SUNBURY — Rock fans can’t go wrong with an evening of flavorful wine and classic rock music from three people who love the genre.
Zen Again will perform Saturday night from 7 to 9 p.m. at Iron Vines Winery, on Raspberry Avenue. Admission is free.
The group features Shannon Halteman doing vocals, Tom Rhodes on bass, guitar and keyboards, and Jim “Desi” Desiderati on guitar, keyboards, bass and harmonica. About 70 percent of their music is Led Zeppelin covers.
“I think it’s safe to say Zep was the number one influence in mine and Desi’s decision to do another project late in our musical careers,” Rhodes said.
“Zen Again started in 2016 as a dream,” Desiderati said. “Our first gig was April 9, 2017. One hundred seventy-three years of combined rock!”
Halteman has been singing since she can remember, Desiderati said. Currently in the Berwick/Bloomsburg-area-based Wonderchunk band, she met Rhodes when they played together in Dam Shannon.
“Once we found someone who could sing their material, (Shannon), it was a no-brainer to put Zen Again together,” Rhodes said. “I told Desi flat out I knew a girl who would be a perfect fit. And the rest is history. But also, there was a mutual interest in doing ‘shocking’ covers, as well. Like ‘Venus,’ by Shocking Blue, and ‘Fever,’ by Peggy Lee. Music people knew but rarely heard performed locally.”
“I got to be involved in a project that from the word go has been something so natural to do, something I already had deep inside and didn’t realize it,” Halteman said. “You can only perform good Zep if it’s deep in you. We all got it.”
Rhodes and Desiderati met in the ’60s as kids in the same neighborhood.
“We both gravitated into rock & roll,” Desiderati said. “Tom was actually the person who showed me the very first full song I ever learned (Blackbird) in 1974. We both had a deep appreciation for Zeppelin, and over the years would often discuss the magic of their music.”
Rhodes has played music for more than six decades, performing with popular local bands such as Angry Moon, Whiskey River, Rock Therapy, Aftermath, Prime Cut, Dirty Mojo Blues Band and Zen Again. He also plays with a trio called Final Cut.
Desiderati has played in Jonah’s Wail, Angry Moon, Time Leapers and Rock Therapy. He and Rhodes played in Angry Moon and Rock Therapy.
“I still remember the first time Shannon, Tom, and I played together,” Desiderati said. “It was very obvious that the focus on Zeppelin was going to be a priority. I never imagined at this point in my life I would be playing with such awesome musicians, doing music I have always loved, by bands I have always admired. It is literally a dream come true for me.”
The name Zen Again is a twist from the 1988 album “Now and Zen,” by Robert Plant.
“I like to think that it describes us returning to the era of Zeppelin’s heyday, and bringing it around ‘Again,’” Halteman said.
Zen Buddhism exploded around that same time period in America, Halteman said.
“After the Vietnam War, many were looking for inner peace and calm. Much like I believe people are right now,” she said. “COVID separated us all, and live music is the perfect way to bring people back together. People who hear us have told me they love our interpretation of the songs. We take something so huge, grab the roots and break it all down to the basics, although even the basics with Zeppelin, is tough work, as we know.”
Saying Zen Again lays down rock & roll “in an unorthodox manner, with total wild abandon,” Desiderati added, “Zen Again takes advantage of over 100 years of combined stage experience to cook up a recipe of the sweetest flavor of classic rock’s most iconic songs. Music blended with scintillating textures, seasoned to perfection, and delivered to your ears with only the finest of ingredients. No fluff — all rock.”
Zen Again is a “great Led Zeppelin cover band,” said Jessica Reichner, general manager at Iron Vines Winery. She said people are enjoying the drinks and free live music every weekend at the winery.
“People seem to most enjoy the Black Virgin (black cherry) and Kaffe (coffee) wine, and in this heat the wine slushies in those flavors are popular also,” she said.
Desiderati described Iron Vines as “A place with great resonance, plenty of seating, good atmosphere, and of course, wine!”
Zen Again plays in the Northeast Central Pennsylvania area
Desiderati encouraged people to check out the band’s Facebook page.
Cindy O. Herman lives in Snyder County. Email comments to her at CindyOHerman@gmail.com