No Sleep Till Laughlin

The Brass Monkeys are picking up where the Beastie Boys left off, keeping the legacy of the music alive in their tribute to the veteran hip hop group.
Based in Seattle and comprised of professional musicians, the Brass Monkeys recreate the look, feel and sound of the Beastie Boys with their three MCs and one DJ who join with audiences everywhere to continue to “fight for their right to party.”
From the late ’70s to 2004, the Beastie Boys were one of the longest-lived rap groups worldwide with more than seven platinum-selling albums in their arsenal. Based in New York City, and formed in 1979, the guys consisted of Michael “Mike D” Diamond (vocals, drums), Adam “MCA” Yauch (vocals, bass) and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz (vocals, guitar).
Starting out as a punk band, the Beastie Boys made a full transition to hip hop, releasing a string of successful singles. They toured with Madonna in 1985 and a year later released their debut album Licensed to Ill. The Beastie Boys have sold 26 million records in the U.S. and 50 million records worldwide, making them, according to Billboard, the biggest-selling rap group since the magazine began recording sales data in 1991.
They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 2012, “just the third rap group to enter the Hall, after Run–D.M.C. (2009) and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (2007).” The following month, MCA died of cancer.
“The Beastie Boys were a very cross generational group,” said Sean Jones, of the Brass Monkeys tribute group. The guys are coming to the Tropicana Laughlin on Saturday, May 26.
“The group we have playing at the Tropicana is a bit stripped down from our normal group because of the travel aspect,” he said. “It will be just the three MCs and the DJ, which is how the Beastie Boys typically performed anyway.
“What happened was most of us were in an original music band performing up in Seattle for many years, with a mixed amount of success, but always having a good time. Then one of the Beastie Boys, MCA, passed away some years ago.
“When that happened, our original music group decided to do a tribute to the Beastie Boys and to him,” he added. “So we covered a Beastie Boys song at our performance, and it was like people loved it and it was really fun to do. At that point, the idea came up, ‘hey, why don’t we spin this off and do an entire Beastie Boys tribute group,’ which we did at that point.
“We started with short sets basically opening for our other band — and it became much more popular than our own music,” he laughs. “So we kind of dove all into it and it’s been good.
While most of the transition was easy vocally and logistically, there were challenges.
“It was challenging to learn the songs,” Jones said. “I mean, there are lots of lyrics. Some of the songs have really complex interplay in between the different MCs and it’s hard to even figure out who’s rapping which line. So mapping a lot of that stuff out at first and learning it was very difficult. But now that we know the music, it’s just really a good time. We try to be as faithful as we can to the Beastie Boys look and sound. I think if you check out the pictures of the members and when you hear us perform on stage, it’s like really quite a close reproduction to the actual Beastie Boys.”
The Brass Monkeys are well aware there are other Beastie Boys tributes out there, but these guys have done their homework and pride themselves on getting it right.
“We were really flattered and honored when the booking agent called about the Tropicana Laughlin because he said there were Beastie Boys groups based in L.A., and other ones he had found, and that he thought we were the closest reproduction in both the sound and the look of our group. So he wanted to pay the extra expense to bring us there. So that was really cool to hear.
“I looked at videos here and there of the other groups, and not saying anything bad about what they’re doing, but the thing that stood out at me right away was just the closeness as far as the sound of our voices to what the Beastie Boys do. The other groups I saw were doing a great job with the lyrics, they have great costumes and all of that, but it was like they were rapping their own voices whereas we, from the beginning said, ‘let’s sound exactly like the actual Beastie Boys.’
“They’re weird voices, too,” he added. ‘We got lucky because we can actually pull it off. The guy who does MCA, which is that low, kind of gravelly voice, that is actually how our MCA talks, so it wasn’t a stretch for him to do that. Ad-Rock, the main guy who raps ‘Sabotage,’ that’s really difficult to do. We got connected to this guy who was in a 13-piece funk band here in Seattle and he happened to love the Beastie Boys. He knew all the lyrics from day one when we started working with him and he had that voice. So we really got lucky that this group had the ability to do those voices.
“We’ve had people comment that they closed their eyes when they were in the audience and it was like no different than the Beastie Boys. And that was really cool to hear.
“Another thing that’s been funny is just about every show, we have people come up to us who said not only were they huge Beastie Boys fans and saw the Beastie Boys perform live, but we’ve gotten a ton of stories of people who have actually hung out or have had some sort of inter-personal experience with the Beastie Boys and those are really fun to hear. Just with that many people who had an actual experience directly with the Beastie Boys where they went bowling or something like that, you can tell those guys were really generous with their time and really wanted to have a real relationship with their fans.
“They really had a tremendous career to span something like 30 years of actively writing and performing music — that is a very rare thing,” Jones added. “We are a close match to going to an actual Beastie Boys show. We put a lot of energy and movement into the set, we’re moving around like mad men up there.”
“We were a rowdy group even before we started doing this run,” Jones said. “We’re not troublemakers by any means, but that whole Beastie Boys mentality, ‘oh we gotta party, we gotta rock,’ our group is kind of naturally that way. So it’s a good fit.”
So, if you want to party and rock, this could very well be the show to catch.


THE BRASS MONKEYS

The Pavilion Theater within the Tropicana

Saturday, May 26 (8 p.m.)

See “Showtimes” for tickets