Zoso, Queen Nation and Imagine coming to the Egyptian Theatre | ParkRecord.com
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Zoso, Queen Nation and Imagine coming to the Egyptian Theatre

Tribute bands don’t just play the hits

A six-day British Invasion will storm the Egyptian Theatre next week when three classic-rock tribute bands strut their stuff for Park City audiences.

Zoso: The Ultimate Led Zeppelin Experience will play Dec. 26-27. Queen Nation: A Tribute to the Music of Queen will perform Dec. 28-29, and Imagine: Remembering the Fab Four will hit the stage Dec. 30 and 31.

Although the tribute groups hail from the United States, the iconic bands they tip their hats to are from England.

Zoso’s Matt Jernigan, Queen Nation’s Mike McManus and Imagine’s Tom Coburn took the time in their busy schedules to speak to The Park Record in separate interviews about the groups and the music they have brought to life on stage.

Matt Jernigan embodies Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant

One of the things Jernigan has learned since Zoso formed in 1995 is that Robert Plant is one of the most difficult characters in rock ‘n’ roll to perform.

The irony is Jernigan doesn’t know how he does it, either.

“I guess it’s kind of like an athlete,” he said. “It’s like how some people can run a mile and others can’t.”

Zoso’s members — Jernigan, guitarist John McDaniel, bassist and keyboardist Adam Sandling and drummer Bevan Davis — all grew up listening to and learning Led Zeppelin songs, but it wasn’t until Zoso when they really got in touch with the music’s complexities.

“As you listen to the songs growing up, you realize how great they are, but your perspective changes when you really start learning the songs piece by piece and playing the songs as a band,” Jernigan said. “We researched what we could, but once we really started getting into it, we realized that there is a lot more depth to the music than you originally thought.”

Jernigan appreciates the songs because they are what he calls “master compositions.”

“Then you realize there were only four guys doing this,” he said with a laugh. “Sure, there are the studio recordings, but they also reproduced many of these songs live and it really surprises you how they were able to do that.”

The vocals alone can make or break a show because Robert Plant had such a unique sound and delivery.

“It can get overwhelming because being a tribute band to Led Zeppelin is a high bar to maintain,” Jernigan said. “At the same time, I, and the rest of the band, feel honored to be a torchbearer.

“What makes all of it work is that everybody in the band has the pride and cares enough to learn the songs the way they are supposed to be performed,” he said. “As a singer, I want to nail it as close as I can.”

Jernigan can’t name his favorite Led Zeppelin song.

“It’s because there are so many good ones,” he said. “It just seems to me that you can’t pin down one song.”

Zoso: the Ultimate Led Zeppelin Experience will perform at 8 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 26, and Tuesday, Dec. 27, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Tickets range from $29 to $45 and are available at http://www.parkcityshows.com. For more information, visit http://www.zosoontour.com.

Mike McManus portrays Queen guitarist Brian May

Queen Nation guitarist Mike McManus first heard Queen while he was a kid living in Boston.

“My dad was sitting in our car in the driveway after he came home from work and yelled at me to come see him,” McManus said. “I thought I was in trouble, but I ran down anyway, and got into the car.”

McManus’ father turned up the song, which was “Killer Queen.”

“I was hooked,” McManus said. “It was like musical crack. And now, some 40-odd years later, I’m still addicted and it’s an awesome habit to have.”

When the Queen Nation tribute band formed in 2004, its band members — McManus, vocalist Greg Finsley, bassist Parker Combs and drummer Peter Burke — knew they had big shoes to fill.

So, each made sure they not only had the chops to play the songs, but the instruments as well.

“When we first started, being huge Queen fans, we knew we had to do this right,” McManus said. “We wanted and still want to be the tribute band that we would spend money to see.”

McManus’s guitar is a replica of Queen guitarist Brian May’s go-to axe.

“The guitar I use is made by Burns Guitar Company out of London,” McManus said. “The one I use is pretty close to the one he’s used for all of these years.”

May handmade his guitar with his dad when he was a teen, McManus said.

“He didn’t have a lot of money growing up and they basically took stuff from around the house — wood from a mantelpiece, springs from a bicycle kickstand — and built the guitar in a labor of love, which became a nice bonding experience,” McManus said. “That guitar had a lot to do with the Queen sound, and I knew I needed to have a guitar that would do the same thing.”

The biggest lesson McManus learned regarding Queen songs over the years is how difficult they are to play, let alone replicate live.

“You can never phone these songs in because they are that difficult,” he said with a laugh. “Queen Nation has been together for 12 years and even now, we still make mistakes. “That’s why we never drink before the show.”

Queen Nation, which is one of two official Queen tribute bands in the United States, can play 45 Queen songs, which means, the tribute band can play four 45-minute sets and not repeat a song.

“We are doing two nights at the Egyptian and we will do the big hits both nights, but we’ll switch up the non hits,” McManus said. “So if people come both nights, they will hear two different shows.”

Queen Nation, a Tribute to the Music of Queen will perform at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 28, and Thursday, Dec. 29, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Tickets range from $29 to $45 and are available by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.

Tom Coburn still fascinated by John Lennon

Imagine: Remembering the Fab Four is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Throughout that time, the tribute band made a little adjustment concerning its original goal, said guitarist Tom Coburn, who portrays John Lennon.

“At first, it was just so much fun to put on the black suits and rock out and recreate that whole Beatlemania thing,” Coburn said. “As time went on, we felt we could do more.”

That meant adding songs from the Beatles catalog the original Fab Four never played live.

“What started with the albums ‘Rubber Soul’ and ‘Revolver,’ the band began recording songs that had orchestrations, strings and sound effects that couldn’t be reproduced on stage during that time,” Coburn said.

Imagine started adding those songs in its set thanks to the addition of synthesizers.

“Synthesizers had evolved to the point where they were so accurate with the sounds that we could create what the Beatles did with a ton of equipment and additional musicians,” Coburn said. “Once we had that ability, we took things to the next level.

“Now, if the songs we wanted to do were so heavily orchestrated on record that it would have taken sequencers to play, we wouldn’t do them,” he said. “We wanted to be able to tell people that all the sounds they heard from the stage are all created by us live, even the mistakes.”

Yes, Coburn said, Imagine embraces the goofs.

“So much of the show is clowning around like what the Beatles did,” he said. “We not only play the music, but we also change costumes and do some ad libs as our characters.”

Coburn’s bandmates include Richard Fazzi as Paul McCartney, Brad Armstrong as George Harrison and Mark Robinette as Ringo Star.

“I would also like to thank Mark’s brother Eric Robinette who has run sound for us all of these years,” Coburn said. “He’s been our fifth Beatle.”

Coburn’s favorite Beatles song is “I’ll Be Back,” which was written by Lennon.

“It’s so cool because John is playing an acoustic guitar and George is playing a nylon-stringed classical guitar,” Coburn said. “There are three voices singing and it’s a perfectly orchestrated song.”

“We don’t know which sets we’re going to do at the Egyptianyet, but if we do the ones that includes our classical guitars, we will play that song,” he said.

Imagine: Remembering the Fab Four, a Beatles tribute, will play at 8 p.m. on Friday , Dec. 30, and Saturday, Dec. 31, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Tickets rane from $29 to $45 and can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.


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