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November 28, 2014

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Mock rockers of Vegas

Local tribute artists band together to expand opportunities in Entertainment Capital

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Robert “RC” Marquette stars as Kid Rock in Son of Detroit & the Twisted Vegas Band.

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Las Vegas Tribute Artists Association members

By day, Bob Lomassaro sells BMWs. By night, he’s a rocker.

Like many talented musicians in Las Vegas, Lomassaro leads a double life.

He’s been playing bass guitar since he was 12, but it always remained a hobby. “You can’t make a ton of money — there’s too much competition.”

When he moved to Vegas 10 years ago he played in garage bands to keep busy. He pushed the groups to play in casinos and other venues but found there weren’t a lot of opportunities.

So he polled the casino executives among his car customers about what they were booking.

“They said tribute bands are hottest right now as a cheap alternative to the real thing,” he says. “I asked them, ‘If you had a choice, which tribute band would you like to see?’ and almost inevitably they said Journey.”

Naturally, he formed a Journey tribute band, Line of Fire.

“But we kept running up against obstacles,” Lomassaro says. “Casinos thought the more talented acts were in Los Angeles, so they would hire an L.A. band or a Phoenix band over a local act.”

He knew that wasn’t right because there was too much talent in the Vegas music scene. He advertised on Craigslist and found that other local tribute bands were running into the same misconception.

“All of them ran up against the same obstacles — venues hire from out of state, paying more money than they would pay local bands,” Lomassaro says. “We are part of the local community, we all spend our money in the casinos for dinners, shows and slot machines. We support them, but they don’t support us.”

He gathered representatives of Vegas tribute bands at a local bar, a meeting that spawned the Las Vegas Tribute Artists Association.

“We want to correct the image that Vegas bands aren’t good enough,” says Mike Adler, who plays drums with the Fleetwood Mac tribute band Wildheart. His day job? He owns an insurance agency. “We’re trying to change the perceptions.”

The tribute band group helps the bands with marketing and sharing resources. That includes the nuts and bolts of running a band as a business — exchanging information on the best places for deals on business cards, publicity photos and recording sessions, among other expenses.

“This is not a high school battle of the bands. It’s all about helping each other,” says Dave Sitko, who plays guitar for Primal Scream, a Motley Crue tribute band. By day, he’s a union glazier. “It’s hit or miss with bands playing in bars and casinos.”

The group can put together a tribute package of two or three bands for what a venue would pay one L.A. act, Lomassaro says.

“We’re not trying to corner the market in tribute bands,” he says. “We’re just trying to show the talent is here and there’s no reason to go out of state.

“We’re all in the same boat. There is strength in numbers. We share the resources we have.”

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