FAIRBANKS - There is a power and mystique to Led Zeppelin that is unmatched in rock and roll history. Yet, unlike many other important bands that lost an important band member, such as The Who or Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin did not seek a replacement and, thus, ceased to exist.
In some ways, this only heightened the fame and accolades accorded the band. It also increased the want for any sort of “reunion” to appease the desire to hear the music live again.
While it’s not quite the same, though close, the live essence of Led Zeppelin now lives on in Lez Zeppelin, an all-female tribute band from New York City. The band was formed in late 2003 by guitarist Steph Paynes not to profit off the original but out of a real urge to play the music.
“(The band) grew out of this desire to play this music which I love so much,” Paynes explained. “I started listening to it really heavily in the late 1990s. I rediscovered it, and against the backdrop of all the other stuff I played, some of which was good and some was crappy, this stuff just sounded so incredible.
“One day I just thought that if I could indulge my fantasy, what would I do?,” she continued. “It would be to just play Led Zeppelin or music like Led Zeppelin. So I just went out and tried to do and it’s been this way ever since.”
The concept caught on fast, and though it may not have been her true intention, Lez Zeppelin has become her life. But even though it was originally just a fun idea, Paynes said she took the idea of playing Led Zeppelin with all seriousness. Six months of intense rehearsing preceded the first steps onto a stage. Every aspect of the music and band mannerisms had to be just right.
“If we were going to play Led Zeppelin, we had to do it in the most intense, serious way to do it justice — especially being women,” she said. “I understood the gravity of it and prepared the band for that.”
There is a touch or irony in an all-female band performing Led Zeppelin, a band that at the time was the ultimate expression of male rock and roll sexual power. Yet, with the exception of an often bearded or mustachioed John Bonham behind the drum kit, the rest of the band frequently had a more androgynous side.
“They looked very, very girly,” Paynes said. “The band had a very feminine mystique to them as well, and it’s the blending of the male and female that made them as good as they are.
“Of course,” she added, “when people see us they realize this makes sense. It makes people rethink the whole thing and that it’s somehow oddly appropriate for us to be doing this.”
Led Zeppelin was, in many senses, two bands — the studio band and the live band prone to free-form jamming and musical expression that went beyond the regular hard rock ethos. Paynes said Lez Zeppelin is more like the live band. The music is not regurgitated note for note but instead remains open to band interpretation.
“We treat it like a classical music and we’re in a sense interpreting that music,” she said. “It’s the classical music of our time.”
Contact features editor Glenn BurnSilver at 459-7510.
IF YOU GO
What: Lez Zeppelin
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: The Blue Loon
Tickets: $20 online in advance at www.theblueloon.com, 457-5666