Musikfest 2016: Band from Mars singer on bringing 'Ziggy Stardust' to life

Band from Mars.  (Courtesy Photo)

Band from Mars. (Courtesy Photo)

Matt Juknevic had long been dreaming of performing David Bowie's landmark album The Rise and Fall of ZIggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in its entirety.

So when tonight's original Musikfest headliner, R&B icon Aretha Franklin, canceled her performance, organizers turned to Juknevic and his group Band from Mars.

Bethlehem's Band from Mars will tackle Ziggy Stardust and other Bowie cuts on the Sands Steel Stage. Philadelphia-based Swift Technique is also on the bill. The latter will pay tribute to the music of Prince, who died in April at age 57. (Bowie died in January at age 69.)

It will be the second time a Lehigh Valley band has replaced a main stage headliner. In 2014, Coopersburg-based guitarist Craig Thatcher and his band filled in for ZZ Top. (The latter canceled due to bassist Dusty Hill's undergoing kidney surgery.)

"It's weird because you lose a little bit of that very personal, small venue kind of vibe. There is a different energy in that situation," said the Band from Mars singer-guitarist during a Aug. 6 phone interview.

This will not be Juknevic's first time on the Sands Steel Stage. Juknevic's other band, indie rockers VoirVoir, opened for The Flaming Lips last summer. This time around, he said, there will be will be more room to move about the stage. (Band from Mars performed earlier in the summer at the SteelStacks complex.)

"You kind of have to turn all phasers to stun," Juknevic said. "You got to do (the music) justice.  The guy was a genius."

Released in June 1972, Ziggy Stardust spawned the singles "Ziggy Stardust," "Suffragette City," "Starman," "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide" and "Moonage Daydream." 

Juknevic, a lifelong Bowie fan, said recreating Ziggy Stardust has been a project nearly two decades in the making. "It's one of those albums we grew up with that was saturated in our brain. But to do it is a different story," Juknevic said. "We hope people come out and get excited ... we're not trying to be David Bowie. We're trying to represent his music the best way we can and hopefully bring back some good memories for people."

Band from Mars is rounded out by lead guitarist Chris McDermott, bassist Jesse Braun, drummer Jonathan Braun, keyboardist Doug Hawk and saxophonist Tony Guiro.

Band from Mars performs tonight with Swift Technique on the Sands Steel Stage at Musikfest in Bethlehem. Gates open at 6 o'clock. Show time is 7 o'clock. Admission is free.