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U2Zoo is a fixture at Milwaukee summertime festivals.

Checking in with U2Zoo

U2Zoo, a U2 tribute band, is one of Milwaukee's most popular cover bands. During the winter, cover bands aren't as visible because, for most of them, festival season is their bread and butter.

As the Irish quartet launches its latest record -- "No Line on the Horizon" -- I checked in with guitarist Brian Lang to find out what's new with the Zoo.

OnMilwaukee.com: What are you working on right now? Any upcoming shows?

Brian Lang: We are finishing up our summer festival schedule and working on some fall bookings. In addition, we are working on some out-of-state concerts including Indiana. We have a show this Saturday night at Shank Hall.

OMC: Do the four of you get along offstage as well as onstage?

BL: Yes. These guys and our crew are the best! Incredible to work and play with. It is a special mix of talent, professionalism, friendship and humility. We are blessed.

OMC: Is your performance schedule less booked during the winter months?

BL: Funny you should ask. We were trying for a slower winter schedule this year, but all of a sudden we found ourselves with a lot of choice shows locally and outside the region. The interest in U2Zoo has been amazing, but it's really important for us not to play every gig that comes up. This is a specialty band and we don't want to overdo it and make it not special. We have a great fan base and to give them quantity or quality would be to devalue everything we are represent.

OMC: Do you think cover bands get a bad rap sometimes?

BL: Sometimes, but it's warranted in situations. Cover or original, you better be damn good at what you're doing otherwise you should get bashed. You're ripping people off if you're not giving it your 125 percent.

I was in original bands for most of my life and was one of people who initially did not like cover bands. Call it whatever, but it wasn't until I realized that any great band whether original or cover is a great band.

OMC: Where are your favorite places to play?

BL: Festivals are personally my favorite because you can't beat outdoors in the summertime. Big stages, plenty of space and crazy crowds. There are some great establishments also that we play in winter months that have been wonderful to us. Shank Hall has been our longest consistent run over five years and we have been fortunate to play there twice every year.

OMC: Have you had any change in band members since you started?

BL: No. We have all original members: Scott Neis (vocals), Craig Brog (drums), Mike Kawczynski (bass) and me, Brian Lang (guitars, keyboard).

OMC: Do you get sick of U2 tunes?

BL: Sometimes I wish I could so I would not drive everyone nuts in my life with my daily listening habits. It's so amazing being able to play this material over and over plus performing it at a high level because you constantly discover new things inside the songs that you never found before.

However to answer the question, it never gets boring. I listen to U2 daily and I am constantly picking up bootlegs from live shows over the years trying to improve my guitar playing to get it even closer. I am a tone freak so I play in the perfect band. Old guitars and gear is my drug of choice.

OMC: Anything else you want to say?

BL: It is always important that this band wants people that have not seen us yet to know we are not the typical tribute band stereotype. We are not into the business of selling the look of a band and dancing around to choreographed scripts. We do a bit to look the part inside the lights but we are not impersonators, what you see is what you get. It has always been about the music of U2 not wigs. As long as this band continues to rock hard live while doing justice to every U2 song we play, giving off the energy that we do, we will continue to be a great band. Anything less, we are just average and that is not good enough.


Talkbacks

sandstorm | March 6, 2009 at 10:56 a.m. (report)

cover bands and tribute bands: the parasites of the music industry. sure, both can be a blast, but let's not kid ourselves about their place in the food chain.

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jillmet | March 5, 2009 at 6:05 p.m. (report)

Absolutely LOVE U2Zoo! Not nearly as much as the real thing, but the Zoo gives ultimate respect to the Irish rock gods! I'm a huge fan; can always find me dancing right up front. Try to see them whenever I can and always introducing friends to the Zoo experience, because they do more than a worthy job. To top it off, they seem to be stand-up guys. I just wish they'd let me sing back-up or play the tambourine at one of their gigs. To the Zoo guys: thanks for all the T-shirts and for sharing my love of U2!

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jetkat | March 5, 2009 at 3:01 p.m. (report)

These guys are great. Close your eyes and pretend its U2. They do a great job with the classic U2 tunes, Gloria, Sunday Blood Sunday, etc. Keep up the good work U2Zoo .

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