“People just can’t get enough Bruce Springsteen,” said Don Denaburg last Saturday night, about 20 hours after The Boss played to a near-capacity crowd at the Rogers Centre. “Whenever I see him, I think, ‘Where is he playing tomorrow?’”
The answer, after Friday’s three-hour-and-45-minute long gig, was the Mod Club. Sort of.
Denaburg’s River Street Band, a local Springsteen tribute act with 30 years of experience, recreated the previous evening’s performance on a small scale, offering half-price admission to those with ticket stubs from the real Springsteen gig. Of the Boss’ 40,000-strong crowd, about 25 came to hear Denaburg’s eight-piece band.
It sounds like a crazy business model, but it’s worked for Denaburg before: When Bruce does well, so does his faux-Bruce.
Founded in 1982, the River Street Band was once a full-time job. “Springsteen was so huge in ’84 and ’85 that we made a living off of it,” said Denaburg. “That’s how I bought a house.”
The band amassed a huge college fan base hungry for Springsteen. “People followed us like we were the Grateful Dead,” reminisced George Christie, the band’s former keyboard player, about their cross-Canada tours.
But the ’90s saw Springsteen become less fashionable, with the poorly received Human Touch and Lucky Town albums. Audiences got “Springsteened out,” according to Denaburg, which meant the band was forced to get day jobs, among others, law clerks and record-store employees. Denaburg attended Boston’s Berklee College of Music.
Encouraged by the past decade’s renewed appreciation for the Boss (thanks to nods from the likes of Arcade Fire), the River Street Band returned in 2006, minus Christie. Now, Denaburg hopes he, too, can be cool (and profitable) again.
“We’re looking at a resurgence,” said the band’s agent Elaine Huras. “There’s a demand for the music.”
Christie, meanwhile, seemed nostalgic for the rock ’n’ roll life. “Who knows,” he said, eyeing the old—and young—fans milling about the room. “Maybe I’ll rejoin.”