Most tribute bands boast that they look and act like the bands they cover, and there are more than a few Bruce Springsteen tribute bands that do just that. But for Tramps Like Us, paying tribute to the Boss and the "E" Street Band has nothing to do with appearances - it's all about the music.
"We don't do any of the banter or the stage antics or anything like that," said Mark Salore, Tramps guitarist and lead singer with Tramps, which will be playing Friday night at Phoenixville's Colonial Theatre.
Salore, 43, finds something a little fake about tribute bands that strive for perfect imitation. "It's like a Vegas show or something," he said. "If they got those guys to play in the band because they look like [Springsteen or members of the "E" Street Band], they're either not going to be great musicians, or if they are, they're not going to be as passionate about what they're doing."
Salore, who doesn't look anything like Springsteen, doesn't really sound like him either - but he prefers it that way. "Whenever I tried to really sound like him, I could do it, but I kind of felt fake doing it, trying to push the exact sound of his voice," Salore said.
"Some people have told me over the years that I should probably sound a little more like him, and in the past few years I've been trying a little harder to do that, but only to the point that I'm comfortable, and without trying to impersonate him."
Tramps Like Us began in the late '80s in New York, playing classic rock covers by a variety of artists. After being pressured by a local club owner, the band agreed to play a Springsteen-only set. The first gig was a huge success, and it's been nothing but Springsteen ever since.
With the exception of the new bass player, Jonathan Jason Sanborn, son of renowned saxophone player David Sanborn, the band's members all grew up together in New York and still live in the New York City area.
Salore, who started out as a graphic and Web site designer, is now a partner in a construction company. The other members are full-time musicians; some teach music, and all play in other acts on the side. But while many of the members have other musical projects, "it's nothing like the commitment they've made to Tramps," Salore said.
Over the last 15 or so years, Tramps has caught the attention of some pretty important people. The "E" Street Band's original drummer, Vini "Mad Dog" Lopez, has sat in with the band a few times; the band was featured in a brief segment on MTV; and Springsteen's original manager, Mike Appel, has become a fan. In fact, the band was hired to perform at Appel's son's wedding last May.
Of the 70 or so songs in Tramps' repertoire, most are from Springsteen's earlier albums, though they may play a few numbers from the Boss' new album,
, on Friday.
"It's not that I don't like the newer songs," Salore said, "but I was raised on 'Born to Run' and his earlier stuff, so I'm just more partial." His favorite songs include "Thunder Road," "Backstreets," and "Jungleland." Tramps also plays songs that only true Springsteen fans would know, like "Thundercrack."
In recent years, Salore hasn't attended many Springsteen concerts. "I could see him now, but his shows now are nothing like they were 20 years ago," Salore said. "His shows now are still great, but they're a lot more scripted. Now, you could see them once on a tour, and it would be the same two days later. Back then, when he was still trying to prove himself, his shows were more special, more magical."
Luckily for modern-day Springsteen fans, Tramps Like Us captures some of that magic and energy in its own performances. Salore feels that the music is in his blood.
In some ways, he may even be more Bruce than Bruce. Salore, who knows all the lyrics by heart, said that Springsteen himself often uses a TelePrompTer when he performs.
Where and when:
Tramps Like Us will perform Friday at 8 p.m. at the Colonial Theatre (227 Bridge St., Phoenixville).
can be bought in advance from the theater (no credit cards) or online at ticketweb.com. Prices vary between $17 and $25.50.
For more information