Margaret Hair's column appears Fridays in the 4 Points arts and entertainment section in the Steamboat Today
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- Friday, July 25, 2008, 5:30 p.m.
- Howelsen Hill, 845 Howelsen Parkway, Steamboat Springs
Steamboat Springs Let's face it: Jimmy Page was a waif, and Robert Plant wore dainty shirts and tight pants.
There are plenty of arguments for creating an all-girl tribute to one of the best bands to ever play, but Lez Zeppelin founder/guitarist Steph Paynes points to the contrast between heavy metal and light hair products as one of the most telling.
"There's so much more femininity in Led Zeppelin than anyone ever realized, and than anyone gave them credit for," Paynes said, on the phone from Fort Collins during a mid-July run of Colorado dates.
"They were extremely powerful, but they also could be extremely delicate, unlike most heavy metal bands which were kind of spawned by Led Zeppelin," she said.
To Paynes, Led Zeppelin is too often dismissed as bombastic, lumped in with the crashing guitar music that found its roots in "Heartbreaker" and "Whole Lotta Love." But Page, Plant, Jones and Bonham listened to the blues, Celtic music and Joni Mitchell. They were heavy, sure. But they were more than that. And that is why Lez Zeppelin makes sense.
"When women get together and we play Led Zeppelin, it's almost frighteningly appropriate," Paynes said, explaining that the band was musically masculine in its force and volume but was dramatically feminine in its more subtle choices.
"When we go out there from the feminine side and apply a kind of masculine power to what we're doing, we're approaching the androgyny from the opposite side," she said.
About four years ago, Paynes was a professional musician living in New York, biding her time between projects. She'd been listening to a lot of Led Zeppelin, and she decided the time might be right to make a move.
"It was very much of an indulgence of my musical fantasy, really," she said, explaining Lez Zeppelin was "an idea whose time had come."
"I think there are lots of things that came together, that it sort of was a confluence of things that really could only have worked in the moment that it worked," she said. Part of that climate was a revival of Page and Plant's popularity.
"Unfortunately, I think there were moments in time that (Led Zeppelin's music) lacked the respect that it should have gotten," she said. "But I think that really Led Zeppelin had kind of come into its own, and 30 years after the fact, it was surprising a lot of people with how truly timely and relevant and powerful it was sounding in the context of 2004. There was a great resurgence of new fans and new love for this music."
Somewhere in there, having women lead the resurgence became a good idea. Paynes isn't exactly sure why the shift occurred. She just knows it happened.
"All I know is that now, it seems to be an idea that people are enjoying and they're curious about, and they're happy to be proven wrong in their skepticism," she said. Converting disbelievers isn't the easiest thing in the world to do, and Paynes knew Lez Zeppelin would have to come out of the gate kicking.
"We have a huge responsibility : to go out there and do it at an extremely high level, because people were going to be very skeptical," she said. All the band's members take this very, very seriously. The girls spend so much time with Led Zeppelin's songs they sometimes feel they're their own.
"To play Led Zeppelin no matter who you are - this is very sacred music, and it's very challenging. I mean, these were four musical prodigies, in their own right," Paynes said.
"If you're going to go out there and do it, you better have your (act) together."