adams in their decade-plus existence. Bandleader Joseph Cumia, the brains of the operation, explains why: It’s not enough to play like Bono, or to look him like him; members have to have the same aura as Bono and co. Best of all, though, 2U’s a tribute band for the obsessive: They’ll play obscurities from the Irish band’s catalogue, and have even recreated the legendary Red Rocks concert. For a U2 nerd, it might be even better than seeing the Edge in person.
As it turns out, the Sounds Like Summer series doesn’t only sound like the season—it sounds like a multitude of classic bands. The whole thing goes down at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and they even happen in a stadium-sized setting—each event’s held at the America Gardens Theatre within the park. Don’t Look Back, the Boston Tribute Band, is playing the park as we speak, and are playing until July 29. For more details and the full schedule, click here.