The What plays The Who

After eight months of secretive jam sessions, The What, a Who tribute band, will debut on the Billings music scene Friday night at the Railyard.

Discreetly practicing since March, guitarist Brain Epley, bassist Matt Taggart and drummer Pat Epley debuted their tribute to the English rock band on Halloween night to a surprised and ultimately astounded audience.

Dressed as The Who, the band belted out Pete Townshend’s rock operas. In a recent interview, Brian Epley said the band used the concert as a testing ground for the music they’d been rehearsing behind the scenes for months.

“The band was disguised to see if we could get over the anxiety,” said Epley, who recieved positive feedback and said the band is now ready for a larger venue.

All three band members sing, something Epley said was difficult at first. Pat had sung backup vocals for Tyler Burnett, but none of the members focused their musical careers on singing. The three agreed strength in numbers would provide them the support they needed to add that massive presence of The Who founder and lead singer Roger Daltrey.

Of practicing in secret since March, Epley said, “It’s so much fun if there is no pressure. For a gig, you’ve got to rehearse a set list, and this is just pure fun.”

The pressure has been applied in recent weeks, and the band’s members have been preparing for their main stage debut, rehearsing twice a week for the last month.

“We wanted it to be knockout material. We want people’s jaws to drop. We want them not to know what hit them,” Epley said.

The three got the idea to tackle The Who’s meaty music pieces following Taggart’s time in audio school, when he was listening to plenty of the English rock band.

“Matt put the seed in my head,” Epley said. He suggested they pick out 25 songs that they like and want to play, and The What was born.

Epley said he never really got into The Who until Taggart started discussing their music. He was a Jimi Hendrix fan, whom he describes as the antithesis of The Who.

“Music has legs on it,” Epley said. “We really embrace it, and it’s coming out really well.”

Epley doesn’t think the band will play again until February, so catch The What while you can. They perform starting at 9 p.m. Friday the 13th at the Railyard.

(Originally published by the Billings Outpost: On Different Notes)

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About Anna Paige

Anna Paige is a writer, poet, and photographer advocating for live music culture, visual and performance arts, and the creative class in Montana through writing. More >>