By Billy Ludt
At 19, Khaled Tabbara hiked through Red Rocks Park in Colorado. It was daytime, and his destination was the amphitheater. When he arrived, nobody was on stage, so he climbed up on it.
Tabbara pulled out a disposable camera, snapped a picture of himself on the empty stage and told himself he’d play there one day. At that time he had not performed in front of anybody.
On Oct. 9, that teenage daydream came true.
The Zou performed Oct. 9 for The Rocky Mountain Entrepreneurial Summit at the world-renowned Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
“It was probably one of the greatest experiences of my entire life, to be honest,” Tabbara said.
Tabbara fronts The Zou, a Youngstown born and bred indie rock group, on vocals and plays the keyboard and guitar. Remaining members of the band are Dean Anshutz (drums, percussion), Billy LaGuardia (drums, percussion, bass), Rob Thorndike (guitar, vocals), Adam DeAcentis (bass), Katianne Timko (vocals), Bernadette Lim (vocals, keys), Jake Stephens (bass) and Joey Graziosi (keytar, flute, saxophone, EWII, keys).
Red Rocks Amphitheater has hosted performances from many globally recognized musicians — The Beatles, Phish, U2, Widespread Panic and The Flaming Lips to name a few — and the venue has a history of said musicians recording performances for live albums.
“It’s such an important place in music,” Tabbara said. “Everybody in the band had their favorite band who’d played there.”
Rows upon rows of bench seating are carved into the natural rock formations of the Red Rocks Park. The stage sits in the shadow of an expanse of rocks. Backstage resembles a complex system of caves, the walls adorned with pictures of the many artists who have played there, fitted for artists and crew.
“The acoustics are fantastic; the lights are just amazing; the crowd was wonderful,” Tabbara said.
The Zou shared the stage that night with improvisational funk band The Motet and headliners, alt hip-hop group, Flobots.
Tabbara lived in Denver for some time and with his prior experience with Red Rocks — as a spectator — he knew how great an opportunity it would be to have the band perform there.
They were informed a month and a half prior to the show that they were performing, but Tabbara was skeptical.
“I didn’t really believe him,” Tabbara said. “I just kept telling the band, look if this happens, great. Let’s not get too excited.”
They received their plane tickets to Denver a week before the show.
“I was in denial,” Tabbara said. “I told everybody, ‘it’s absolutely real. Be ready.’”
Tabbara came back home from a yearly songwriting conference in Denver to gather up the band and fly back to Denver.
Seven members of The Zou performed at the Red Rocks. Their numbers fluctuate depending on availability and where they are playing, due to their members living out of state or out of the country.
“I just really like making music,” Tabbara said. “I write these songs, and then I have all these friends that are insanely talented. We just make it work.”
The opportunity presented itself, so the band decided to record their performance for a future release. They flew in a sound person from New York to setup the show for multi-track recording, ready to be mixed in-studio.
“It was all kind of a blur,” Tabbara said. “We organized it. We pulled it off. It was fantastic. I do have to add some things to the bucket list, because one of them just got checked off.”
As a band, The Zou has performed in 28 states and played over 400 shows since its conception in 2007. They make an effort to play two to three times a year in Youngstown.
The Zou will perform in Youngstown on Halloween at Suzie’s Dogs & Drafts. Their latest album, “Kills, Pt. 2,” was released on Aug. 22. They plan to tour in December and have already started work on their next studio album.