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First Snow will be first act at Robins

WARREN — The musicians in First Snow are no strangers to tribute acts.

Founder Kevin Bennett and several other members play in the Heart tribute act Straight On. Others play with tributes to Pat Benatar and Pink Floyd.

However, trying to do the music of Trans-Siberian Orchestra comes with its own set of challenges.

“The music is much more intricate,” Bennett said. “The other part is the actual show. We bring our own lighting rig and video production. It’s a full scale production, and then you have to get up there and play the music. I’m grateful for everybody who puts all of their other projects to the side so we can concentrate on this project at this time of year.”

Because of the size of the production, First Snow only does a handful of gigs every year during the Christmas season, and one of them will be the first event at the Robins Theatre in downtown Warren in more than 40 years. Saturday’s concert is a sneak peek before the official grand reopening in January 2020 of the theater. The building was purchased in 2017 by Mark Marvin and his Downtown Development Group, and crews have worked for two years restoring the theater.

The lineup for First Snow features: Kevin Bennett, guitar and vocals; Monique Bennett, lead and backing vocals; Brian Briggs, bass; Dan Cameron, lead and backing vocals; Kitrael Chin, keyboards; Chris Emig, lead and backing vocals; Chris Jennings, keyboards; Dave Jennings, guitar; Terry Johnson, lead and backing vocals; Michelle McDowell, lead and backing vocals; and Drew Sodee, drums.

The show also requires a five-member crew with Joe Bondoni, lighting design and technician; Eric Szijj, sound engineer; Acie Bennett, video technician; Connor Sodee, stage crew; and Ed Kruhmin, stage crew.

“We have a group of people who are in it for the right reasons,” Bennett said. “We love the music and want to go out and put on a great show for everybody. We can bring the Trans-Siberian Orchestra experience to a smaller venue. Our motto is, ‘We’re TSO on a budget.'”

Bennett said some of his favorites songs to play are some of TSO’s biggest holiday hits, like “Christmas Canon” and “Christmas Eve / Sarajevo.” Not surprisingly, he’s also fond of “First Snow,” the song that inspired the tribute act’s name.

“We draw from all of its music,” Bennett said. “We do the Christmas catalog, but we’ll also do some songs from ‘Beethoven’s Last Night’ and other non-holiday stuff.

“We don’t try to mimic everything they do. They are so amazing at what they do. We try to follow their lead, per se, with six different singers in the group. There are a lot of different vocal styles coming in and out, costume changes, dance routines.”

Bennett said the band also is excited to be the first act at the restored theater.

“We’ve worked with (promoter) Kenny (Haidaris) from Sunrise with our other tribute acts,” Bennett said. “He knew what we were about and wanted to bring us in for the soft opening. We’re really proud and honored they asked us to be there.”

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