On the classic track

Canadian rockers come together to pay tribute to classic rock legends

Though Tommy Youngsteen is only playing shows around Ontario, its members have played shows all around the world, opening for bands like the Rolling Stones and AC/DC.
Though Tommy Youngsteen is only playing shows around Ontario, its members have played shows all around the world, opening for bands like the Rolling Stones and AC/DC.

An evening in, playing music with Montreal musicians from the Stills, the Sam Roberts Band and Stars turned into the start of a seven-person cover band.

Tommy Youngsteen & the Million Dollar Band features a seven-piece act that strictly plays a set of Tom Petty, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen classics.

“We were sitting around and having a few beers,” guitarist and vocalist Alan Snoddy, a former Stars guitarist, said. “Just playing, and I kind of had the idea that we should try a show out or something like that.” The band debuted at Toronto’s Dakota Tavern in December 2010. Since then, they’ve been bouncing between shows in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa with a few in Kingston and Waterloo.

The classic rock covers don’t stray far from the original tracks. Snoddy said they focus more on emulating, not interpreting.

“We might arrange them slightly differently, like the Neil Young stuff we might stretch out,” he said. “[But] it’s pretty well note for note.”

Guitarist Greg Paquet and the band’s bassist Tim Fletcher are former members of the Stills. The Stills stopped recording music, allowing them time for other endeavours. The cover band’s drummer, Josh Trager, plays with the Sam Roberts Band, which takes priority over the tribute act.

“[The band] is more just for fun,” Snoddy said. “I think everybody would do it as long as people were interested in seeing it, but it revolves around everyone else’s schedules and priorities, like Sam Roberts and the other bands.”

Saxophone player Erik Hove, guitarist Graham Playford and keyboardist Greg MacDonald also have big resumes — Hove is a member of the turntable-jazz group Soundclash, Playford is a soloist and MacDonald is a member of Canadian band Sloan.

Despite having a veteran roster, egos and opinions aren’t a problem, Snoddy said.

“Nobody’s really in charge. Sometimes someone will want to do one song and someone won’t want to do another song so you have to compromise,” he said. “They say the best kind of compromise is when everyone is equally dissatisfied. That’s sort of how it goes.”

Tommy Youngsteen sticks to early work by Petty, Young and Springsteen. The most recent songs on the band’s setlist are Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” (1993), Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” (1989) and Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” (1984).

With shows featuring old songs by recent rock stars, the crowd tends to vary. Snoddy said they attract an older audience who come out for familiar music. Younger fans often are interested because of the connection with their other bands. One fan in particular has been following the band from show to show.

“I’ve never spoken to him but he’s there everytime in front,” he said. “He’s sort of like a big football player kind of guy. He was in Ottawa, Toronto, he was in Kingston, and he just turned up every single night with a Bruce Springsteen concert shirt on.”

Tommy Youngsteen plays the Mansion tonight at 9 p.m.

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