Nelson’s Heavy Airship prepares for takeoff

Led Zeppelin tribute band returns to Spiritbar on September 2.

Craig Thiessen

Craig Thiessen

It was quite a scream.

Heavy Airship’s lead vocalist Craig Thiessen was barreling towards the climax of “Communication Breakdown” during a rowdy Led Zeppelin tribute concert at the Spiritbar last year, exhausted, but he knew he had a little more to give.

“It was the very last song of the night, and I knew there was this big Robert Plant scream coming,” Thiessen told the Star. “I pushed it a little too hard and burst a blood vessel in my head I definitely had a headache for a few days.”

But that’s all in a day’s work for Thiessen, who is joined by Quillan Hanley, Gus Dixon and their latest addition, drummer Eddie Thomas, who also plays organ in local folk act Dirt Floor. And he believes they’re the right guys to bring the 70s rock legends to life.

That starts with studying the history.

“Back in my twenties when I really got into Zeppelin I bought the double-disc DVD of their concert at Royal Albert Hall in 1970,” said Thiessen. “I probably watched it hundreds of times. My roommate would come in at it would always be on.”

He loved Plant’s ferocity, his physicality on stage, the raw rock energy he brought to the stage. And now, decades later, Thiessen’s getting a chance to capitalize on that knowledge.

“Who knew that 15 years it would come into play, but I studied every move, every note. The energy he puts out in a live show is incredible.”

Thiessen’s earliest memory of Zeppelin is waiting on the high school dance floor for “Stairway to Heaven” to come on.

“There was always one girl I wanted to dance with, and I was always the first one there when that song started playing.”

Thomas, who is a Selkirk music grad and recently moved back to town, said playing for two different acts is a real privilege, but also makes for startling juxtapositions.

“I go to the Dirt Floor band practice and chill, then I come to this one and it’s just craziness.”

Dixon said he’s having fun, and most looking forward to playing “Whole Lotta Love”.

“That’s our jam, and I can’t wait to bust it out at Spiritbar because the Nelson audience is always super into it.”

And Thiessen’s ready to take things to the next level even if that means another headache.

“I’ve been trying to do this for 20 years, play in a band that regularly gigs, and the fact that we get to go around playing Zeppelin is huge. These guys are the right guys and we all have the same purpose: go out and rock it every time we play.”

The Spiritbar show is on Sept. 2 and will feature a David Bowie tribute as an opener.