Much like I’d discover from most of the people who came out to see Led Zeppelin 2 last Wednesday, I had never seen them perform. A simple random search for events to cover that week had luckily forced me to stumble upon their upcoming gig. Being a massive Zep fan since ninth grade (a.k.a. a thousand years ago), it was most intriguing. I’d always wished for a chance to see them in their prime and just like Lynn and Josh whom I met while freezing our behinds off waiting for the doors to open figured…eh…what the hell?
“Nah, we hardly ever come out on a work night but it’s Led Zeppelin man, we had to see what it was about”. Those words were forced through chattering teeth while Josh shivered, wishing he’d worn a coat. He and his wife Lynn were HUGE followers of the original musical genius that have influenced practically every rock band since the 70’s. We laughed about how we were all miserable slaves to the corporate grind while both conveyed the sentiment of how it was pretty cool that I was trying to follow my dream of becoming a writer.
“Ya know, I wish I could just be happy pushing papers around on my desk till I was 57 and dropped dead of a heart attack. Things would be so much easier” I told them.
“If I could do anything, if money didn’t matter, I’d open my own greenhouse” Lynn declared.
“What’s your dream Josh?” It may have sounded silly but I was extremely sincere in my question. They both seemed so much like me, music lovers, creative people who felt trapped in the doldrums of the boring world of normalcy, making house payments and sleeping through life.
“Ohhh…it’s stupid” he replied but I pressed until he admitted he’d love to run his own microbrewery.
“That’s not stupid….that’s awesome. Look, it’s like Tenacious D said…just for once in your life, focus on your craft. You don’t want to look back when your 60 and say that you never tried.”
A serious light washed over both of their faces and I’d love to think that they both really considered it. Maybe it had to do with the show we were about to see, the music that inspired us all so much in our youth that anything was possible when you just live for rock, whatever it was , it felt significant.
We went our separate ways once inside. They opted for a seat up above while I went straight for the floor. It was way early but I always try to get to these things promptly so I can hopefully get some decent pictures. Having also never been to the Masquerade before, I found the “Hell” room to be an incredibly amazing visual. The rock walls with the red lighted glow cast upon them made me think if hell were really like this, it might actually be more kick ass than the Bible or my Preacher grandfather made it out to be. There weren’t many folks down there just yet save for me and a group of very young guys who had already staked out their spots right in front of the stage. I overheard one of them (Charles) exuding his acquired musical knowledge to the other few lads who had squeezed in beside of him.
“I mean how the f*#k can you even have rock without Led Zeppelin? C’mon man!”
For an Oldie McOlderton, it was refreshing to hear youngsters so excited about a band that was already considered a classic even back when I was a teenager. When asked his favorite album, he stared into space for just a moment, then with the utmost certainty named “Physical Graffiti” as his ultimate.
“That’s one of the best for sure” I agreed wholeheartedly. Charles had never seen Led Zeppelin 2 either, just heard through the grapevine that they were legit and thought it may be a chance to wallow in the greatness of another era that had passed long before his conception.
“Hammer of the Gods…quote me on that” was Charles’ one and only request. Done!
The other fresh-faced miscreants appeared to be even younger, asking their ages, turned out they were each only 15 or 16. Hutch, Steve and Chris all felt like they’d been born in the wrong time and thought pretty much any rock music made after the 1970’s sucked. It’s funny, I used to think the same thing, been around long enough now to realize that’s not true. When you’re that age though, everything comes in absolutes.
“What about The Black Keys?” I queried.
“Ohhhh…EXCEPT them!” they all concurred. “We Love The Black Keys.”
As it happens, the boys have their own blues/rock band called “The 49 Sound” and revealed that they have an album coming out next month. I penciled my email, telling them to let me know if they book a gig as I’d try to come out and cover it. You would’ve thought I was Rob Sheffield from Rolling Stone going by their reaction. Their exuberance was infectious, channeling a similar feeling to that of taking a sip from the fountain of youth. Ahhh…remember when you were sure it was all going to work out just as you’d planned? Those were the days.
Charles, the young man wearing the slider had only met the other boys that night. Since their other buddy Tom couldn’t make it out due to being a broke teenager, The 49 Sound made him an honorary member of the group.
The place began swelling with newcomers when an even younger fan caught my attention.
Just 12 years old, Jack was already a seasoned concert goer and from what his father J.C. said, a helluva guitarist. J.C. obviously had a huge influence and impact on his son’s musical tastes and his Uncle Bill was an accomplished guitarist in his own right. They had never seen our band for the evening either but Uncle Bill played with Led Zep 2’s guitarist (Paul Kamp) on some other ventures, knowing him to be a remarkable musician.
