I’ve always a hard time understanding the purpose and audience for ‘tribute’ albums. Musicians who go into a studio with sole purpose of recording replicants of their favorite songs must see the world differently than the rest of us. I’m not talking about a cover band that plays a wide variety of popular hits from the past few decades. I mean the casino headlining tribute artists who recreate the experience of seeing Michael Jackson, The Beatles or Whitney Houston as if such a thing only required of a voice, a costume and a wig or two. I just didn’t get it. Perhaps I lacked the proper depth of imagination to willfully suspend my disbelief long enough to enjoy a tribute show. I mean I could slap a Corvette emblem on the hood of my Toyota Avalon and play make believe but whats the point? ‘Tribute music’ with all it’s kitsch and pageantry is perhaps the most disingenuous form of music and I place a high value on the authenticity of music and it’s creators. I want the real thing or nothing at all.
And then I saw One More Time, the worlds greatest Daft Punk tribute band.
In 2007 I was lucky enough to see Daft Punk headline Lollaplooza on their Alive tour. Believe the hype. They put on one of the greatest live sets I’ve ever seen. It was a glittering laser powered party with 80,000 people dancing together in harmony. Daft Punk has always thrived on their mystique. They haven’t made a public appearance without their helmets since the early 90s and as a result they are like the dancing robot Batmen of pop culture. Daft Punk is more than just a band, its an idea. Their commitment to the image and the visuals has been unwavering throughout their career and thats partially what makes One More Time such an effective tribute band. They are able to mimic the imagery of a Daft Punk show flawlessly, albeit on a smaller scale. The masks, the pyramid, even the red LED lined suits for the encore all are part of a One More Time Show. But their effectiveness transcends the visuals. Daft Punk’s live sets essentially consist of a live mix of different Daft Punk songs with other Daft Punk songs. Its like a Girl Talk mashup album but only with Daft Punk tunes and One More Time does the same thing, even borrowing a similar playlist to what was played during the last real Daft Punk tour. Some of their mixing is identical to the 2007 tour but they also manage to splice in some of Daft Punks newer tunes and they do so in an astoundingly fun and expertly Daft Punk kind of way. Its not quite as good as the real thing but its pretty damn close.
Still skeptical? Watch this:
Perhaps the most titillating aspect of a One More Time is the prospect of authenticity. Because the masks have effectively hid the identity of the real Daft Punk for the entirety of their career, the same question has come up both times I’ve seen the tribute bands act: what if it really is Daft Punk? Maybe out of some humble desire to stay close to the fans, the men behind the masks (Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter) have been touring for years as a tribute to their own robotic alter egos. It seems utterly ridiculous but thanks to the nearly two decades mystery cultivated by the Daft Punk, you can’t entirely rule out the idea. And it seems like everyone at a One More Time set is willfully operating under this potentially delusional notion. Its a beautiful thing to see a crowd of a few hundred people pack into a tiny club to dance with abandon and a healthy willingness to suspend disbelief.
I think its fitting that One More Time did back to back nights at Phoenix’s Crescent Ballroom as the Phoenix Comicon was happening just a few blocks away. Comicon is filled with odd and passionate individuals who seize any opportunity to dress as their favorite heroes. After all, thats all One More Time really is. Two mysterious costumed individuals pretending to be their musical heroes who just happen to be two other mysterious costumed individuals. To be a tribute artists or a cosplay aficionado is a labor of love. People don’t dress like Superman, Han Solo or Daft Punk because they believe they really are these characters. Its whimsical and cathartic to imagine you are something other than ordinary. Theres a cliche about imitation and flattery but I think theres more to it than that. Its not silly to want or imagine to have superpowers and what greater super power is there than to shower a frenetic cheering dancing club with lasers and Daft Punk music.
I saw One More Time last year and again this past weekend and though I’m in no hurry to see any other tribute artists, I will see One More Time each and every time they visit Phoenix. I know its not real but it doesn’t have to be. For all I know, they aren’t actually doing anything up in their pyramid other than hitting play on a preprogrammed set they made months ago but for a couple hours this weekend I was able to relive one of the greatest live sets I will ever see and that kind of unabashed bliss isn’t easy to come by. Who wouldn’t want to relive something like that just one more time? If One More Time ever stops by your city, check your cynicism at the door, let your imagination run wild and just make believe. Daft Punk would be proud you did.