There are many people who would argue that Led Zeppelin is one of the best bands in the 1970s. At the top of that list would be Ruth O’Keefe and Nils Rosenblad, who’ve poured gallons of blood, sweat and tears into Maui’s signature Zeppelin tribute show known as Zeptember. This year the show is back for its eighth installment, and there’s an amazing lineup and a new twist.
“Normally what happens is we have a list of songs everybody wants to do, and the list of songs that need to be done,” says Rosenblad, the show’s Music Director. “There is this giant six weeks of negotiating who does what. This year, I was just starting to get into it, and already getting PTSD. I ended up watching the Earls Court 1975 show. I thought this was one of the best shows they ever did. It’s an insane set list. It’s what they do–they were geniuses at their presentation. The blocking of the show, what they played where. So I thought, let’s just do that, and it takes all the other stuff out of the equation.”
The Earls Court show made history for Zeppelin.
“We are just trying to bring back what was an incredible event,” says O’Keefe, the founder of Zeptember. “They picked some of their best songs for that show. Originally tickets were one pound to two pounds fifty. They sold out so fast they had to add more nights. People still talk about this show, as one of the finest musical performances ever. The amazing thing is that with these Maui musicians, we’re able to do it. If you’re a hardcore Zeppelin fan, you will not be disappointed.”
There’s an official video of the Earls Court show, but the bootlegs are what real fans love.
“There’s video of the third or fourth night when they are already into a cocaine bender, which isn’t that great,” says O’Keefe. “But the bootleg from [nights] one and two, that’s one of the legendary shows. Most of the people that do this show, that are in the show, they just love the music. It was an incredible time for rock. That time has passed. It’s like we’re keeping something alive. It’s an opportunity. There are not a lot of rock shows on Maui–this is the real deal. It’s like the hammer of the gods. We go for it.”
Zeppelin is a favorite with hardcore fans, but O’Keefe and Rosenblad note that the band has up and coming young fans now, too.
“I think you can go back to any era and there is music that is absolutely compelling,” says Rosenblad. “In the ’70s, it was Zeppelin at the top of the heap. There are so many Zeppelin samples out there too from the decades after. I just know that my kids love it and they are nine and 15. We will go to a surf contest and we will be listening to Zeppelin on the radio. It’s partly because they were so exposed and distributed. Those were the best selling albums of their time.”
Rock and roll bands in the ’70s did a lot of bar and club shows, and that vibe is captured by hosting the show at Mulligan’s on the Blue in Wailea.
“We’re at Mulligan’s again this year,” says O’Keefe. “I’m from a place where these musicians started in the bars–I understand the bar scene. I want to keep this event in a bar like atmosphere. I love Mulligan’s chandelier, wooden walls and the freedom to walk around listening to live music. It fits well with this show. When we started this eight years ago, it was such an unusual thing to think of, and [Mulligan’s owner] Mike O’Dwyer stepped up to the plate and said that he would host it.”
One of the special treats is to see Maui musicians playing together in lineups you haven’t seen.
“I got Chris Sendrey on guitar, and he is going to do ‘Dazed and Confused’ with a bow,” says Rosenblad. “That’s going to be an amazing segment. There are different lineups for each song. One of the things that’s really cool for the music community is that you’re playing with people you don’t necessarily normally play with. They just aren’t in your band. So it’s a gathering of the tribe every year.”
Event Horizons will be doing the lighting and Inside Out Universe is doing the sound. Doors open at 6pm. The musical lineup includes Gretchen Rhodes, Satchel Gleason, Danielle Delaunay, Chris Sendrey, Kai Katchedorian, John Michael, Tim Hackbarth, Justin Morris, Lawaia, Kaulana Kanekoa, Travis Rice, Rick Bodinus, Sara Jelley, Dave Elberg and Nils Rosenblad. Tickets are $35 on sale at Alice in Hulaland, Las Pinatas, Mulligans on the Blue, 808 0n Main and Eventbrite.com. Tickets will be $45 at the door.
“The songs on the list this year are incredible,” says O’Keefe. “We have ‘Kashmir,’ ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ ‘Rock and Roll’–all the big hits that you would expect are in that playlist for this year. I think Led Zeppelin is one of the best bands in the world. I’m walking around seeing kids come out of school wearing Zeppelin shirts. They’re popular with young people and popular with the older fans. Their music is absolutely incredible. Almost everyone knows a Zeppelin song.”
photo of Nils Rosenblad by Shooting Star Photography