Whole Lotta’ Lez Zeppelin in Beaver Creek
Vail CO, Colorado
BEAVER CREEK, Colorado ” There’s a fine line between musical imitation and reinvention. Steph Paynes said she feels her all-female Led Zeppelin tribute band, Lez Zeppelin, is on the latter side of that line.
Paynes’ idea was to bring together four women musicians with the passion and ability to play Zep tunes without sounding like just another bland cover band. At first she doubted she could find three other girls who could play the caliber of music that Led Zeppelin produced.
“If I thought about it too much, I might have run away scared thinking there was no way I’m going to find a female bass player who plays keys and mandolin and can do everything John Paul Jones does, because I’d never met a person like that,” said Paynes, lead guitar player and founder of Lez Zeppelin.
But after much perseverance, “a bit of magic and a bit of luck,” she found them. Sarah McLellan fills in for Robert Plant on vocals, Lisa Brigantino takes John Paul Jones’ place on the bass, Helen Destroy replaces John Bonham on the drums and Paynes shreds the guitar like an estrogen-powered Jimmy Page.
The girls of Lez Zeppelin bring their high-energy show to Beaver Creek Saturday night and even though they’ve toured the world, Colorado leans more towards “Zeppelin mania” than most other places they play, Paynes said.
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“Colorado is one of these places that just seems to love what we’re doing and we’ve built a great base here,” Paynes said.
It’s not all guys out to see hot chicks on stage, either. Avon resident and Led Zeppelin fan Laura Herbst has seen them play twice now and said she wasn’t disappointed either time. Lez Zeppelin does a great job bringing the band’s music to life, she said.
“I think if anyone were to do it, they do the best. They do a great job,” Herbst said.
Led Zeppelin is arguably the greatest rock band of all time, if not the most iconic. When they burst onto the music scene in 1968 nobody could have suspected just how far-reaching their influence would be, even 28 years later. (They disbanded in 1980.) Paynes said she was gripped by the band’s music after she listened to the box set of their studio recordings roughly seven years ago. Ever since, she’s been enthralled by Led Zeppelin’s mix of rock and blues, especially Page’s guitar playing style.
“It was created what, 30 years ago, 40 years ago, and was still sounding so timeless, still sounding so relevant, like better than most of the stuff I was listening to … far and away better,” Paynes said.
Thus began her love affair with the music she would go on to play night after night, in city after city. Suddenly the instrument she’d been playing since age six took on a whole new meaning.
However, Paynes and her bandmates insist what they are doing is not a straight up, note-for-note copy of what Led Zeppelin did, either. Lez brings their own unique take on the music to each performance; to do anything else, according to Paynes, would be pointless.
They are always learning new Led Zeppelin songs and rotating the songs they play each night. On any given night, Paynes said the playlist will range from the up-tempo rock fest “Whole Lotta Love” to the epic stoner ballad “Dazed and Confused,” and everything in between. Channeling the essence of Led Zeppelin’s music is just one more challenge for the girls, and the very fact that they’re all women adds another layer of surprise when audiences see them play for the first time.
“They just don’t think that women are going to deliver this kind of powerful music with agility and force,” Paynes said.
Are they channeling Led Zeppelin though? To a certain extent yes, although Paynes said it’s the natural course of events when you spend so much time with one artist’s music.
And now the girls are so steeped in Led Zeppelin, they might just be the next best thing for generations of people who may have never seen the real thing.
“I would say that there’s nothing we couldn’t play … I feel confident that this band is capable of playing any Zeppelin song it sets out to play,” Paynes said.
But there is one song they refuse to play, at least for the time being: “Stairway to Heaven.”
“It’s obvious, it’s too easily cliched,” Paynes said. “It is so overplayed, and it is … sacred at the same time, so you got all those things working against you.”
Stairway denied? Fortunately they have close to 100 other songs to choose from, and how wrong can you really go with any Led Zeppelin tune?
High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or email@example.com.