Aspen Times Weekly: Travel back in time with the Led Zeppelin tribute band Zoso | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Times Weekly: Travel back in time with the Led Zeppelin tribute band Zoso

by Erica Robbie

To dub a cover band as "in some ways, better than the real thing" is a bold and arguably controversial statement.

Especially when the band is a tribute to one of the most influential rock 'n' roll groups of all time.

But that's exactly what the headline of the Boulder Weekly newspaper read in its March 25, 2010, review of the Led Zeppelin cover band Zoso.

Without entertaining a discussion as to whether a rendition can be superior to the original, one fact is for certain: Many fans say watching Zoso play is the closest experience to a true Led Zeppelin performance.

"You get engrossed in it, and it's almost like you're back in the '70s at a festival watching Led Zeppelin play," Zoso fan Kelly Wolfsheimer said during a phone interview Jan. 15 while en route to a Zoso concert.

Wolfsheimer said she was "driving like crazy" from her home in Richmond, Virginia, to the see Zoso play in Norfolk alongside her friend and fellow fan Joy Syring.

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The Norfolk performance would be Zoso Round 2 for Syring, who had traveled to Charlottesville the previous night to watch the band perform.

The two wouldn't have time to check into their hotel room before the show, Wolfsheimer said, and would have to change and get ready in a mall bathroom closer to the concert venue.

While the two are passionate Zoso fans, Wolfsheimer said she's met and talked with audience members at concerts who say they travel from state to state to see the band play.

Syring said she first saw Zoso perform at a concert in Philadelphia with her husband three years ago and didn't know what to expect.

But after Zoso's performance, Syring said she and her husband looked at each other and both

said, "Wow."

MEET THE BAND

Aside from a seven-year stint with a different guitarist, Zoso consists of the same band members as when the band first started back in 1995.

Matt Jernigan plays the part of lead singer Robert Plant, John McDaniel is guitarist Jimmy Page, Adam Sandling is keyboardist John Paul Jones, and Bevan Davies is drummer John Bonham.

But the band didn't start as a cover band. It just played "that heavy rock-blues sound, a lot like Zeppelin," Jernigan said, and its management company suggested that it consider performing as a Zeppelin tribute.

After mulling it over for four months, Jernigan said the band decided to give the idea a shot.

The looks and the sound were already there, Jernigan said. And more importantly, everyone in the band loved Zeppelin.

Jernigan had been listening to Plant's pipes since he was 9 years old, thanks to his older brother, who Jernigan says most influenced his musical taste.

"He turned me on to everything — The Beatles, The Stones, Black Sabbath, Floyd, The Who, Cream, Hendrix — all the earlier bands," Jernigan said.

When Zoso first began performing as a tribute to Led Zeppelin, Jernigan said there was little footage of Zeppelin to which Zoso could refer.

The only real material Zoso had to work with were clips from Led Zeppelin's 1973 concert film, "The Song Remains the Same," along with a few videotaped bootlegs,

Jernigan said.

"We'd take pictures out of books, then have to kind of imagine how fluid they'd work together on stage and put ourselves in the best position we could because we couldn't take total note on them," Jernigan said.

Wolfsheimer said she finds this particularly impressive about Zoso's rendition of Led Zeppelin.

"It's hard to just imagine sometimes," Wolfsheimer said. "But they studied it tremendously, and they really do channel each band member."

Wolfsheimer said she's watched a number of tribute bands play over the years and thinks Zoso's performance is the closest rendition to any band she's ever seen.

It's Zoso's appearance as well as its "musical chops" that sets it apart, Wolfsheimer said.

"They do more than a lot of tributes in the fact that they really try to re-create the sound," she said.

Syring agreed.

"They're all just incredibly talented musicians," she said.

If you go…

What: Zoso: The Ultimate Led Zeppelin Experience

When: Jan. 24, doors open at 9 p.m.; show at 9:30 p.m.

Where: Belly Up Aspen

Cost: $18 advanced purchase general admission; $22 day-of-show general admission

All ages

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