O.C. Fans Go Crazy for Tribute Band Aeromyth

Chris VanDahl as Aerosmith's Steven Tyler.

Chris VanDahl can look back at the teasing he caught as a kid and laugh. Now the lead singer for the tribute band "Aeromyth," his striking appearance (dude looks like Steve Tyler) stirs sweet emotions and memories for Aerosmith fans everywhere.

VanDahl and his band mates have been playing to those fans in increasing numbers throughout the O.C. and beyond: Arbors Restaurant in Huntington Beach (Oct. 23 and Dec. 5), the Galaxy Theatre in Santa Ana (headlining Nov. 14), and Fremont Street in Las Vegas (Dec. 31, New Year's Eve). Also in November: an international gig in the Dominican Republic at Santo Domingo's Hard Rock Café.

"We give the audience the total Aerosmith experience," VanDahl says. "You're literally there."

"There" meaning back when Steven Tyler and his A-team were on top of their Top 40 game. Hits such as "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" and the rap-rock rendition of "Walk This Way" with Run-D.M.C. sealed Aerosmith's hard rock legacy. In 1998, the boys in the band gained their first number one song with "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," a track from the movie Armageddon, starring one of Tyler's daughters, Liv.

VanDahl knows Aerosmith is a tough act to follow much less emulate, which is why the Michigan native and rocker in his own right is such a stickler for details. "I bought a sewing machine and learned how to use it," said the former L.A. Guns singer. "I make all the outfits myself." Like the torso-baring two-piece Tyler wore in the "Love in the Elevator" video. "I made that one just by watching the video frame-by-frame, analyzing each angle," he said. "It had to be right." But how do those dangerously low slacks stay up? "That's what the suspenders are for."

Aeromyth was put together with the same precision, each member selected for both his talent and fit to his Aerosmith counterpart on stage. VanDahl says it's not just about being able to play the songs - most guys can do that, it's about providing the total package "to take people back to that time, that place." Neal Shelton, who performs as Aero-guitarist Brad Whitford, is also the group's manager and owner of Neal's Music in Huntington Beach.

It all makes for an entertaining and nostalgic rock mix, a combination that has propelled the popularity in recent years of tribute bands in general. With many of the original rock 'n roll groups either breaking up or breaking down, the opportunity for music lovers to see their idols live and in concert again is an irresistible draw. VanDahl believes the best part is seeing the fans relive that first-time rush. "People who see our show get up to two and a half hours of classic Aerosmith," he says. "It's really cool to be able to go out there and do it right." Even the skeptics in the crowd convert. "I've had guys come up afterwards and say, 'Thank you. We didn't think this was going to be anything but it was.'"

It's those fans, those moments, that keep their motley crew going. So far they're headed in the right direction, performing to crowds in increasing numbers, enthusiasm and age ranges, especially at the larger venues where the headcount can reach in the thousands. VanDahl enjoys those times the most, when every member of the family from granddad to grandkids can come out to rock out. "It doesn't matter if it's ten people or ten million, they're going to get the same great show," he says. "It's about homage. It's about respect."

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