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Antz Marching hopes to bolster Dave Matthews faithful

| Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010

Not everyone can make it to a concert by the Dave Matthews Band.

That's why Antz Marching wants to bring the live Dave Matthews experience to fans.

The Matthews' tribute band, made up of veteran Alle-Kiski- and Pittsburgh-area musicians, makes its full-show debut at 10 p.m. Friday at Harrison's Bar & Grille, Heights Plaza, Natrona Heights. They take their name from one of Matthews' most popular songs, "Ants Marching," changing the spelling to "Antz" for domain-name purposes.

"We could have chosen easier bands to pay tribute to, but we really love this music, and we know there are plenty of other fans of all ages out there that love this music, too," says bassist-vocalist Heath Kipp of Fawn, for whom "Antz" is a side project to his primary band, the Alle-Kiski-based DaPhunk.

He co-founded the dance party band with drummer and "Antz" member Bob Rotto, a Brackenridge native living in Cranberry.

"Antz has a deep connection to these songs. For those of us that are long-time fans of the Dave Matthews Band, these are not just songs. They are the soundtrack to a large portion of our lives," Kipp says.

He and his fellow musicians are not alone in that belief, he says.

"The Dave Matthews experience is more than just music, it's almost a lifestyle," Kipp says. "The songs are very positive and, to me, they promote the idea that you should enjoy your life, your friends and your loved ones, and live life to the fullest. There's nothing like enjoying a beautiful day while listening to your favorite DMB CD."

He draws a parallel to "Deadheads" who followed the Grateful Dead from town to town, creating their own subculture. With the Dave Matthews Band, the top-grossing touring band of the past decade with a huge Pittsburgh following, it's the same thing, he says.

General practitioner, Dr. Vidhu "Vee" Sharma of Murrysville, lead vocals and acoustic guitar, believes that Matthews writes in such a way that people from all walks of life can connect with his songs. "And the band has such high energy that people cannot turn away regardless of what their musical background may be," he says.

Sharma has been to multiple Matthews' shows and regularly saw the band in Richmond, Va., before they became well known. "The live shows are incredibly intense, while at the same time being quite laid back," he says. It's an experience that he believes any music lover should have at least once.

In Antz Marching, Sharma says he has the privilege of playing with guys who are excellent musicians.

Antz Marching was several years in the making. "It has always been a matter of finding just the right group of individuals with the talent, personality and passion to be able to pull off a project like this," Rotto says.

This is challenging music, a blend of jazz, rock, pop and other forms, that allows musicians to grow in their craft, he says.

He believes the musicians have an obligation to be as faithful to the spirit of Matthews' music as possible, while retaining the artistic freedom to explore their own avenues, which is a hallmark of a jam band like the Dave Matthews Band. "The DMB themselves do not perform the songs, individual parts or arrangements the same way twice," he says.

There is a lot of emphasis on entertainment value and showmanship, he says. Antz's engineer, Jeff Knabb of Leechburg, has worked with the musicians for several years in other projects and, Rotto says, "always delivers a full, rich and robust soundscape for us to work in."

The musicians will perform, address the audience and dress as themselves. Rotto sees it as a showcase paying tribute to the Dave Matthews Band's body of work. "We're hoping to give the crowd a similar experience to seeing the Dave Matthews Band live, but in a more intimate setting," Kipp says.

With Matthews' band set to take a year off from touring, Kipp says this is the perfect time for Antz Marching to make its debut, filling that void. If they can turn more people on to Matthews' music, that's all for the better, he adds.

Antz Marching also performs 9 p.m. Dec. 17 at Fox Chapel Yacht Club.

Additional Information:

Antz Marching

What: Dave Matthews Band tribute band

When: 10 p.m. Friday

Where: Harrison's Bar and Grille, Heights Plaza, Freeport Road, Natrona Heights

Admission: $5

Details: Reservations recommended, 724-226-3500

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