Tribute bands occupy a unique territory in the music scene. To some, they’re the welcome embodiment of their nostalgia. To others, they’re just a bunch of actors with instruments, who don’t engage in the songwriting and composing that define “serious” musicians. The latter is a stigma that the Red Not Chili Peppers believe can be cleared up as more of a misunderstanding once you attend one of their shows, such as this Friday’s at the State Theatre.
“My perception completely changed when I joined the band. I know how hard it is,” said band member and manager Paul Moffat, who transforms into the famous Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist, Flea, on stage. “I’ve had to learn 80 songs, note for note, while also being able to improv over it. We’ve got to play so well that people can walk in, close their eyes and think they’re hearing the Red Hot Chili Peppers.”
This is coming from someone who has been on the outside looking in. Moffat was a bassist in another band before joining the Not Chili Peppers about six years ago. The tribute group had started during the craze’s genesis in the late 2000s, but frequent turnover — seven different drummers, seven different guitar players and even eight different singers — had the band constantly trying to find itself.
It’s a challenge to do that when the Not Chili Peppers are also trying to find out how to best represent the actual Chili Peppers. The band has been around since 1983 and its music has evolved throughout the decades. Moffat said the tribute group tries to focus on the eras that started with Mother’s Milk (1989) and ended with Stadium Arcadium (2006) in their performances, where the sound went from fast, funky and punk-ish to arena rock. But it’s less about being carbon copies of the original band and more about bringing their spirit to the stage.
“There are some tribute bands that are excellent at what they do. But what they do is imitate the band,” Moffat said. “We don’t do that. We try and do everything we can to emulate the live energy and just the feeling that you would get at a Red Hot Chili Peppers show.”
The Not Chili Peppers seem to have some influence. According to Moffat, they’re the only nationally touring tribute act to the original Chili Peppers band. So when they come to town and a member gets sick or has to miss a few shows, they know most of the regional Chili Peppers tribute acts they can recruit from to fill in with them.
Despite their success, Moffat said that they’ve never been contacted by the group itself. Likely because people can still see the Chili Peppers touring; however, not in nearly three years. Moffat believes the tribute act is a way to bring attention back to the group that has inspired such a devout following.
“Every one of our shows, we’re reminding the 400 or 500 people that are out there that that’s an amazing band,” Moffat said. “When they come through, and they’re two hours away, and you have a chance to go see them, you should because that’s how good they are.”
Giving Flea a handshake or a hug is still on Moffat’s bucket list. After all that he’s done to inspire the tribute band’s bassist, he feels it’s the right reaction. And who knows — he could look out into the crowd one day and see that familiar, gap-toothed smile gazing back at him.
The Red Not Chili Peppers will be performing at the State Theatre on Friday, Aug. 27 at 8 p.m. Note: All of the State Theatre indoor shows require a proof of vaccination (original card or picture is sufficient), or a negative Covid-19 test that is no more than 72 hours old for entry. For more information on tickets or Covid protocols, visit thestatetheatre.com or call 703-237-0300.