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Tribute bands' fame is fake, the fun's genuine

March 29, 2007|Lina Lecaro | Special to The Times

WHO doesn't love tribute bands? OK, a lot of people. Seems as if half the world thinks the wigs and costumes and zany personas, if not the music, are cheesy. And the other half is in retro heaven, especially if the performers are charismatic and the covers are tight. There certainly are more of the latter on Fridays and Saturdays at the Burbank Bar & Grille. In fact, the crowds are every bit as animated for '80s band Video Star (Fridays) and multi-era wonders Decades (Saturdays) as they are in Hollywood for Metal Skool Mondays at the Key Club and the Spazzmatics Sundays at the Dragonfly.

Only this is Burbank.

Located along San Fernando Boulevard, a street dotted by eateries and shops, the 10-year-old BB&G is a place where office workers stop by after work to sip cocktails and nibble on appetizers. As the night goes on, a mix of local twenty- to fortysomethings stop in looking for dancing -- and, judging from the body language at the bar -- romancing.

There is karaoke Sundays and Thursdays, and for those who prefer a mellower vibe, owner Tom Shayman provides a patio area featuring acoustic music seven nights a week.

But it's the flashing lights and familiar anthems that burst from BB&G's corner stage that make the room hustle.

The new wave, pop and rock of the '80s still seem to be the favorite (Video Star attracts the biggest crowd), but Decades' concept is far more interesting. The band, essentially the same lineup as Friday, offers three sets sporting three distinct looks -- '70s songs complete with bell-bottoms, '80s music with Duran Duran hairdos and '90s hip-hop hits done rock 'n' roll style.

On a recent Saturday, Decades got the tiny dance floor pumping and chuckling with lots of zany repartee, particularly during the '80s set. The pouty singer applied lip gloss on stage, while the bassist cracked wise, then the group launched into the Violent Femmes' "Blister in the Sun." It's silly, but after a few beers, amusing. It would fall flat if the band weren't spot on.

Guitarist Matt Fuller, whose "real" rock band Spy Camera plays clubs like Viper Room and Safari Sam's, says it's fun to let loose in Burbank. "People from Hollywood might not come here too often," he says, "but people from all over the city do -- the Valley, Pasadena, Whittier, South Bay. It's a real mix."

Shayman says much of his daytime and early evening crowds tend to be from nearby studios: Warner Bros., Disney, DreamWorks, NBC. "After tapings, this is where they all come," he says.

And with the madcap time machine after dark, it's no wonder many come back for more.


Burbank Bar & Grille

Where: 112 N. San Fernando Blvd., Burbank

When: Open 11 a.m. to close seven days a week

What: Full dinner menu; late-night appetizers, $4 to $18; draft beer, $4; well drinks, $3

Info: (818) 848-9611;

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