By Dave Pehling

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A trio of headbanging cover bands gather in San Francisco Saturday night to entertain hard rock and metal fans when renowned Metallica tribute Masters of Puppets plays with local heavy hitters The Butlers and ’80s metal masters Union Jack and the Rippers.

Coming together to perform for active troops as a Bob Hope USO act 13 years ago in 2005, the four musicians who make up the tribute band have honed their chops and eventually became one of the most requested tribute bands by the U.S. military forces. The Los Angeles-based group would eventually decide to bring their uncanny recreation of a classic Metallica show to the public.

While the members’ respective stage names prove they have a sense of humor (singer/guitarist Harley Hetfield is joined by drummer Napster Ulrich, bassist Cliff Jason Trujillo and lead guitarist Kirk Mustaine), one listen proves the band takes its job of delivering Metallica’s sound seriously, from the Bay Area thrash icons early days up through the radio hits from the ’90s. With frontman Harley Hetfield providing a solid impersonation of his namesake’s gruff vocal style, Masters of Puppets has been hailed as a top 10 tribute band and one of the most renowned Metallica cover acts in the country. For this show, the group is joined by popular Bay Area hard-rock tribute outfit the Butlers.

Founded by guitarists Billy Rowe (a veteran of ’80s SF metal band Jetboy) and Craig Behrhorst (who played with Ruffians, another Bay Area metal act from the same era), the Butlers specialize in playing the blues-based rock songs from the ’70s that inspired their respective bands. The band is filled out by musicians who have put in time with such local institutions as thrash-metal icons Exodus and Death Angel, sleazy punk merchants American Heartbreak and hard rockers Immigrant.

The players’ collective connections in the music world also has led the band to welcoming a number of heavyweights onstage to perform, including former Ted Nugent singer Derek St. Holmes and longtime Billy Idol guitarist Steve Stevens. Frequently included on bills alongside other tribute bands, the Butlers reputation for putting on raucous, good time shows has led to  spots opening for groups like Ratt, the late guitarist Ronnie Montrose’s band Gamma and L.A. Guns. Opening Santa Rosa-based metal cover crew Union Jack and the Rippers features former Shotgun Harlot singer Dylan Waltz leading a solid five-piece band through versions of classic tunes by hitmakers like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Saxon as well as more obscure UK bands including Angel Witch and Diamond Head.

Masters Of Puppets with The Butlers
Saturday, March 10, 8 p.m. $16-$18


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