Don\'t stop \'til you get enough


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Don't stop 'til you get enough

Tribute band Who's Bad brings to life the music of the King of Pop

By Meiling Arounnarath, Staff Writer

You know the songs. They're practically imprinted on your DNA. All we have to do is drop a lyric or two:

"Don't stop, don't stop 'til you get enough ..."

"'Cuz this is thriller, thriller night ..."

"Billie Jean is not my lover/She's just a girl who claims that I am the one ..."

Admit it. They're going through your head right now.

And Thursday night, they will fill the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro.

Who's Bad, which bills itself as "The Ultimate Michael Jackson Tribute Band," will take the stage, silver glove and all. The seven-member band will pull out all the stunts: the knife-fight scene in the "Beat It" music video, snippets of the choreography in the "Thriller" video, and of course MJ's trademark dance moves.

A majority of the band graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill's music department, which is where most of them met. They all live in the Triangle.

Who's Bad mostly tours the East Coast, the Southeast and the Midwest. The group's founder, Vamsi Tadepalli, said the furthest they've gone is Chicago and New Orleans.

Tadepalli says they perform at the Cradle about twice a year and at Raleigh's Lincoln Theatre about three times a year.

"We don't play much around this area," said the 25-year-old. "Since we're such a novelty act, you can't burn out your audience," which he says can happen if a band plays one market too frequently.

The obvious question, of course, is how this all got started. Why did he and his bandmates decide to form a Michael Jackson tribute band?

"It's not the most glorifying story," Tadepalli said. "I was going to start a funk band, and I was listening to Michael Jackson's music at the time."

Then he came to a realization.

"You're sitting at a bar or club or something, and whenever a Michael Jackson song comes on, everybody goes crazy," he said. "So we kind of put two and two together."

"I've always enjoyed Michael Jackson's older stuff," he continued. "And lots of the songs I hear, I would say, 'Man, that would work!'"

Various Michael Jackson memories spot Tadepalli's lifetime.

He remembers jumping up and down on his bed with his friends when he was about 4 years old, "Beat It" playing on the stereo.

"I remember just having a good time jumping up and down," he said. "I remember my dad bought the 'Thriller' album when I was really young. I remember watching the premiere of 'Black or White' after the Super Bowl, and as a kid, being scared of the 'Thriller' video."

Who's Bad formed in 2003 and played their first show in January 2004. They had a different lead singer then.

But now, Brandon Lee -- a 22-year-old who loves the stage -- is Michael Jackson. He joined the band in April 2004. And he only had two weeks to "go into a study of Michael Jackson."

Lee had to know all the No. 1 hits. He had to know all MJ's moves. And he had to get them down just right in time for his first show.

"All his kicks, his spins, his little hand gestures -- I know them," Lee said. "Before his spins, he always pats his chest [first]. Every time he grabs his [crotch] and does a pelvic thrust, there's always a different move before that -- he either shuffles his feet or does a kick first."

And he can go on and on about the small gestures he learned that are classic Michael Jackson, the moves that are instantly recognized.

The shows are always high in energy, Tadepalli said, because the band plays one No. 1 hit after another from a pop icon.

Contact staff writer Meiling Arounnarath at 932-2004 or