Back in 2009, veteran stage performer Alistair Tober started the 1980s cover band The Young Guns, which drew a following Thursday nights at Shark's Cove in Manhattan Beach.
“We weren’t making much money, but people were calling, 'Hey, I’m getting married. I want to hire the band' ... almost every weekend we were doing something like charity and community events,” recalled Tober, a Manhattan Beach resident.
But Tober realized they could only go so far with that act, a full evening with guys in 80s costumes, after booking a wedding with a high profile wedding planner. So Tober came had an idea: how about forming another band, with suits and ties, to open for The Young Guns? That was when The VIPs Band was formed, playing anything from Frank Sinatra to Bruno Mars.
“It was hugely successful. All the guests thought they hired two bands … I thought, 'I had these two bands, why can't I develop other bands?,” Tober said.
Now his company, VIPs Entertainment, features a stable of bands that covers most genres of music. In addition to his cornerstone bands, The Young Guns and The VIPS, in which he still performs, there is Studio 54, a disco band; Members Only Yacht Club, which performs soft rock from the 70s and 80s; Come Fly With Me, a tribute to jazz, swing and big band music; Bayside High, a look back at 90s music, from Britney Spears to the Backstreet Boys; as well as British Invasion and Motown acts.
“I never had any intention in being in the wedding industry per se, but there’s great opportunities there for musicians and there’s great opportunity for people that are creative,” Tober said. “It just sort of happened. Fast forward seven years and I have a company that’s going to do 120 events this year.”
Tober is a South Bay native, born at Torrance Memorial Hospital 36 years ago. He grew up in San Pedro and attended the Hamilton High School Academy of Music and the British American Dramatic Academy before attending USC on a jazz singing scholarship. He graduated as a theater major before performing in such shows as “Rock of Ages,” “Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Grease” and “Singin' in the Rain.” He also released an album inspired by standards, “From the Start,” in 2009, and acted in TV shows from “Dexter” to “Days of Our Lives.”
Tober wanted to use some of that theater experience with his new company.
“They are machines that work because you literally are playing a role and if you can’t do the role there’s someone right there to be plugged in,” Tober said. “So why not take that concept and do it in the band form? So if I put you in a blonde wig and tights and a ripped T-shirt ... why can’t I find some awesome singers that are available and willing to work as contractors and come and do that any night of the week?”
Tober said he tries to capture that era with the performers and the costumes.
“It's really fun to play dress up,” he said. "It's the closest thing to theater.”
Most of his company's gigs are weddings, along with charity and corporate events, but The Members Only Yacht Club will perform for a public audience Friday, July 1, at the South Coast Botanical Gardens in Palos Verdes prior to a sing-a-long with the film “Pitch Perfect,” and The VIPs perform at an El Segundo Automobile Driving Museum beer tasting event Thursday, July 14.
For more information, visit bookthevips.com.