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Zeppelin or not, No Quarter doesn’t just preach to the choir

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The stage is their pulpit. And on it, in long, curly wigs, bell-bottomed jeans and chest-baring shirts, they become what they preach, mimicking note-for-note “Stairway to Heaven” and “When the Levee Breaks” the way Led Zeppelin would have played it.

No Quarter isn’t as much a band as it is a group of ministers sermonizing in the church they’ve built to Led Zeppelin.

“They are the greatest hard-rock band to walk the earth. There’s just nothing like Led Zeppelin,” says Bryan Christiansen, who plays Jimmy Page in the Zeppelin tribute band. “People really pay attention when you say this is Led Zeppelin. By the third song, [the crowd is] like a bunch of baptized Christians.”

Christiansen, a Tacoma-based musician who has played in cover bands for most of his musical career, says that you up the ante when you say you’re a Zeppelin cover band. You’re making a statement.

“I wanted to put a band together and was going to do a Jimi Hendrix band,” he says. “But I knew if I could fi nd guys who played Led Zeppelin, it would pan out.”

He says that No Quarter’s lineup came together because of “acts of fate”: Christiansen poached a Getty Lee impersonator from a Rush cover band to be his John Paul Jones. He recruited a Plant impersonator he heard on the radio. A Bonham superfan to play drums.

“Things just fell together,” he says. “A lot of people said it would never work. ‘You’re crazy.’ But I thought it could work. And it’s proven itself.”

On the phone, Christiansen sounds like a giddy Zeppelin fan. He says that as a kid he snuck out to see The Song Remains the Same when it screened at his local theater —paying the price for it later. And then he saw the band live. It changed his life.

“When I saw Led Zeppelin live, I was like, ‘man, I want to do that.’ And the weirdest thing for me, when I said that, I literally walked into this guitar shop down the street and saw the Les Paul I play today,” he says. “I was just a kid, I was 14 years old.”

And years later, when he formed No Quarter, he says he intended to do exactly as Zeppelin did. Play small clubs. Generate a buzz.

“Before I know it, I’m at my place of work, someone from Montana calls me to play a show there. Then we’re playing the Big Easy, we’re playing the Knitting Factories, we’re on a national tour,” he says.

In the 11 years since No Quarter formed, the band has shared stages with Jefferson Starship, Loverboy, Steppenwolf and Nazareth, among others. At one point, the band played at a hot-air balloon race in Texas in front of 30,000 people.

“We had the bragging rights of saying we played in front of more people than Led Zeppelin played in front of at their reunion concert,” he says, laughing.

They’re not Zeppelin — Christiansen says they get that. The guys in No Quarter know that it’s not the ’70s. Free love is dead. Their hair isn’t real. They’ve got to watch out for groupies. Christiansen says the band isn’t “like the Partridge Family”: They are musicians, but they’re also actors acting — they’ve got to sell it perfectly onstage.

“We’re really trying to get it note for note to replicate a moment in time — we really have to have our wits about us,” he says.

And just when huge crowds and superfans start to make them feel like the real deal, someone’s always there to point out that they’re not.

“There’s always been someone who says ‘You’re not Led Zeppelin!’” he says. “And we’re like, ‘Wow, thanks for clearing that up.’ They tour in their Boeing 747, and we’re touring in our van that needs an oil change.”

Zeppelin or not — it’s working.

“[When] we’re playing ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ and I look down and, like, 10,000 people fl ick their Bics, man. And they’re singing ‘Stairway to Heaven’ to us — I think back to 11 years ago to the people who said this would never work, and I’m like ‘Yeah, right!’”

No Quarter plays the Knitting Factory on Saturday, Jan. 30, at 7 pm. Tickets: $10. Visit www.ticketswest.com or call 325-SEAT.

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