Relix Magazine
"Top Tribute Bands In The U.S."

Live Nation
"Nation's most successful Dave Matthews Tribute"


Trippin Billies Marvel At Band's Success
Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011 9:00 am 
By Dan Craft : The Pantagraph : Bloomington, IL

          The Trippin Billies, who scored the Castle Theatre's first sell-out in its first year, return for a Halloween weekend encore Saturday night.

Laboratory tests may not have proved it -- yet -- but it's a fact of sonic life: When Grant Chinouth's vocal cords channel Dave Matthews, it might as well be Dave himself.



Distinctions probably could be made if you traveled far enough, say down to the subatomic level.



But when Chinouth takes the stage of Bloomington's Castle Theatre Saturday night for the second time this year, it's a safe bet even the staunchest Matthews follower would be hard-pressed to prove that one hasn't been cloned from the other (head to for an instant ear-byte.)



The occasion is a back-by-popular-demand show for the Trippin Billies, first and (most critics agree) best of the Dave Matthews Band tribute groups.



How popular?



"They were a real surprise for us," notes the Castle's Mark Anderson. "We knew they were going to be a popular band -- but the response was overwhelming. They were the first time we sold out and had to bar the doors."



Out of 150-odd shows in 2010-11, the Trippin Billies was the sixth best attended -- several notches down from Snoop Dogg and Steve Earle, but ahead of presumably bigger marquee names like the Gin Blossoms, Jack Ingram, Marshall Crenshaw, Twista and Alejandro Escovedo.



In a joint interview, even lead singer Chinouth and group founder Bill Denny tend to marvel at how popular they've become over their 17-year run, just a few years shy of the Dave Matthews Band's own existence (the latter was begun in 1991; the former was already paying tribute just a few years later in Chicago's north side pubs, making it the pioneer in a now well-trod realm).



"The Midwest has been very good to us, and there are some markets that really respond," agrees Denny, B-N now included. "We clicked and really interacted with the crowd," he said of the show earlier this year.



Interestingly, Denny first crossed paths with Matthews at the dawn of the latter's career when his new band was playing Chicago's north-side Schubas Tavern.



"There were probably only 25 people there," he recalls. But Denny knew that they were onto something that would soon be big.



Which is why there was a working Dave Matthews tribute band in existence so early on in the history of the Real McCoy, with its name taken from a popular track on DM's seminal "Crash" album (it was the hit-laden package's fifth single).



"We started early, rather than wait for the band to become nostalgia," says Denny. "It was never my goal to find the most popular band out there and emulate them."



Adds Chinouth, "We were just kind of playing for beer on weekends in Chicago, and everyone I was working with kept saying I sounded like Dave Matthews."



 He didn't hear the similarity himself.



"At the end of the day, I only wanted to sound like myself -- it's just how I sing," he adds.



 Still, the uncanny skill at evoking Matthews' sound is there, along with the note-perfect support of Denny, on lead guitars and vocals; Jason Vinlaun, on fiddle; Kelsey Tarver, on drums; Marvin Little, on bass; and Steve Schnall, on sax and keyboards.



"There've been a lot Matthews tribute bands that have come along since we started the concept," admits Denny, including one actually called the Dave Matthews Tribute Band. "And a lot of them can play the music recorded on the albums."



The key to Trippin Billies' long-running success, nearly parallel to that of their inspiration: "We try to emulate the actual DMB concert experience itself. We don't go that extra step and dress like the originals, which is cool for some bands, but it's the opposite of what and who we are."



For the command return performance, all Denny and Chinouth can say is "consider the (holiday) weekend at hand."



"How could we NOT do something?" Denny continues, referencing a certain DMD tune from 1998 called, in fact, "Halloween." "Let's just say, we'll do whatever it takes."



Hopefully, he adds, "the audience will, too."



