published Friday, March 4th, 2011

Party like it’s 12 years ago

With his shoulder-length dreadlocks, he may look more like Ziggy Marley than Prince, but Hugh Swaso said it’s not the look that makes the man any more than his clothes.

“People look at our picture and say, ‘You guys don’t look anything like Prince and the band doesn’t look like The Revolution, but from seeing that, we can tell that it’s all about the music,’” Swaso said of his Prince tribute band, 1999.

“Every sound is correct, every feel is correct and every tone and emotion from that concert in that era is given out. We try to get that experience because if it becomes a huge circus, you lose the point. If you want that, go to a wax museum.”

In addition to donning Prince’s purple blazer for 1999, Swaso also leads the Chapel Hill, N.C.-based rock quartet Swaso, all of whom also play in 1999. As with all of their gigs, Swaso will open for 1999 Saturday when the band takes the stage at Rhythm & Brews.

Swaso founded 1999 last summer after he was approached with the idea by a booking agent for the Michael Jackson tribute band Who’s Bad, in which he also plays. After a month and a half of preparation, Swaso said, the band had perfected a note-for-note rendition of 22 Prince songs, primarily from the 1984-1985 Purple Rain Tour.

The band’s Prince set lasts about 90 minutes, but oftentimes, Swaso said, the reaction to his original songs rivals that of the tribute material.

The two sides of his musical personality feed each other, he said.

“It’s actually worked out very well with us,” Swaso said. “People are like, ‘The Swaso stuff is kind of like Prince. You’re a flashy guitar player. You run around stage and you rock out. It’s really cool.’

“Then, they see the Prince thing, and they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh. That makes sense.’”

Q&A: Hugh Swaso, lead singer of Swaso and 1999: A Prince Tribute.


What: 1999: A Tribute to Prince with Swaso opening.

When: 10 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Rhythm & Brews, 221 Market St.

Admission: $10.

Phone: 267-4644.

Venue website:

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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