Festival preview: Fake Festivals at Otley and Roundhay Park, Leeds

Kazabian are playing at Fake Festivals.
Kazabian are playing at Fake Festivals.
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The covers band has an honourable place in pop music, dating back 50 years or more, but in the last decade or so a string of groups have taken the art of paying homage to well-known acts to a whole new level.

While the likes of The Bootleg Beatles and The Australian Pink Floyd Show can now fill arenas with their shows, another set of tribute bands will be spending this summer playing at Fake Festivals around the country.

The phenomenon is so popular that there are now ten of them in Yorkshire alone this year.

Fake Festivals are the brainchild of 43-year-old Jez Lee, who staged the first one in the Lincolnshire town of Haxey in 2007.

“At the time I ran a look-alike agency and a tribute band agency,” he says. “Back in the old days there used to be a carnival [in the town] but we don’t tend to do that these days, so I thought I’d tap into that market. Instead of doing old-fashioned cake stalls I thought I’d use the knowledge I had and put on tribute bands.”

The inaugural event proved such a success that Lee decided to “roll out” the format to seven events the following year. Between May to September this year there will be 30 Fake Festivals, each attracting 1,500 to 2,000 people. The price of a ticket for one event also entitles fans to free admission to the ‘Big Fake Festival’ at Thoresby Park in Newark from September 4-6.

“I franchised the model,” says Lee. “I have a blueprint. Every festival is identical, the only thing that changes is the location and the acts. We have our own lighting and stage and bar and we get people in different parts of the country to become licensees.”

In return for a fee to use the Fake Festivals company’s rig and staff, the licencees get to keep money from ticket sales.

To maintain a consistent “atmosphere and feel” throughout the festivals Lee works within tight rules. “I run a very close-knit family of focused professionals – the same crew, medical team, toilets, security – and there’s a roster of 20 bands. It’s quality controlled.”

Each Fake Festival has three headline acts – this Saturday Wharfemeadows Park in Otley it’s Musest, Really Hot Chili Peppers and The Prodigy tribute band Jilted Generation; at Roundhay Park on June 13 it’ll be Four Fighters, New2 and Total Stone Roses. Supporting them at each event will be five up-and-coming local groups.

Iain Angus has been performing at Fake Festivals with his band Four Fighters since 2008. An experienced musician, who’d found himself “slightly jaded” with trying to earn a living in the music business after a decade playing original songs with the Bradford group Aurora, he initially started doing cover versions of Foo Fighters songs “for fun”. He subsequently formed Four Fighters in 2003 and is now the licensee for Fake Festivals in Skipton and Roundhay Park, Leeds.

“People on limited budgets can’t afford to see their favourite band as much as they would like, so it’s filling a bit of a void,” he says of Fake Festivals’ growing appeal.

Eddy Anderson, from Leeds, joined Hull-based Kasabian tribute band Kazabian three years ago. They’re much in demand and have even been endorsed by Tom Meighan and Serge Pizzorno of the real-life Kasabian.

From the perspective of a jobbing musician, the Fake Festivals tour offers a great opportunity to live the dream a little. “We all did original bands as best we could it’s hard to be successful,” Anderson says. “To now be able to perform to big crowds most weeks is amazing.”

For full details visit www.fakefestivals.co.uk or https://www.facebook.com/fakefestivals