Thirty years ago, musician Julian Stefoni began incorporating Prince songs into his performances — and the crowds responded in a big way.
“That was a good time, when Prince was really on the rise with his career,” Stefoni says. “I noticed that of all the songs we were doing, everybody really liked his stuff. I already had a knack for the kind of showmanship that went along with it. So I just took it further and next thing I know, it became a full-fledged tribute and I’ve been doing it ever since all over the world.”
Stefoni’s Prince tribute act, Erotic City — named after one of Prince’s songs — performs fulltime all over the country. Stefoni has two performances coming up in Bremerton: Tomorrow night, June 4, at the Redwood Theater, and June 18 at the Manette Saloon.
Getting the sound right is half the battle for Stefoni; immersing fans in the Prince experience also entails getting the look right. Stefoni bears a striking resemblance to Prince, but capturing the late singer’s flamboyant style helps cement things even further.
“Back then, I had to actually alter a lot of clothes to get the outfits, because I couldn’t afford it back then,” Stefoni says, recalling when he first started performing as Prince. “It’s not like a jeans and T-shirt type of deal, like with some of these other rockers. It’s very customized all the way. A lot of effort went into the outfits.”
Stefoni says he was lucky to have the right mix of musicianship and stage presence to pull off a tribute to a legendary performer like Prince.
Nobody can do exactly what Prince did. He’s just one of those people that came from a different planet.
“He has a very distinctive voice, and his range is very diverse,” Stefoni says. “He can hit those super high notes or he can go all the way in between. And that’s pretty rare for somebody to cover that and then cover all the other bases. Some people can either cover vocals, but they can’t cover the entertainment side. Some can be one or the other. … I was lucky enough to have the essence of having something that was close to his voice when I’m performing and close enough as a musician and entertainer at the same time.”
He isn’t afraid to add his own twist to the performance, either.
“Nobody can do exactly what Prince did,” he says. “He’s just one of those people that came from a different planet, you know? So you have to take what you can get from it and kind of add to it, to be your best. … I think with my audience, they love that I put my own energy and my own style, too. That’s what’s connecting to the audience. They love that stuff.”
One thing people should not expect at an Erotic City show is to hear carbon-copy renditions of the recorded versions Prince’s songs. When possible, Stefoni prefers to perform the live versions, which can sometimes markedly differ from the studio versions.
“I can do a song like ‘Take Me with U,’ and if you’ve ever seen him do it live during the Purple Rain concert era days, he really rocked it and funked it up, and it was just incredible,” he says. “And I’m like, ‘Wow, I don’t see any other people doing it like that. I wanna do it like that.’ And people love it. It takes it from zero to a hundred as far as the excitement in the room.”
Performing Erotic City fulltime is rewarding, but it can be a lot of work, Stefoni says.
“It’s like salt and sugar,” he says with a laugh. “It’s grueling, but if you love what you do and the passion is there, then it doesn’t seem like work. It just seems like, hey, I gotta go from that city to that city, but once you’re there and you’re rocking with that crowd, you’re not thinking about work anymore. You’re just thinking about the purpose of what you’re doing it for, and that’s where it is for me. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Erotic City performances
Catch Erotic City live at one of two Bremerton shows:
- 9 p.m., June 4, at the Redwood Theater (in the Tracyton Movie House), NE Riddell Road, Bremerton. Tickets are $13.76. Buy them here.
- 9 p.m., June 18, at the Manette Saloon, 2113 E. 11th St., Bremerton. 21+. Tickets are $10 at the door.
If you can’t catch either of the Bremerton shows, Erotic City is also performing 9 p.m., June 10, at Jazzbones, 2803 6th Ave., Tacoma. 21+, doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20-25. Buy them here.
The band will be back in Bremerton Sept. 4 to perform at the Blackberry Festival.