published Thursday, June 13th, 2013

London rock: Trio brings neo-British invasion to Riverbend (June 14)

Leogun is, from left, bassist Matt Johnson, lead vocalist/guitarist Tommy Smith and drummer Mike Lloyd.
Leogun is, from left, bassist Matt Johnson, lead vocalist/guitarist Tommy Smith and drummer Mike Lloyd.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

What: Leogun

When: 7:45-9 p.m. Friday, June 14

Where: Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union Stage

Admission: $45 for Riverbend pin, $26 one-night wristband

Phone: 423-756-2211

Venue website: www.riverbendfestival.com

Artist website: www.leogun.com

Even if you couldn't tell from how easily his voice slips into an upper-register wail from a basement growl, you could see the musical DNA of Leogun frontman Tommy Smith in every curly blond lock falling oh-so-very-Robert Plant-like from his head.

Led Zeppelin and Leogun share more in common than a hometown (London) and a set of golden tresses, though. Smith says his band embodies the same purity of rock spirit as Zeppelin, a quality that is all but missing from many modern bands.

Leogun has been touring the length and breadth of the U.S. in its inaugural trans-Atlantic tour since last August. Besides putting a ridiculous number of miles on the minivan, Smith says this trip has shown a light on a near-universal desire for bands that can deliver undiluted rock 'n' roll in the spirit of Leogun's greatest influences, such as Queens of the Stone Age, Jack White, The Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam and -- of course -- Zeppelin.

"There seems to be this constant thing across the states of, 'Can we have some rock 'n' roll? We need some good rock bands,'" he says in a phone call during a stop in Boise, Idaho. "I'm proud to be building a foundation for that and working my [butt] off for it."

When the musicians take to Riverbend's Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union Stage on Friday, June 14, Smith says, Chattanoogans are going to experience a second wave of British rock that represents a musical return to form. It will also offer one of the last chances for the band to play material from its upcoming debut LP, "By the Reins," before it drops next Tuesday, June 18.

Formed two years ago by Smith, his lifelong friend, bassist Matt Johnson, and their college colleague, drummer Mike Lloyd, Leogun was the first band to sign to instrument manufacturing giant Yamaha Corp.'s new, in-house label, Yamaha Entertainment Group.

The band's blues/rock sound and Smith's unapologetically straightforward approach to musically tackling everyday topics, whether all-night benders or sexual encounters, has drawn plenty of critical comparisons to the classic rock artists whose sounds they aim to channel.

Yet Smith insists that none of the attention they are receiving, the label deal nor the chance to open for giants such as Elton John, Kiss and Bon Jovi is going to their heads. At the end of the day, he says, it's all about committing fully to the show every time.

"This country has got rock 'n' roll in its blood," he says. "If it's done well, people react to it. We've only got the three of us, so we've got a lot more to do to get that sound, but I want to be the biggest-sounding thing there is."

Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...

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