Tom Lounges
Trippin’ Through the Dave Matthews songbook…

“This writer caught Trippin' Billies this year for the first time. Though not a huge Matthews fan, I was quite impressed with the group's passion, energy, and ability to nail the songs and DMB sound.

Keeping with authenticity, the Trippin' Billies tour schedule often finds the lads performing on the same stages where early DMB bootleg tapes that Denny and his bandmates collected were actually recorded."

Jay TV
Easily earning the distinction of the nation's premier Dave Matthews Band tribute act, Trippin Billies astounds audiences. With a cast that literally reads like super group of Chicago musicians, Trippin Billies frequently sell tickets into the thousands. 

Daily Iowan
Paying a Proper Tribute

“Trippin Billies takes “cover songs” to a different level”

NWIndiana Magazine
Courtney Stewart


Long ago an acoustic duo started playing in a small Irish pub in Chicago.  Who would ever know that it would turn into one of the largest nationally touring tribute bands in the United States.  Their talent coupled with their love of performance has moved them above the bar band circuit and into concert settings.  This is not just another Dave Matthews cover band.  This is THE tribute band.  If you enjoy Dave Matthews, this is the band for you.  As close as you can get to the real thing, but at a more reasonable price and much closer to home.


Trippin Billies started in the mid nineties doing their first gig at an Irish pub in Chicago, Illinois called Durkin’s.  It was a pretty small bar that would have acoustic acts perform during the week.  They started as a duo and were playing about fifty percent Dave Matthews, but the crowd started growing larger every week and the patrons wanted more.  The band loved Dave Matthews because it was a great fit for them.  It was the music they loved, therefore they loved playing it, and of course the fans loved every minute of it.  Bill Denny (guitarist for the band), stated “It’s nice to emulate an artist that like minded people can get behind, you know, actually play music you enjoy in nice places in front of a lot of people.  It makes it good times had by all.”  When they started adding people to the band to be able to fill out the Dave sound, the whole band would be packed in this tiny corner with no stage.  The guys would actually have to get on the bar during their solos to be seen.


Trippin Billies consists of six members.  The singer or “Our Dave” as they like to call it is Chris Grant, Jason Vinluan is the violinist, Kelsey Tarver on drums, Marvin Little on bass, Steve Schnall on sax and keyboards, and Bill Denny on lead guitar and keyboards.


I asked the band, how they came up with Trippin Billies, especially since Dave Matthews has so many incredible songs.  It actually was a pretty easy choice although it didn’t come without a bit of contention.  When they became more popular, they decided to get a website, however were contacted by another band with the same name out of New York.  They eventually were able to keep the name, but the funniest thing is, it wasn’t because of the song, it was because original member Bill Denny is called Billy.


The band has become so popular because of their authenticity to Dave Matthews.  They try extremely hard to emulate him and give the fans the show that they came to see.  It also helps that they do their own booking, so it is not a super aggressive approach and they are able to go where there is demand.  Their packed shows have led to word of mouth spreading from one town to the next.  It also helps when you can pack large venues, such as the House of Blues.


The band has had many accomplishments and many firsts.  They have played from coast to coast and feel very accomplished when they are able to sell out a large venue in a new city.  They also enjoy being able to rejuvenate markets that have fallen off a bit by reinventing themselves and pushing the envelope.  They were featured in the national music publication Relix in an article about the nation’s top tribute bands and they were featured with some pretty massive bands. 


One of their major accomplishments was that they were asked to play on the infamous boat on the Chicago River in a promotion to alleviate some of the tension.  Dave Matthews was about to play in Chicago for the first time after the “tour bus river boat incident.”  It was broadcasted live on a popular radio station and was covered by every major affiliate from NBC to CBS and got picked up as a snippet on the national news.  This concert was at 8am in the morning, so imagine everyone walking to work in the loop stopping to watch a hundred people dancing on top of a boat drinking margaritas.  They have been in a couple books about the Dave Matthews band.  However, their biggest accomplishment by far is simply the longevity of the band.  There are so many other tributes out there and so many just to the Dave Matthews Band, that the band takes great pride when a venue calls and says, “Oops, I hired the wrong one, how soon can you get here.”


