When guitarist and Led Zeppelin superfan Bryan Christiansen was assembling a tribute band, No Quarter, he had no shortage of talented musicians to choose from. But finding players that could swing like drummer John Bonham, attack the bass guitar from the compositional perspective of John Paul Jones and wail with the power and bluesy feel of Robert Plant, that was the real challenge.
“I had to look for those components, and I went through a lot of people to get where it’s at today,” Christiansen says.
No Quarter, from Washington state, will perform Tuesday at the City Winery Loft in New York City. More then a decade after Christiansen came up with the band concept, the group has just starting playing the East Coast. Earlier this month, a sold-out crowd of 1,200 fans came out to see No Quarter at the Patchogue Theater in Long Island during horrible weather “on the worst night to go outside,” he says, which “told me there a lot of Led Zeppelin fans there.”
The first East Coast trip came after No Quarter was mentioned in a Zeppelin collector’s edition published by Rolling Stone. Christiansen says he wasn’t tipped off about the mention, and grabbed the magazine by chance off a grocery store rack when he saw his band’s name there. “I was blown off my feet,” he says.
“So of course I bought it and sent it out to everybody. It’s been a while, and it’s neat that we’re being recognized for what we’re doing. It’s a labor of love, for sure.”
Seeing Beatles tribute band Rain — who dress in Beatles wigs and costumes — made Christiansen think, “man, I would love to do that with Led Zeppelin,” and a mid-1990s concert by Page and Plant at The Gorge in Washington that gave Christiansen the spark to name the band after the haunting track on Zeppelin’s 1973 albs “Houses of the Holy.”
“I was sitting there at the beautiful amphitheater on a cliff looking down over the Colorado River going by and under the stars at night in a crystal-clear sky,” he recalls. “They started playing ‘No Quarter,’ and Jimmy Page just went back to the Garden and ripped the solo. People were on their feet. It hit me that that’s what I want to call the band.”
Zeppelin’s three-night run at Madison Square Garden in ’73, which was captured in the film “The Song Remains the Same,” remains a high point for many Zeppelin fans. Christiansen, who never saw Zeppelin in person, happily takes feedback from fans that did see the band in the flesh. And he has the luxury of picking the brain of No Quarter’s manager, Dennis D’Amico, who was at all three nights of the MSG series.
“We always go back to the sources, and the source material is always the material of Led Zeppelin,” Christiansen says. “Even today we go back and check, like, the sacred scrolls; that’s what it is, really. We’re still learning it.”
He notes that Page “is not the most technical player, and neither is Keith Richards.
“It’s not an insult to say they’re sloppy, and they’d admit it, but they’re really cool. What they throw in there is always cool.”
Christiansen, who grew up in Ipswich, northeast of London, before his family moved to the States when he was a kid, says his natural guitar style gave him a head start in playing the part of Page. Other artists he admires include Alice In Chains and guitar virtuoso Eric Johnson.
Zeppelin has inspired hordes of tribute acts. Does the No Quarter guitarist consider them to be competition?
“You know, starting out, I used to, and now I don’t,” he says. “I really look at it from the aspect of you can always learn from someone. Some of them I’m really good friends with. I just realized we all like the same band or we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing to this extreme. When I talk to someone from another [Led Zeppelin tribute] band, I consider them a fellow fan that just loves the band as much as I do.”
No Quarter will perform on Tuesday, Jan. 29, at 8:30 p.m. at The Loft at City Winery (155 Varick St., New York, NY 10013).
Photos courtesy of No Quarter