How a Chicago dad is pulling off a scarcely believable tribute to rock’s greatest drummer
LED ZEPPELIN drum covers aren’t exactly a rare commodity. A quick YouTube search turns up a sea of results, from child prodigy Yoyoka Soma nailing “Good Times, Bad Times” to tribute-band members replicating John Bonham’s outré Song Remains the Same look. But amid the takes on “Ramble On” and “Rock and Roll,” you’ll find something singular: a man covering not just songs, but entire concerts — every monster fill in “Whole Lotta Love,” every barehanded smack in the “Moby Dick” solo that went down across the better part of three hours one night in, say, Osaka, Japan, in September 1971.
There’s not an ounce of theatricality in the videos George Fludas posts on his Bonhamology YouTube channel. He’s an unassuming fiftysomething dad who sets up his kit in his family’s Chicago living room; his movements are economical and contained, probably stemming from his main gig as a jazz drummer. But his grasp of Bonham’s style — that combination of sledgehammer force and greasy funk — is uncanny. “I feel like [Bonham] was a soul and R&B drummer with a very heavy but very wide dynamic range,” Fludas says. “The most significant factor is having a touch. A lot of it is how you hit the drum, how you pull the sound out of the drum.”
Fludas spends a couple of weeks immersing himself in a bootleg before trying a playthrough. He then simply cues up the show and goes for it, adhering to a strict no-edits policy. As proud as he is of his full-gig renditions, Fludas seems most fired up about the People’s Front of Zeppelin, or PFoZ, a remote cover band he started with guitarist Ivan Jakic and bassist Pete Etxenike that’s earned him some encouraging DMs from Jimmy Page’s girlfriend, who passed along a thumbs-up from Page. PFoZ essentially conjure their own Zep performances based on their intimate knowledge of the band; watching their nearly 29-minute “Dazed and Confused,” you experience the Bonham style not as a series of technical specifications but as a living language. “If you’re going to do it for yourself, do it and have fun with it,” Fludas says. Then, as if struck by the idiosyncrasy of his Bonhamological research, he adds, “I don’t know why the hell I’m doing it,” and laughs. “It’s kind of a bizarre thing.”