Whether you are seeing Trippin Billies at a packed show at the House of Blues or at a packed show at your smaller neighborhood bar, their show is as great as the real thing.  For those of you who missed their last local show or prefer something a bit more intimate than a sold out theatre or the street festivals that are about to begin, the guys will be playing at the Tequila Roadhouse in Alsip, Illinois on Saturday March 6 and Northwood’s in St. John, Indiana on Saturday March 13.


Jay TV
Oct 2000
Easily earning the distinction of the nation's premier Dave Matthews Band tribute act, Trippin Billies astounds audiences. With a cast that literally reads like super group of Chicago musicians, Trippin Billies frequently sell tickets into the thousands. 

River City Times
Trippin” Billies Bringing You Some Dave Matthews!
May 6, 2010

The Trippin Billies take the stage Saturday May 8th at Crusens II on Farmington Road.

Bringing the nations Dave Matthews for almost fifteen years.

Born in the pubs on the north side of Chicago, reminiscent of Luther’s College, Trippin Billies took to the “stages” of these small rooms in the early nineties as an acoustic duo. It wasn’t long before lines grew to long for the small bars and calls started coming in from around the Midwest. As a result the band was forced to rise to the occasion, and they’ve done just that. Having the luxury of living in a city called home to many great musicians, Trippin Billies is comprised of some of Chicago’s best. This talent coupled with their mutual love of high-energy performance has moved them above the bar band circuit and into concert settings.  Whether it’s a club in Iowa City, a Hockey arena in North Dakota or a summer festival in Rochester, New York or Lincoln Nebraska, the show is always the same, just that, a show. 

Their tour schedules have come to resemble that of the Dave Matthews Band before their ascension to their current status.  Midsize venues sell out consistently across the country and the famous theatres whose names were once inked on the cover of DMB boot legs listened to by the band, now comprise the tour schedule of Trippin Billies.  The theatres they once approached with trepidation and awe have now come to feel like home. 

Talent buyers need only contact the agent and request Pollstar box office summaries to see the drawing power of Trippin Billes.  Many DMB tributes have come and gone but none have become such a permanent facet of the Dave Matthews band movement and for that they are extremely grateful.  The idea was to amass the six best musicians and create a concert atmosphere that leaves people with dropped jaws, eagerly waiting until the next appearance.  They feel they have done just that.  Crowds keep growing… sound engineers vie for a chance to mix… calls from all over the US come in and people hit the website so much that the emailer doubles itself every few months.  Trippin Billies is grateful to fans, intuitive agents and to Dave himself for helping to draw attention to their efforts in national publications.  Hopefully they’ll see you out on the road. 

Who are the current members?

Grant Chinouth = lead vocals & guitar, Bill Denny = lead guitar and vocals, Jason Vinluan = violin, Kelsey Tarver = drums, Steve Schnall = saxaphons, Marvin Little = bass guitar, Dan Nickleski = head of production

How did you all get together to form the band?

The band started small almost fifteen years ago playing mostly Thursday nights in the pubs around Chicago. I was pretty shocked with how warmly the city embraced us.  Lines started to form outside the bars and before you knew it, we were booked on Fridays and Saturday nights as well.  What started as an acoustic duo was packing pretty sizable venues around the Midwest as an entire band.

What separates your band from all the other bands out there?

Well first off, we are a tribute to the Dave Matthews Band so you won’t find us deviating from his catalog too much.  There are a lot of college bands that try a DMB tune or two but for us, that’s all we do.  As far as what separates us from other Dave Matthews tributes, we hear that our shows are simply more like actual DMB shows energy wise and of course, we are the only one with an accurate musical line (up).  I guess that’s why we get calls from disgruntled venue managers and talent buyers across the country who always say the same thing, “I hired the wrong band, how soon can you get here?”

