by Rich Freedman

Journey, the hit-making rock band from the 1980s that’s again hitting the road this summer, can lay claim to many achievements.

But San Francisco’s Ultimate Tribute to Journey, a stellar Journey tribute band, has one resume credit that’s likely escaped their revered namesake: a nudist colony gig.

“By far, that was our craziest show,” said John Siino III, lead vocalist for San Francisco’s Ultimate Tribute to Journey. “For obvious reasons.”

Siino, a 48-year-old San Mateo resident, joins his bandmates as they play the 25th annual Novato Festival of Art, Wine & Music at 2:40 p.m. June 7th. The band will play just before Bonnie Hayes and the English Beat. The festival continues June 8th with headliners New Monsoon and the Mother Hips.

Unlike the nudists, the members of San Francisco’s Ultimate Tribute to Journey and audience are expected to be attired at the Novato festival. Though, said Siino, the group definitely doesn’t look the part.

“We are definitely not a look-alike band,” Siino said. “But we sound and feel like Journey.”

Siino said San Francisco’s Ultimate Tribute to Journey has played some 110 gigs since its inception in 2004, and all but four have sold out.

“Unbelievable,” he said. “It is exhilarating and a huge affirmation of what we do. We have gotten the audience to be part of the show, not just be entertained.”

San Francisco’s Ultimate Tribute to Journey isn’t a caricature or parody of Journey, said Siino, since band founder Jerroll Reavis promised Journey guitarist Neal Schon that San Francisco’s Ultimate Tribute to Journey would stay true to the music.

“We have sworn to be the best at what we do,” Siino said. “This is the result of long hours of practicing, lots of performances and regular rehearsals. So it’s definitely taken a lot of time and work.”

Performing Journey’s list of hits is, said Siino, “an absolute labor of love. We love what we do and want the audience to feel and love it, too.”

Journey “did things that no other band did quite as successfully,” Siino said. “They incorporated soul, rhythm and rock into one incredible sound. For all of us, including fans, it calls to some very special times in our lives, great memories, and nobody singing about hurting anyone. It was about love and good, positive messages.”

Siino said the music has managed to bridge generation gaps. “The fact that we have younger fans tells me that Journey has grabbed them with a timeless, superior sound,” he said, “and it harkens to a younger time where they can even relate to their parents’ music around the house or both. Great music does it all.”

Even great music needs competent musicians to pull it off and Siino said San Francisco’s Ultimate Tribute to Journey has that in Reavis, Don “The Rocket” Stephenson, Myron Edwins and Greg McCulley.

“I have been blessed to be associated with these incredibly talented guys,” Siino said. “Everyone put in the work on their own time so that when we got together to work, it clicked.”