You may have heard that Donald Trump is having some trouble booking artists to play his inauguration. Jennifer Holliday, Rebecca Ferguson, KISS, Paul Anka, Céline Dion, Charlotte Church, and Andrea Bocelli are all out. Despite some urine-soaked rumors, R. Kelly was never in in the first place. RiFF RAFF said he’d do it, but as far as we know our new president isn’t interested. So far, all he’s got are Jackie Evancho, the “God Bless the USA” guy, 3 Doors Down, Sam and not Dave, a 100% nonfictional band called “The Piano Guys,” another very real trio known as “The Frontmen of Country,” and the famously incompetent restauranteur Toby Keith.
Even galas with no formal Trump affiliation are having a hard time. A Bruce Springsteen cover act called The B Street Band was scheduled to perform at the Garden State Inaugural Ball, but backed out with “respect and gratitude” for Bruce after the difference between his politics and the president-elect’s was widely discussed in the press. But Fortunately for black-tied Washingtonians and their guests, there are still plenty of dorky-as-all-get-out wedding band dudes performing at the various formal events around the city this weekend.
If you don’t belong to the class of person that regularly attends these things–lobbyist, high-level congressional staffer, big-money party donor, D-list television personality, and so on–there are a few things you should understand about inaugural galas before we go any further. Every four years, over the weekend the new president is sworn in, there are dozens of formal events around D.C., hosted as fundraisers for various state societies and other nonprofits. The vast majority of inaugural galas aren’t officially affiliated with the incoming president, and a lot of them aren’t even particularly political–they belong instead to the city’s culture of schmoozing, which knows no party lines. They’re stuffy, provincial affairs, and if anyone other than our monstrous president-elect were being inaugurated this weekend, there’s no way The B Street Band would be coming anywhere near headlines in the New York Times and New Yorker.
A paycheck is a paycheck, and we’re not here to denigrate any humble working musicians by pegging their name to Trump’s. But if we’re going to be talking so much about a handful of little-known Springsteen worshippers, we might as well survey the other acts performing around the city this weekend. Below, you’ll find an assortment of selections from the musicians and other entertainers who’ve been booked to play this year’s galas.
The Reagan Years (pictured above)
The Reagan Years, who bill themselves as “the East Coast’s original ’80s tribute band,” have one of the best names in the cover band game. According to an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, they’ll be playing “everything from A-ha’s ‘Take on Me’ to the Journey classic ‘Don’t Stop Believin” when they take the stage at the sold-out All American Inaugural Ball. Watch them doing Def Leppard, Pat Benatar, and the like in the video below.
Millennial Comedian Dan Nainan
Nainan has gotten press recently for his bizarre ongoing apparent lies about his age–he consistently promotes himself as a “millennial comedian,” but public records show his birth date as 1961. The All American Inaugural Ball, where Nainan will serve as master of ceremonies, apparently doesn’t mind. And hey–the president-elect knows a little something about stretching the truth, too.
PETA regularly hosts a gala to fund its mission against animal abuse, and this year, they’ve booked Phil Flowers, a covers singer with a sparkly jacket and fantastically bushy white eyebrows. Watch Flowers and his band rip through a medley of R&B hits below.
“A DJ playing the Frank Sinatra, Four Seasons, Whitney Houston, and other NJ legends”
After The B Street Band dropped out, the Garden State Inaugural Gala’s website was changed, with the above text swapped in. Whitney Houston is great and everything, but we can’t imagine guest of honor Chris Christie enjoys her as much as he does the Boss–even an ersatz version. That guy just can’t get a win this year.
Dark Water Rising
Dark Water Rising aren’t actually a cover band–they play originals in a genre they call “rocky soul.” The members are of Native American heritage, and they’ll be playing the Native Nations Inaugural Ball to honor Native American veterans. Hear their blues-rock jam “Backbone” below.
For the Win
For the Win, another wedding-style cover band, are performing at the Great American Inaugural Ball (not to be confused with the All American Inaugural Ball). Watching their earnest promotional video below, which features the band in Teletubbies-style costumes and dancing in front of the Capitol Building it’s hard not to imagine the bassist or keyboard player or somebody thinking to themselves, I can’t believe I signed up for this shit.
Saints of Havana
Saints of Havana, playing at the “Deplorables Nation Inaugural Ball,” bill themselves as “Nashville’s top drawing all original unsigned Country/Rock act.” We can’t verify that claim, but we’re happy to vouch for the very sensual bass face that low-end man Rey Montecristo displays at the beginning of the video below.