How are people currently reacting to your music? 

We feel very fortunate that it’s really positive.  We’ve been selling out some great rooms like the House of Blues in Chicago and are looking forward to our show in two weeks at a 6,500 seater in Kansas City before the festival season starts.  It’s a blast watching everyone have so much fun.

What are your goals as a band?

Right now we’re just focusing on the next show and taking it one show at a time.  We’ve got a pretty intense summer ahead of us and so we’re working on incorporating new material and the overall production, you know lighting and all that stuff.

What are your musical influences?

Everyone has pretty eclectic tastes but thankfully, everyone loves the band we’re emulating.  At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing. 

Your favorite places to play?

We consider the House of Blues Theater in Chicago our home.  We’ve done just shy of about twenty shows there.  We love all the HOB venues; they tend to be very professional.  We also love festivals where you can get as many as ten thousand people dancing away but we love the small rooms too.  We just played at a new venue in Iowa City and fans were literally on some people’s shoulders because it was so crowded.  Those are crazy nights.  There is a lot of energy in the room. 

How do you promote your music, and is it working? 

We basically promote by word of mouth.  If there is a desire by a city, a venue will step forward and work with us.  This is a littler different then some bands who do a hard sell in a market that might not be interested, go in and play an empty house and never get asked back.  Those kind of bands really tarnish the concept. 

What are you looking forward to most right now as a band? 

We think this is going to be one of our best summers yet.  We are booked just about every night that we had available so we’ll be pretty busy to say the least.  There are some pretty sizable shows as I mentioned, and well be working with some great producers so we’re saying “goodbye” to the snow and “hello” to playing in the sun. 

Feel free to do any shameless self promote or mention anything we forgot to ask you.

We’ll see everyone this Saturday @ Crusen’s and again in August when we headline the Taste of Peoria.  Be sure to check out for all of the summer’s show details!    

The Beacon News Sun-Time Media
Annie Alleman

“It really is a guaranteed audience….they always draw a crowd.

The Daily Iowan
Tony Solano
Trippin’ The Cover Fantastic 

“No need to pack into a crowded arena, wait in a long ticket-sale line or use binoculars to Hear the music of the Dvae Matthews Band…putting forth maximum energy and effort in order to electrify crowds is something Trippin Billies takes very seriously”

The Band has appeared in too many radio interviews to recall and has appeared numerous times on NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC, in dozens of markets as well as CNN. 



Ryan Simonin

Dave Matthews Band fanatics got their fill as the Trippin’ Billies put on a show that Dave Matthews himself would’ve been proud of.

The group of six has been recreating the music of the Dave Matthews Band for 15 years, and its performance Friday showed why the band has been so successful in doing so.

The band exuberated the true spirit of the Dave Matthews Band with their lively stage presence and executed the technical mastery of the band’s tunes with great detail and authenticity.

The band’s love for the Dave Matthews Band and passion for music in general really came out in its performance.

The Trippin’ Billies played DMB fan favorites such as “Crash” and “The Space Between” with absolute precision, without missing a single note.

Kelsey Tarver, the drummer for the Trippin’ Billies with 17 years of musical experience, was dynamite on the drums, especially considering how hard it has to be to recreate the work of Carter Beauford. The drums jumped out of the songs and gave the impression of being at a real Dave Matthews Band concert.

The violinist for the Trippin’ Billies, Jason Vinluan, pumped out an extraordinary violin solo when the band covered “Ants Marching” from the album “Under The Table And Dreaming.”

In fact, every song the Trippin’ Billies played was matched closely, if not completely, to the Dave Matthews Band’s original versions of their songs.

Those who were in attendance definitely enjoyed the emulation the Trippin’ Billies provided.

Though I am not the most diehard Dave Matthews fan, I would see this band again, without question, and it was definitely worth the price of admission.