East Penn Press

Wednesday, January 17, 2018
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO“Zoso: The Ultimate Led Zeppelin Experience,” 8 p.m. June 2, Sherman Theater, 524 Main St., Stroudsburg. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO“Zoso: The Ultimate Led Zeppelin Experience,” 8 p.m. June 2, Sherman Theater, 524 Main St., Stroudsburg.

Zoso to recreate Led Zeppelin in concert at Sherman Theatre

Friday, June 2, 2017 by CAMILLE CAPRIGLIONE Special to The Press in Focus

“Zoso: The Ultimate Led Zeppelin Experience” is a tribute band that captures the masterful talent of Robert Plant, John Bonham, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones and pays homage to one of the greatest rock bands of all time.

Zoso’s passion, musical ability and showmanship has earned the group critical acclaim and a loyal following. The Los Angeles Times hailed the group as “head and shoulders above all other Zeppelin tributes,” and the Chicago Sun-Times declared Zoso “the closest to the original.”

Zoso performs in concert at 8 p.m. June 2, Sherman Theater, 524 Main St., Stroudsburg.

Matt Jernigan, lead vocalist and manager, says he founded the band in 1995 at the suggestion of a management company.

Jernigan was performing with a bassist and a drummer in the early 1990s. “But labels weren’t signing bands like us, blues-based rock and roll. The industry just changed,” Jernigan says in a phone interview.

So they mulled over the idea of starting a Zeppelin tribute band. “At the time, there were some Elvis impersonators. There was Beatlemania. But there wasn’t anything like this, so we were still in its [Led Zeppelin tribute bands] infancy.”

They knew it would be a, you might say, heavy undertaking.

“Led Zeppelin was a major influence to virtually everyone, all musicians,” says Jernigan. “We were really reluctant because of all the critiquing that we would get, and rightfully so. It was like committing blasphemy.”

Despite their doubts, the band members decided to put their heart and soul into the project, “And here we are 22 years later,” Jernigan says.

Zoso consists of Matt Jernigan as lead singer Robert Plant, John McDaniel as lead guitarist Jimmy Page, Adam Sandling as bassist John Paul Jones and Bevan Davies as drummer John Bonham.

Born in Mississippi, Jernigan has lived in Florida, Texas, Los Angeles and New York City. “The music business has taken me many places, on many journeys.” He now resides in southeast Georgia.

Jernigan speaks of the dedication and attention to detail required for the acting aspect of covering Zeppelin performances, “We had no experience with that. No drama classes. Actors have the advantage of interviewing people and studying them, and have a lot of help. We didn’t. We were really on our own.

“To our disadvantage, when we started in ’95, there wasn’t a whole lot of footage available. So all you had was a couple of bootlegs, some pictures and the movie, ‘The Song Remains the Same.’”

The footage that did exist rarely showed the entire band on screen together and often panned from one member to another.

“So we’d imagine what they were doing. Recreate a character with hardly anything to go on.” The band strove to emulate an authentic experience. “Review and apply, over and over,” says Jernigan.

“The advantage was that we were already performing musicians, so there was still a natural movement [between us.]”

In recent years, the internet has proven enormously helpful, as more Led Zeppelin concert footage was unearthed.

Zoso performs 150 shows a year, nationally and internationally. The busy schedule includes venues like the House of Blues, amphitheaters, festivals and performing arts centers. Zoso has performed club dates in Japan, South America and Canada.

Zoso performs full two-hour shows and prefers to give audiences a live Zeppelin experience as opposed to an in-studio sound, allowing for creative improvisation. “They were probably the first real jam band. They were far more explosive live.

“We have extended leads that they did like ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ We try to cover as many albums as we can, so we constantly change the set list.”

Remarking on Led Zeppelin’s enduring appeal across multiple generations, Jernigan gives several reasons: “It appeals to a younger audience. It’s a great introduction [to music]. It could be heavy-duty guitar. It could be ballad. It could be folk.

“They are the most diverse rock and roll band out there. Where the Beatles left off, Led Zeppelin started. They took it to a heavier level but the creativity and the diversity within it was there.

“Led Zeppelin was able to incorporate the blues influence into so many different styles, but maintain their formula. There’s never been a band before or since that has that combined top-notch talent.

“No one sang like Plant before he came along, so he set a precedent. Nobody was playing as heavy and as hard as John was. John Paul was so diversified and a multi-instrumentalist that they didn’t need to bring in other [band members.] They could stay a four-piece and still pull it off.

“Those are major factors that inspire so many people.”

In regards to Led Zeppelin’s body of work, Jernigan says, “Some songs are better than others, but I don’t think they ever had a bad song.”

As for Zoso’s acclaim, the group lets the fans do the talking. “We don’t tout it,” says Jernigan.

“If it wasn’t Zeppelin, I don’t think we’d be doing this.”

Tickets: Sherman Theatre box office, 524 Main St, Stroudsburg; shermantheater.com; 570-420-2808