Published July 11, 2019 by Tom Porter

Musical Replay: Bowdoin’s McMullen Explores Tribute Band Phenomenon

Whether it’s Nervana (for Nirvana), Brit Floyd (for Pink Floyd), or, less obviously Zoso (Led Zeppelin), tribute bands are big business on the world stage, even if they lack the pulling power of the original acts.


According to a recent BBC article, outdoor music festivals showcasing tribute bands have sprung up in Europe and the US over the past five years, generating about $30 million or more each year. It’s a trend explored by Associate Professor of Music Tracy McMullen in her latest book Haunthenticity: Musical Replay and the Fear of the Real (Wesleyan University Press, 2019).

McMullen, a saxophonist, composer, and scholar of American vernacular music, draws on philosophy, psychology, musicology, performance studies, and popular music studies in order to analyze the rise of obsessively precise live musical reenactments in the US over last couple of decades.

This practice of cloning the musical past she terms “Replay,” and argues that it’s a symptom of the deep-seated fears people have regarding the fleeting nature of identity.