Plant. Page. Jones. Bonham. Four names at the very top of hard rock royalty. A number of touring acts are striving to keep the spirit of Led Zeppelin alive, but none as unique and electrifying as Zepparella. Four immensely talented women playing their asses off and paying homage to Zeppelin… How can you go wrong?
Very honestly, it’s easy to go wrong. Bring up Led Zeppelin to most rock fans, and you aren’t just talking about any old band. This is “The Hammer of the Gods” we’re talking about here. The bar for doing the legendary band and their catalog justice is pretty high—and Zepparella cleared the bar with room to spare.
As the crowd trickled into Jammin’ Java, the vibe was much more relaxed than a typical night out at a club. At the small, yet nice, venue with decent food and a heck of a coffee bar, the slightly older crowd was in good spirits, as were the few kids in tow.
Warming up the crowd this evening were the Queens of Noise, a Runaways tribute band out of the DC area. Five young women with five seemingly distinct personalities paid homage to the girl band of the ’70s. With a dirty blonde mop that hid her face from view, guitarist Nicole Morris had the look of a surfer fresh off the California beach and deftly handled Joan and Lita’s licks.
All five had fun with it and seemed to capture the spirit of the Runaways. Singer Katie Monroe led the band through a lively set of both Runaways and Joan Jett songs. Lesser known but rocking songs like “I Love Playing With Fire,” while sounding great, always play second fiddle to the one-hit, “Cherry Bomb.” The whole crowd sang along with “I Love Rock and Roll,” and the set ended with a raucous version of “Bad Reputation.”
Zepparella, all four members clad in white, took the stage, the crowd loudly voicing their approval. The shouts only got bigger as they opened with the classic “Kashmir.” At first it seemed an odd-paced song to open a set with, but the power with which it was performed balanced things out.
Vocalist Noelle Doughty was superb, leading the way in transporting us back to a more glorious time in rock music. Filling the role of Jimmy Page, guitarist Gretchen Menn was outstanding. With some extra crunch in the main riff of “Kashmir” and spaced-out phasers in the chorus, she added the perfect amount of modern effects to set her guitar slightly apart from Page’s, yet remaining faithful to the source material.
As the ladies played on, it was unique that they didn’t cover the typical set of Led Zeppelin songs you would expect a Zep tribute band to play. Absent from the setlist were staples like “Black Dog,” “Communication Breakdown,” “Immigrant Song,” and even “Stairway to Heaven” was nowhere to be found. I admit I was sad that they didn’t play my personal favorite, “Heartbreaker.” The great flipside of this was that they covered some songs you wouldn’t typically hear or expect. Songs like “The Rover” and “In My Time of Dying” were a real treat to hear.
With a beguiling smile, bassist Angeline Saris began the familiar bass line of “Dazed and Confused,” and a hush fell over the crowd. After a free-form intro solo from Gretchen, Noelle’s voice soared in, and after the immortal words, “soul of a woman was created below,” the band crashed open with the power of a tsunami, then back again in perfect waves, from strong to soft. During the next solo, Gretchen retrieved a bow from its case atop the amp and visions of “The Song Remains the Same” played through everyone’s head.
A highlight of the set came when Noelle exited stage right, and the remaining members broke into “Moby Dick.” After a few minutes, Gretchen and Angeline made the exit and drummer Clementine summoned John Bonham from beyond the grave and proceeded to absolutely crush an extended drum solo, even using her hands in lieu of sticks just as Bonzo did. This energy wasn’t just during “Moby Dick.” Clementine hammered every last bit of mojo out of the drums through the entire set.
As the close of the night approached, the band picked up steam as they headed to the end, nailing “Ramble On,” “The Ocean,” and culminating with a driving rendition of the iconic “Whole Lotta Love.” A brief offstage pause, and the evening ended with the aptly chosen “Bring It On Home.”
The spirit of Led Zeppelin is definitely alive and well, and Zepparella is doing a damn fine job of keeping that torch lit.
Check back next week for an interview with Gretchen and Clementine of Zepparella.
THE QUEENS OF NOISE