Mike Cooper has never stopped believin’.
The bass player for Infinite Journey, a Dallas-based Journey tribute band, vividly remembers the passion he had in the 1980s for the hit-making rockers.
Cooper would put Escape, Journey’s chart-topping 1981 album, on the turntable, pick up his guitar and try to figure out the chords to such songs as Don’t Stop Believin’, Stone in Love and Open Arms.
And all the while, he would fantasize about maybe playing someday alongside his musical heroes.
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“The dream as a kid was, I’m at a Journey concert and they say, ‘Hey, Mike, come up onstage and play Stone in Love with us,’ ” he says. “Stone in Love has always been one of my favorites, because there’s a pretty sweet bass solo, which you don’t get many of, so it’s a fun song for me, being a bass player.”
Cooper had VIP tickets to see Journey in concert when they visited Dallas in May. Alas, there was no invitation that night.
But that’s pretty much the only part of the dream that hasn’t been realized.
Infinite Journey — a five-member band: Cooper, Donovan Duke (lead vocals), Paul Bullock (guitar), John Arnett (drums) and Bill Cuffey (keyboards) — has been performing Journey’s music in high-energy shows throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area since 2012.
Now the guys are about to get their moment on the national stage.
Infinite Journey is one of 10 groups from across the country being showcased this season on The World’s Greatest Tribute Bands. The band’s concert from the famous Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood will air live at 9 p.m. Nov. 2 on AXS TV.
The network’s concert series, hosted by Katie Daryl (former co-host of The Mark Cuban Show in Dallas), is now in its seventh season and hasn’t come close to running out of worthy bands to spotlight.
This year’s eclectic lineup includes David Brighton’s Space Oddity, a Los Angeles-based David Bowie act; Sounds of Summer, an Indiana-based Beach Boys group; Adventures in Parrotdise, a Las Vegas-based Jimmy Buffett act; and Kiss the Sky, a New York-based Jimi Hendrix tribute.
In past seasons, Greatest Tribute Bands showcased such North Texas acts as Rhymin’ N Stealin’ (a tribute to the Beastie Boys), Blaze of Glory (Bon Jovi) and Back in Black (AC/DC).
“We’ve played with a lot of the local bands who have been on previous seasons and we’re friends with those guys,” says Cooper, who submitted the band for consideration in August 2015, then got the good news in May of this year. “It’s an incredible honor to be chosen for this, too.”
So what was it about Journey, out of all the bands in all the history of rock music, that spoke to Cooper and the others to the degree that they’d want to cover those specific songs?
“For me, it was just the absolute love for the music,” Cooper says. “I grew up with it. It was always part of my life. I was a huge fan. I still am. Is the word ‘worship’ the appropriate word?
“Whatever kind of mood you were in, if you were in a rocking mood or a ballad mood, that was what Journey brought to the public.”
Infinite Journey goes to great pains to match its versions of Wheel in the Sky, Any Way You Want It, Who’s Crying Now and Separate Ways as Faithfully as possible to the original records.
“Every time we play, we get people who come up to us and say, ‘I closed my eyes and it felt like Journey was in front of me,’ which is the greatest compliment we can ever get,” Cooper says.
Even though Journey is still rocking to this day, the era that Infinite Journey focuses on hardest is the 1980s era, when Steve Perry was the lead vocalist and the radio airplay was at its peak.
It’s worth noting, by the way, that Cooper hasn’t stopped believing in his teenage fantasy of being called up onstage to play with the band.
After all, Journey guitarist Neal Schon auditioned Arnel Pineda, the band’s current lead singer, after seeing YouTube videos in which he sang covers of Journey songs. So, it can happen.
In the meantime, back in the real world, Cooper and the guys are planning to deliver an audience-pleasing lineup of their favorite band’s greatest hits.
“Journey has referenced it as their ‘dirty dozen,’ the 12 songs they always have to put in the set list,” Cooper says. “You have to put in Don’t Stop Believin’. That song really strikes a chord with folks. The fans also love Any Way You Want It and Separate Ways and Faithfully.
“When I was going over the set list with Katie, I asked her, ‘What do you think are the go-to songs that we have to make sure we put in?’ She listed nine of the dirty dozen, so that’s exactly what we’ll do.
“It’ll be hit after hit after hit after hit for the hour that we’re on.”
‘The World’s Greatest Tribute Bands’
- 9 p.m. Wednesday
- AXS TV