Years ago, while some of the members of Nelson’s Led Zeppelin tribute band Heavy Airship were playing gigs as a generic rock group, covering songs by acts like Tool and Incubus, they had an epiphany about their lead singer Craig Thiessen.
“We had two Zeppelin tunes we did, ‘Immigrant Song’ and ‘Communication Breakdown’, and we realized ****, Craig does a good Robert Plant,” bassist Quillan Hanley told the Star, during a meeting with the band at Lakeside Park last week.
“We said why be a generic rock band when Craig can do this better than a lot of people?”
Hanley should know. As a member of the ’80s cover band Val Kilmer & The New Coke, he’s no stranger to the local music scene. And two years after that decison, the band is going strong—having built up an arsenal of classic, guitar-driven rock ballads to share with their fans. Rounding out the quartet is guitarist Gus Dixon and drummer Nate Stilwell.
“We’re not trying to be that tacky tribute band that wears bellbottoms. Zeppelin was a legendary and badass band, and we want to bring that element back into it. You want to know how badass Zeppelin was? They had a private jet with a fireplace,” said Hanley.
And they love the mythic themes addressed.
“‘Immigrant Song’ is great. Zepellin’s got songs about hobbits and vikings and wizards, it’s rad,” said Dixon.
Each band member has a historic counterpart. While Thiessen channels Plant’s psychedelic scream-wail, Dixon handles the Jimmy Page-style guitar solos while Stilwell busts out his best John Bonham impression. Hanley, meanwhile, pulls off a pretty mean John Paul Jones.
“One of my favourite songs to play live is ‘Song Remains the Same’. It’s got a good tempo, it’s a party song, we really move a lot of air,” said Stilwell.
And Thiessen especially loves belting out “Since I’ve been loving you”.
“The feel of this music is unique. People can relate to these songs,” said Thiessen. “Young people, old people, it’s kind of a no-brainer—the energy that comes out of a good Zeppelin song speaks to so many different people.”
“Who are you going to talk to and ask ‘how do you feel about Zeppelin?’ and they’ll say ‘they suck’? Besides my girlfriend, it’s no one.”
As for the name Heavy Airship, the band credited Thor’s Pizzeria’s Michael Garbula with inventing the moniker.
Tickets for the show are $15. Doors open at 10 p.m.
For more information visit heavyairshipband.com.