Lez Zeppelin at the Free Summer Concert Series
This spring, the Bonnaroo Music Festival announced its summer lineup, which included all-girl tribute Lez Zeppelin.
Somewhere in an oddly misguided reading of that news release, a wire editor at The Associated Press decided that surely, the Bonnaroo folks had overlooked a copy error - that surely, though they were listed well below all the other headliners, the living members of the real Led Zeppelin must be reuniting to play the festival.
Steph Paynes, guitarist and founder of Lez Zeppelin, finds the mistake hilarious.
And although seeing her band certainly is not seeing the real thing, Paynes and company pack enough confidence to put on a killer show, which they did at last week's Free Summer Concert Series.
Sure, the set felt a little short. And the "Whole Lotta Love" finale plodded on a little too long through its middle portion. But Lez Zeppelin is worlds beyond just about every other band in the tribute game, and their Zep covers are the only even-close-to-acceptable imitations I have heard.
That's because Paynes is a spot-on guitarist and lead singer Sarah McLellan can wail almost as outrageously as Robert Plant. Both are supported with equal vigor by Lisa Brigantino on bass and Helen Destroy on drums.
Much of Lez Zeppelin's stage presence comes from the ownership each band member feels for her somewhat dubious task of impersonating a 1970s legend of hard rock, and of playing songs everyone knows.
In a phone interview a couple of weeks before the show, Paynes said it would be impossible for her to pick a favorite Led Zeppelin song.
"It would be like picking which child you like best, even though they're not my children. Though when we play them, it feels that way," she said.
Her enthusiasm and dedication for the music comes across clearly on stage - and that's the main reason it's hard to explain the seeming lack of audience response July 25. There were plenty of people up close to the stage, rocking out to the songs they loved the best, but everything farther back lacked the energy of the previous week's show.
It doesn't make sense, because the girls in Lez Zeppelin do an awesome job. But the vibe was hard to ignore: This band just didn't catch people the way Michael Franti did.
Even so, "Heartbreaker" rocked.
- Margaret Hair, 4 Points