There’s never been anybody like Prince, says Julian Stefoni. And he’d know, because Stefoni heads up Erotic City, a Portland-based Prince tribute band.
The first time Stefoni experienced Prince was back in ’79 or ’80, he recalls. Believe it or not, Prince was the opening act for another artist. “When you get to see the person live,” Stefoni says, “it changes your whole perspective.”
Back then Prince was a lot more controversial, Stefoni goes on. Sexual and transgressive, yes — but, most of all, Stefoni respected the late pop star’s skill as a multi-instrumentalist. He was one of a kind, but also familiar — the Little Richard look, the Jimi Hendrix playing, the James Brown-inspired things he did.
“He’s so different from anybody else,” Stefoni says. “Nobody looked like him, nobody sounded like him. It was untamed, the lyrics were. A lot people around the world, that’s what they connected to: This guy’s saying what we really feel.”
Some tribute acts try to replicate an artist exactly, while others aim to capture the essence of the work. Stefoni says Erotic City does a little of both.
“I can copy signature things,” he explains. “I can throw in that James Brown stuff Prince does. Other parts of the show, I can give people the excitement, energy and essence.”
With a five-piece band, Erotic City plays songs from throughout Prince’s career, hits as well as deep cuts. But a five-piece sounds like an eight-piece, Stefoni says, “because of how we arrange the music.”
“As soon as the first note hits,” he says, “everyone’s excited. You want to give them that ultimate experience. We rock it hard. All night long.”
The Erotic City Prince Tribute is 8 pm Saturday, Dec. 15, at Blairally Vintage Arcade; $10, 21-plus.