Jack wasn’t the only one sporting a huge smile and Zep t-shirt. They were fully in stock all around the room which couldn’t help but start the wheels turning, like this show just might be excellent. I also couldn’t help but wonder how even when a cold breeze blew into the pit, when no one was sweaty at all, why it already smelled like butt cheese and feet? One of those cosmic tie-ins that can be counted on, no matter what the venue, kind of like a stinky comfort.
The crowd started getting antsy around 9 o’clock. The booze was running strong, yet it still wasn’t overpowering the anticipation in the atmosphere. A roadie came out for a sound check, everyone cheered. Fired up the smoke machine and they just about peed their pants. Right at the point when we could wait no longer, the Led Zeppelin dopplegangers graced us with their presence, practically oozing pure 70’s strut. They would refer to themselves as Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham throughout the night, never stepping out of character for an instant, looking the parts from the moment they slid on stage, wearing the styles of the time.
Busting out with “Good Times Bad Times” in such authentic raw flair, we all bought what they were selling, no questions lingering about if they would live up to expectations anymore. It was nasty, totally sending me to a cornfield in rural West Virginia circa 1989 where I would get drunk for the first time on Boone’s Farm, begging the guy who drove us out there to crank it up on his crappy, factory car stereo.
“Immigrant Song” sealed it. This would be the closest thing to witnessing a live performance by Led Zeppelin that I would ever see in my lifetime. Of course Robert Plant and Jimmy Page are still incredible. John Paul Jones is the glue for “Them Crooked Vultures”. After John Bonham’s passing though, you’ve never had the melting force they were so successful at crushing your brain with since. That is until these guys from Tacoma, Il decided to resurrect Bonham, providing something that you have to see and hear to believe how balls out fantastic they are.
“What Is and What Should Never Be” had the mob screaming their heads off. Bruce Lamont embodies Robert Plant in every way possible. His voice, gestures, movements, a perfect parody.
“Since I’ve Been Loving You” was slow, bluesy sex, grabbing on, pushing my body to sway along with Paul Kamp’s (Jimmy Page) utmost control of the guitar. It poured out in a fury, seeming to come straight from his soul. “Misty Mountain Hop” had heads bobbing, lyrics being mouthed in complete harmony, bringing to mind some magical party bus where everyone was dancing in the aisle.
The double neck came out for “Stairway To Heaven” and there probably wasn’t a blackberry or Iphone in the house that wasn’t held up in the air recording it.
Thankfully, no guitar store jerkwad came out to put the kibosh on it ala “Wayne’s World” as it was spectacular. No hamming it up, these guys are fantastic.
The acoustic set began with “Going to California”, treating everyone to more of bass player/keyboardist Chris Klein’s (John Paul Jones) mastery.
“Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” came after that, so deep, beautiful, intense. Super tight drummer Ian Lee (John Bonham) came up to help out on the end.
Standing in the corner by the railing, I’d been listening to a dude in front of me talk about all of the instruments with what could only be described as experience. Seemed he’d certainly know what the weird thing Paul Kamp was playing at the beginning of “No Quarter”. Billy did indeed know what a theremin was, spelled it correctly and even offered to boot The 49 Sound out my way so I could get a better picture. I had to decline, those kids were loving it too much to make them move (in my opinion) even for a second so I didn’t snap one. You can see how enthralled they were from this angle pretty well.
Billy was a guitarist himself whose band had broken up, leaving his playing in limbo. Also another attendee who had just heard about but never seen these fellas and was MORE than impressed with every member of Led Zep 2. He said he’d seen another cover band called Zoso who were rockin’ but these guys were as good or better. Not surprisingly, he was mostly blown away by Paul Kamp’s guitar skills since he knew the level of talent it took to handle an ax to that degree.
As you can probably tell, Billy was a funny, crazy mess.
“Dazed and Confused” prompted the bow! Too COOL.
Even “Black Dog” felt fresh when seeing it played with such passion.
But no way were they leaving without giving scorching renditions of “Ramble On” or “Kashmir”. UNDENIABLE.
Like any great band, they came back for an encore singing “Rock and Roll” which somehow still had not been ruined for me by the Cadillac commercial. I heard only one person complain because they didn’t do “Whole Lotta Love” which at the same time was still very much a compliment. If they weren’t so dead nuts on, I assume the guy in the blazer wouldn’t have cared.
Bruce (Plant) was swamped in adoration after the show so I was only able to speak to him briefly and express my amazement at how remarkable they were. He came off as being quite humble, grateful and appreciative of everyone who came out to see them. He said they’d be back this way in a couple of months so please take my word for it, get the Led out and GO SEE THEM. If you’re a Zep fan, it’s something you’ll never forget.
And thanks to Josh and Lynn who I ran into again on the way out. They were kind enough to walk with me to the car, making sure I wasn’t clubbed in the head and thrown in a dumpster.