Hot Rocks: a Rolling Stones tribute band and the Art of Replica

The Rolling Stones tribute band, Hot Rocks, comes close to delivering a true replica experience. Photo courtesy of Hot Rocks
The Rolling Stones tribute band, Hot Rocks, comes close to delivering a true replica experience. Photo courtesy of Hot Rocks

By Brian Sumner
As we, (mostly oldtimers) squeeze into the lobby, waiting for the line-up to move we joke about pulling off a Stones riot in Revelstoke “… for old times sake.”
Getting my tickets checked I find myself asking politely “can we sit anywhere?” —  kind of an ironic warm-up for a tribute to the band whose 1965 response to a balky London gas station attendant was “we piss anywhere!” (which they then proceeded to do).
And so it went on… this mysterious date with irony… and nostalgia, and strangely the past present and future , all alive in this seven ages of man, midwinter night`s dream.
What is a tribute band perfomance? More than an orchestra playing the symphony accurately, even passionately? Less than a Broadway interpretation of a living person? (we’re holding our breathe for Clinton the Musical, coming out in april). Less than any of the films about the Stones? Among them Charlie Is My Darling 1965, Gimme Shelter 1970, Scorcese`s Shine a Light 2008, , Crossfire Hurricane 2012. Different than hearing the Stones’ music on the radio, or reading the books (Marc Spitz’ Jagger: rockstar, rambler rogue, from 2011 sounds juicy). Whether we experience ‘the real thing’ or an enactment perhaps it is what we bring into the auditorium-embedded memories, attitudes from past narratives worn, discarded, patched and re-worked, that matters most.
Projecting my own baggage onto the other oldies who made up about eighty percent of the audience, every Stones sound is like turning the pages of a scrapbook. ‘Street Fighting Man’ links to various protest memories, as well as to actual street fights for some… Lets Spend the Night Together… well, mind yer bizness. Jumping Jack Flash… more for the drug involved… Sympathy for the Devil — forever linked to the Kennedy assassinations , the Vietnam War and Altamont. Who is the Mick Jagger we have lived with for five decades anyway?
Every generation interprets trickster anew says Paul Radin. How is history written asked John Cage ..”You have to invent it” he is told. And so, are we the audience or are we part of a re-enactment — part of the cast?
The twenty somethings congregated at the front and very back of the auditorium and danced from the very beginning til probably well past the end. Did they hear Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry from the records 18 yr old Mick had under his arm when his childhood friend Keith ran into him on platform 2 at Dartford railway station? Were they re-enacting toned down Stones infatuation scenes from the past five decades for us, for themselves, or because even with replicas and 200 oldies around, this is the story when this Keith gets into it, this Charlie`s happy and this Mick is wailin’ an prancing.
Many of the scrapbook pages have faded into cliché, but I think of the first kid I knew with long hair who just couldn’t be shaken by old men telling him he looked like a girl.  One of my friends crooning “I’m a king bee, buzzin’ around your hive”, then turning to see the teacher. “Well that may well be, but you boys need to be in the yard not hanging here on the heating pipes.” University kids in the States facing down the Ohio National Guard; Mick forever changing, getting freaky androgynous on us…Keith just laying it down… Beyond that, rhythms and riffs that go beyond words…beyond worlds…the opening bars of Honky Tonk Women or the haunting choral opening to You Can’t Always Get What You Want…and here we are on a thursday night -Contagion for a Replica…the house is rockin’ and rememberin’ all at the same time.
Most of the time we stand on the edge of the action and watch the fearless step into it… yet sometimes, sometimes we do step in. The music, the atmosphere this night brought out energy- one of Charlie’s drumsticks was hijacked, Mick’s tambourine was surrendered… the stage was open for whatever would arise. Last week saying no to the 1,000 lashes for Raif Badawi a critic of the government in Saudi Arabia I posted my letter to King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. I wrote the return address good and clear..the poem inside..” this holding your heart in my heart..can it hold?“ Are Mick and Keith..and that other Keith. ‘mad Mooney’ from the Who..was he with me, throwing in extra beats, kicking his drums off the stage? And who is replicating The Dalai Lama, Buddha, Thich Nhat Hanh in my world?
And so, all day and night for two days… the beats keep going, the riffs, the lyrics…
Was it only me or did we just do art together? Was it action art, a close cousin of installation art, art intervention, the happenings of the sixties? Or even for some who stayed in their seats did I sense a faint tang of transgressive art in the air — the art that pushes back against unilateral power, paternalism, order at all cost, art that can get you locked up. It has been said that powerful institutions have allowed carnival to come out and dance briefly as a release valve when human feelings at odds with their world. When Jagger was young carnival came out, and getting it back into the bottle was a bit tricky. Even today Sir Mick might just pop the cork. Even Hot Rocks can give you a burn or an itch.
It has been said that trickster coyote knows a trap for what it is- that he has been known to spring them, steal the meat, and piss on the trap. Hot Rocks you came close enough…
(Brian Sumner lives and daydreams in Revelstoke where the sound of coyotes is usually in the distance).