Lez Zeppelin, all-girl Led Zeppelin tribute, returns to Vail
VAIL – “Whole Lotta Love” never looked this good, but you know it sounds this good.
Lez Zeppelin, an all-girl Led Zeppelin tribute band, is exactly what it’s supposed to be: A power trio packed with kick-ass musicians fronted by a vocalist with pipes and personality out to here.
They’re playing a free show Thursday night at Vail’s Street Beat concert. They’ll keep you warm.
“It’s the best rock music in the world, no matter which gender or how old you are,” said Steph Paynes, lead guitarist and founder. Think pretty Jimmy Page.
They’ve been at this since 2004.
“Each version has had its charms,” Paynes said. “This group that’s together now is what I envisioned when I started the band. This is what it should be. Each member is extraordinary in her own right. Each player contributes something so unique and special.
“It would be my fantasy to play in Led Zeppelin. As I am wont to do, I tried to make fantasies into realities. And here we are in Colorado,” Paynes said.
So, how does a nice New York City girl end up a rock ‘n’ roll road warrior?
“I was between gigs several years ago and had gotten a box set of remastered Led Zeppelin music. I’d heard it all before, but I wasn’t tuned into it. The more I listened to it, the more I realized how amazing it was,” Paynes said.
Paynes’ paradigm was pushed by what she heard.
“I had never been into Page, more Clapton and Hendrix. But I was just blown away by what he had. He has such a panoramic command of so many different styles. He plays with such intense fury and emotionalism,” Paynes said.
Listening is good, duplicating is better and it’ll make you a better guitarist.
“You really have to hunker down and play all those riffs,” Paynes said.
So that’s what she did.
The first album had two originals and was warmly received. People want something new, kind of. But they also know what they expect to hear from a Zeppelin tribute band.
Then they remade “Led Zeppelin 1.” They played the same vintage equipment used by Led in 1968 – from the ’50s era Les Paul and Telecaster, to the Supro amp, ’60s era compressor, Hammond organ and Fuzzbender stomp box.
“I’m very proud of it. It’s a whole new level of adoration and commitment,” Paynes said.
They’re now working on “Led Zeppelin 2” and it’s going well, Paynes said.
People are asking for some original material, and they’re working on some.
“We have a lot of songwriters in the band, so it could happen. But it has to be good,” Paynes said. “We have a fun name, and we have fun performing, but the music we play is some of the best ever done. The bar is high and we have to stretch to go over it.”
Lez Zeppelin is based in New York City and has a certain tendency for gender-bending audacity.
They captured attention almost right away. In June, 2005, Chuck Klosterman wrote an article for SPIN magazine that featured Lez Zeppelin as a leading protagonist in a trend of all-female hard rock “tribute” bands.
The band’s fortunes soared and Lez Zeppelin became a bit of a media darling, partly because they looked good, but mostly because they play good.
Stories showed up in the Times of London, who called the band “the best new band this year, no question.”
In April 2007, they took a break from the road to release their first album, “Lez Zeppelin,” produced by Eddie Kramer, a recording engineer on several of Led’s albums.
They’re the first tribute band to appear at major rock festivals, including the Download Festival in the UK where they know a little Led.
And a mistake worked in their favor. Press outlets around the world reported Led Zeppelin would headline a rock festival, and it sparked a worldwide media storm. Well, turns out Lez Zeppelin was the headliner – Paynes and the girls. The corrections led to headlines, and the headlines led to an audience of 20,000 people who were dazzled by a blistering set.
They’ve toured Japan, performed a benefit in India to buy ambulances in Mumbai … they’ve been everywhere and played everything. And now they’re here.
“We’re excited to be back in Vail,” Paynes said.