Stubble: How did your band, Tramps Like Us, come together?
Michael: We started the band about three or four years ago. I lived with the drummer at the time, and someone mentioned that it’d be a good idea to start a Springsteen band. My younger brother and dad are big Springsteen fans. They’re union pipe insulators and were both laid off at the time, it was kind of during the recession, so I was like well that’s what Springsteen is all about – telling the story of the blue collar worker and their stress mixed with this uplifting with his positive energy. That’s what I was feeling at the time with those guys.
When I started I wasn’t that huge of a Springsteen fan, but I’ve grown into it. My brother had a big influence on that. When we first started we played mostly the hits and stuff, now I’ve learned every single Springsteen song.
Stubble: How has the band developed over the years?
Michael: We weren’t planning to playing a lot, just one or two shows. At our first show we didn’t even have a sax player, but it went pretty well and the music sounded good. So people were like “you should do another show.” By our third show, we got our sound together. We don’t have the best musicians, we just have a lot of guy who love Springsteen and their dads love Springsteen and really, really listen to the Boss and that’s what makes us rock. We were just grooving and the music was moving us.
We started having bigger shows with more energy, like when we were at the Kitty Cat Klub and a bus of bachelor party guys unloaded and the place just went nuts. We got to play for the Vote No campaign, so we were able to support the legalization of gay marriage in Minnesota which I am proud of. We got to meet RT Rybak and Amy Klobuchar playing benefits. We’ve never really made much money, but I like to think we’ve definitely had some impact.
But back when we used to play a lot, we were getting treated as a typical cover band and I wasn’t into that. We were getting burnt out playing the same set over and over – I like concerts that have meaning. Nowadays, we don’t normally do shows, we now just do like 2-3 shows per year and try to make them meaningful. I kind of knew the guy at the VFW for this Friday and asked about a benefit. He said essentially anytime you play a show at the VFW you’re raising money for veterans which we like.
Stubble: How do you channel the Boss on stage? That seems like a big role.
Michael: I just sing and run around. No one can’t really sing exactly like him, so I just keep the energy going and try to keep the people interested. I guess I think about it in maybe the way Springsteen thinks about it – I’m trying to act like James Brown and Hank Williams and all the people Bruce tries to channel when he goes wild on stage.
I’ve also connected with his music though my father when he worked at the refinery in Coates. I have that emotional connection to my father and this whole feeling of wanting to be a musician and growing up in a small town and wanting to get out of there and be something bigger. My father’s dream of being a musician meant we were always going to different radio stations with his tape trying to get them to play it on the air. We were turned away so much. There’s a hope and dream of getting out of this life that your father wanted you to leave. Not to say that my life was as bad as as many peoples, but you want to be something different.
Stubble: Have you had any meaningful Springsteen interactions in person?
Michael: Most of us [in the band] are the kind of people who go to Springsteen concerts and cry. At the last Xcel show, I stood for so long that all of my fluid was in my legs, so I didn’t have any left to cry – maybe that was the one exception.
Springsteen has also lived a lot of different lives. I was reading his book recently learning about how he lived this life where he was dirt poor and then now he’s so loved and famous, so I think he can connect with a lot of different people that come from different places. He also cares a lot about his fans. One time, we got front row tickets through a raffle, we were just probably like five feet away from him. We had to stand for about seven hours to get there and there was this guy to my left who was fainting and Springsteen starts yelling to grab him and make sure he’s OK. He actually quit singing so he could say that. He had this connection with people because he cares, it’s kind of cool.
Stubble: Are you familiar with the other “Tramps like Us” or anyone else in the Springsteen cover band universe?
Michael: That band is like a “big” band, they probably get like $3,000 per show. We started our group without thinking we were going to get too many shows, and then these other guys had their lawyer and were like “change your name” – like, what’s the big deal? It was also kind of funny because we’d get messages from their fans like “Great job at Foxboro” and we’d be like “Oh yeah, next time we’re going to have a giraffe on stage!” They’re from Jersey, so that have that going for them. Overall, it’s whatever. Those guys are more geared towards money than anything.
Stubble: So you’re not going to be playing at inauguration anytime soon?
Michael: I wouldn’t go anywhere near a Trump rally.
Michael Anderson is the singer in the Northfield-based “Tramps Like Us” Springsteen cover band, playing a show at the Uptown VFW this Friday.
Michael’s favorite Boss album: The River
Michael’s favorite Boss song: You Can Look But You Better Not Touch
Michael’s favorite Boss quote: “The highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive / Everybody’s out on the run tonight / But there’s no place left to hide” -the whole song is amazing