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If you go
What: “Down the Line: Hard Chord,” featuring bands Autovator, Kill the Rabbit, Downstait, KillNancy and I,Wombat
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Embassy Theatre, 125 W. Jefferson Blvd.
Admission: Tickets, at $12, are available by calling 1-800-745-3000.
Courtesy photo
Local band Downstait tackles Kiss during “Down the Line: Hard Chord” on Saturday at Embassy Theatre.

Local bands cover rock legends at Embassy

Courtesy photo by John Burkett
Local band I, Wombat will cover the music of Black Sabbath at “Down the Line: Hard Chord.”

How do you like your rock?

Do you take it with a heavy dose of hairspray and ’80s nostalgia? Or are the broodings of the grunge era more your speed? What about battering heavy metal rifts intertwined with soft, angry musings?

Or, in your head, do you see yourself as a full-on, makeup-donning and fire-spitting 1970s glam rocker?

Whatever your styling, the “Down the Line: Hard Chord” concert Saturday at Embassy Theatre will probably have something to get you on your feet.

Five local bands will cover songs from legendary rock groups during the show, which is an extension of the annual concert given every February.

The songs of Tool, Def Leppard, Black Sabbath, Alice in Chains and Kiss will all be represented Saturday, according to concert officials.

“We looked to expand our target market,” says Dana Berkes, a spokeswoman for the Embassy, in turning the Down the Line show into a series of concerts. “And when we decided to expand, we looked at what’s strong in the area.”

If you’ve listened to the radio in Fort Wayne, you know that hard and classic rock has been a staple here for decades.

The concert will also give local musicians who usually play in clubs and bars a chance to display their chops on the iconic Embassy stage – something that is not lost on those participating in the show.

“Excited isn’t the word,” says Mike Archbold of KillNancy, which will perform Def Leppard songs. “I have played professionally for 14 years now and have played every venue from the ‘million-dollar stage’ at Piere’s to the big stage at (Memorial Coliseum). … This one is going to complete the bucket list for me as a professional musician.”

If you go, here is a rundown of the bands playing:

Autovator

“We’ve really put ourselves in a corner,” Shane Wyant says.

The vocalist and guitarist for Autovator says the band has been practicing like madmen, and that they have to with the band they’ve chosen to cover during their first tour on the Embassy stage: Tool.

Described as a heavy metal band that first burst upon the national scene with 1993’s “Undertow,” which included the popular song “Sober,” Tool is a hard band to cover, Wyant says.

“You want to do something that influences you, but you want a challenge, and you want the listener to have a good experience,” he says. “It’s a daunting task to pick Tool.”

And it’s not only the music that’s tough. Tool’s catalog is not as recognizable as that of a band such as Aerosmith – at least to a mainstream audience. So deciding what songs to go with became a challenge in and of itself, Wyant says.

I, Wombat

On the surface, the music of Black Sabbath seems fairly simple.

But when you start playing the songs, that’s when you start noticing the nuances and little subtleties that provide the heavy metal music with its own beauty, says Lou Cucinelli, lead guitarist for I, Wombat.

There’s a lot more going on in the music than you think, he says.

“They actually mentioned to us about doing Black Sabbath, and as soon as we saw that, it was pretty much game over,” says Cucinelli about talks with concert officials. “There was no messing around. We wanted Black Sabbath.”

I, Wombat was formed in 2005 and has played “Down the Line” before. Now, with a new CD released this past spring, the band is ready to retake the Embassy stage and provide its own stamp on classic songs from the group once fronted by Ozzy Osborne in the late 1960s.

“The hard part is cutting down the songs for a half hour set,” Cucinelli says. “Everything we’re doing is early and prime Black Sabbath, but there will be one or two songs that are fairly obscure.”

Kill The Rabbit

Hailing from Van Wert, Ohio, Kill the Rabbit – KTR to fans and the band – is no stranger to the Embassy stage.

The band has played “Down the Line” before and also opened for a Doors cover band. But for this show, the group will be playing a sampling of Alice in Chains songs.

“We picked Alice in Chains to cover because we wanted to be challenged vocally more than anything,” says bassist and vocalist Marc Baker. “The music and arrangements of Alice in Chains is dark and powerful, but we feel the real challenge is pulling the set off vocally.”

Alice in Chains came out of the 1990s Seattle grunge scene with bands such as Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Nirvana. The band was at its zenith with lead vocalist Layne Staley, who died from substance abuse in 2002.

And Kill the Rabbit, which is working on its second album, is ready to do the band justice.

“We are confident that we will not let any Alice in Chains fans down,” Baker says.

Downstait

On its Facebook page, Downstait’s influences are listed as Godsmack, Sevendust, Linkin Park and Breaking Benjamin.

But they will be reaching back a little bit further in time than those bands when they take the Embassy stage Saturday.

Their band of choice: Kiss.

“We used to jokingly do a cover of ‘Detroit Rock City,’ though we haven’t technically done it in front of anyone before,” band member Sean Arata says. “We chose Kiss because they really inspired us when we started out the band.”

The band has opened for several national acts that have come to Fort Wayne to play at Piere’s Entertainment Center, as well as sharing the stage with groups such as Drowning Pool, Pop Evil, Queensrÿche and Skid Row, according to the band’s Facebook page.

And though its stage show is a far cry from Kiss as far as theatrics go, the band will try to channel the band Saturday night.

“We don’t wear makeup or have flames generally, but the basic premise of putting on a good show was always there,” Arata said.

The band is signed to the label SMR.

KillNancy

By the time KillNancy was brought on board to round out the lineup for the concert, guitarist Mike Archbold noticed the ’60s and ’70s were covered with Black Sabbath and ’90s and 2000s with Tool and Alice and Chains.

“The Decade of Decadence was the only span not represented,” Archbold says.

So Archbold and his bandmates decided to cover Def Leppard, best known for hits from the 1980s such as “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and “Rock of Ages.” And covering such music proved more than difficult, says Archbold, who noted two of his favorite albums are Def Leppard’s “Pyromania” and “Hysteria.”

“Musically, they are more sophisticated than I think people give them credit for, with odd changes and more of a progressive, yet melodic, approach to changes and bridging,” he says.

Plus, there are the vocals.

“Leppard is very vocal, so we weren’t just going to skate by with some scream-o tunes,” Archbold continued. “We have a top-notch lead vocalist in Jason Miller, but even he was having to stretch it a little to hit (Def Leppard lead singer) Joe Elliot on the ‘Pyromania’ tunes.”

jeffwiehe@jg.net

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