It's safe to say that anyone who's ever picked up a guitar in their youth has envisioned themselves onstage, wowing crowds of thousands with electrifying riffs and solos from their favourite band's biggest hits. For guitarist Mark Harding, founder of Bon Jovi tribute act Wrong Jovi, it was a dream-come-true when he got to meet his idol, the iconic band's original guitar player Richie Sambora.
"I'd met him at a masterclass in LA, and seeing him perform, as well as meeting him, inspired me to get back into gigging again," says Mark. "Bon Jovi has always been my favourite band, and the reason why I became a musician in the first place, so it was a natural decision to say, 'I'm going to start a Bon Jovi tribute band'. The rest is history."
Taking on the role of Sambora, Mark assembled the rest of the group, which today features Ally Ward as Jon Bon Jovi on vocals, supported by some of the UK's most respected musicians. The line-up is completed by Simon James as David Bryan on keyboards and backing vocals, as well as Jim Houghton as Hugh McDonald on bass and backing vocals, and Jon 'Alex' Sturgeon as Tico Torres on drums.
In a few short years, the quintet have quickly gained a reputation as 'The Best Bon Jovi Tribute Band In The World', making clubs, theatres and halls around the country feel like packed out stadiums and arenas, with their seamless renditions of hits like Livin' on a Prayer, Wanted Dead or Alive and Always. Paying close attention to detail in both sound and performance, today they perfectly embody the look and legacy of the real McCoy.
"The sound was what we wanted to achieve first," Mark explains. "Everyone is an extremely talented musician in their own right, and when we come together, the sound really does click. The image was a bit trickier? it took a few years of experimentation, wigs and copious amounts of hairspray, but we got there!"
"The image was a bit trickier - it took a few years of wigs and copious amounts of hairspray, but we got there!
Now, the guys are gearing up for The Ultimate Tribute & Music Festival in June, for which they'll be playing the main stage on Sunday June 24. And with the enduring sound of Bon Jovi's timeless classics spanning eras and decades, Mark's confident that they'll deliver a set that will well and truly rock the 5,000-strong audience when they take to the stage at Tunbridge Wells' Colebrook Park.
"Bon Jovi's feel-good blend of rock and pop is a great mix," he continues. "Today, the world is quite a negative place for many reasons, so taking a step back in time may be some people's way of getting through the harder times. This music certainly cheers you up, and the imagery is nice and bright too, so it breeds positivity, which can't be a bad thing."
So, what can crowds expect from their set in June?
"We're really looking forward to the Ultimate Tribute Festival," enthuses Mark. "We pride ourselves on delivering a set of greatest hits, live favourites and rarities, so even the most diehard fan has something they'll enjoy. All the songs really get the audience going, and it's a great set to play. There really is something for all ages and genders."
Beyond that, the sky's the limit, as Mark and the rest of the band are excited to see how far Wrong Jovi can go. But their main aim will always remain the same - to entertain audiences and continue living their dream wherever their journey takes them.
"At the end of the day, I think we're a great band, and people enjoy coming to see us," Mark concludes. "We've continued to grow every year since we started, and the aim is to travel the world - maybe even be the first tribute band to play in space! Our goal is to put smiles on people's faces, and have them leaving the venues happy and wanting more. Judging by how quickly we're growing, we seem to be doing just that."
Wrong Jovi ARE Bon Jovi on Sunday 24 June at the Ultimate Tribute Festival.
Tickets now on sale here via Skiddle.