“I can’t stand tribute bands. It’s nice, bless ’em, but it’s not right. They can’t capture the right spirit. You never see a tribute comedian, a tribute Les Dawson.”
Dave Davies (The Kinks)
The tribute act business–as we call it in this country–is not limited to our borders. In fact, it is international. What has also changed is the target audience for tribute acts; it is no longer just older and classic groups, it now includes the young stars of today. Sure, depending on where you live we all have heard of some of the better tribute acts out there and there are some good ones like Bruce In The USA (impersonating Bruce Springsteen) and Led Zepagain (impersonating Led Zeppelin). However, again, the younger and current stars of today are also being tributed and one of the more interesting tribute acts around started three years ago with a Facebook post that simply read: “I’m looking for boys who look like Niall, Liam, Harry, and Louis.” Alongside the post was a photo of the world famous pop band, One Direction. The author? A Mexican talent agency by the name of Imitators Top which was started by Israel Carreño and Karla Magaña in 2012. Imitators Top is a Mexican agency representing impersonators of some of the biggest pop stars including Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, Five Seconds of Summer, and, One Direction.
Eventually, to play the part of One Direction the company recruited Bernardo Méndez (he plays Niall Horan and he is 17), Dylan de Jossineau (he plays Liam Payne and he is 18), Brandon González (he plays Louis Tomlinson and he is 17), Israel Carreño (he plays Zayn Malik and he is 23), and, Rudy Jaramillo (he plays Harry Styles and he is 20). (All the impersonators are shown in the above picture except Jaramillo).
Editor’s Note: For those of you who are non-Directioner’s, the actual group is now made up of 4 members (Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, and, Louis Tomlinson) as the 5th member, Zayn Malik, left the group in 2015. One Direction is also currently on hiatus for an unspecified duration.
What makes this agency and this particular act interesting is their ability to target and cultivate a unique portion of the Mexican youth population whether it be a via a concert or private party; a population that is starved for more 1D. Consider this. During their 2013 tour (Take Me Home) One Direction played two shows in Mexico City to sold-out crowds of 108,050 per show. Point being there is a young market for this act in Mexico and if they one could even capture a minor fraction of the real deal, it would be a good thing.
Enter Juan Direcshon, Imitators Top creation and tribute act to One Direction. As to the group’s impetus, Carreño (a co-founder of Imitators Top) had this to say:
“We realized no one else was offering that kind of service in Mexico. I had some savings that I wanted to invest in something, so we decided to put together a One Direction wardrobe.”
As the story goes, Carreño eventually settled on a 1D lineup which was followed by a failed demo video. However, the group caught a break when they performed at Expo 15 which is a trade show that caters to aquinceañera parties (this is signified by a girl’s fifteenth birthday and her transition from childhood to adulthood and it typically involves a mass followed by a party). According to Carreño after that performance “we booked 40 shows after that.” However, that was not the end of it. More rough patches and tough times followed which led Carreño to find and field the current lineup. Along with that came changes which he described as follows:
“We would study the [1D] videos relentlessly. We watched the movie, like, twelve times. And each of us just focused on copying our characters—from their moves on stage to the way they engage with one another.”
With more shows came success. Some of that started with a photo taken of the group with a young girl that went viral. What also followed was an explosion of followers on Facebook. Of course and as to be expected, ridicule, trolling, and nasty comments also came with the territory. (It would logically follow that if the actual group is ridiculed why would a tribute act not be subject to the same treatment?). However, the group kept plugging along and as evidenced by their recent promo poster for an upcoming show (shown below), they have come a long way towards impersonating the real thing.
Today, Carreño feels good about Juan Direcshon. As he puts it:
“We’re the only ones who offer this kind of service in Mexico—especially when it comes to One Direction impersonators. If you google “One Direction impersonators Mexico,” you’ll find twenty ads and all of them are ours. There is simply no competition.”
In the end, the tribute act business is a hard one. No doubt your audience will demand authenticity from the way you sound to the way you look and the way you act. Considering the emphasis that younger audiences will put on the artist’s appearance as in the case of a One Direction tribute act, that’s a tall order. Despite that, whatever ridicule they get or success they achieve, Juan Direcshon at least deserves an “A+” for effort.