Note: The below story was written by Karen Valentine. We would love to add a few links to places you might be able to find her on the Internet … but she doesn’t have a website, Twitter account or Facebook page, and for that, friends, she should probably be commended.
Led Zeppelin fans might be familiar with the many tribute bands out there paying homage to the iconic British group. One such band, Led Zepplica, has been described as one of the best live Led Zeppelin tribute bands today. The group, who has toured nationally and internationally, is set to play the Weinberg Center on Saturday. We recently got the opportunity to ask Lenny Mann, the band member who portrays guitarist Jimmy Page on stage, a few questions about Led Zepplica and what fans can expect from their show this weekend.
According to your website, Led Zepplica was created about twenty years after Led Zeppelin started (1989). So here’s a typical interview question: How did you four come together and decide, we’re going to form a Led Zeppelin tribute band?
Well, there have been many iterations of the band since its conception and none of the original members of the project are still performing. The music of Led Zeppelin is still as relevant as it was when it was first recorded over 40 years ago. As musicians, the decision to play the world’s greatest rock music and to recreate their magical concerts was a challenge we could not resist.
Were you initially nervous about performing as a tribute band to one of the most iconic rock bands ever? Do you remember where you first performed publicly as Led Zepplica?
Extremely nervous. My first gig was at a Los Angeles venue back in January of 2000, and I had four weeks to prepare for it. The original guitarist was retiring and I knew about five complete Led Zeppelin songs at the time. Those four weeks really gave me a lifetime appreciation of the magic of what they did in the studio recording those history-making sessions.
Fans experience Led Zeppelin on different levels, perhaps because of the group’s appeal to multiple generations. What has been Led Zepplica’s experience with the fans? For example, are you asked or expected to play the same most popular songs such as “Stairway to Heaven” or “Kashmir?” Or are you free to get into all of Led Zeppelin’s catalogue (songs like “The Lemon Song” or “Moby Dick”)?
Our song choices are determined by the event we are playing. If it is a festival with other bands performing, we usually stick with the hits that everyone knows. If it is a concert hall that we are headlining, the people that are attending are usually Led Zeppelin aficionados, and we will mix in the concert versions that Led Zeppelin was known for. There are some songs, such as “Stairway to Heaven” that you have to play. I recall one show that we did in Honolulu and the venue cut us off before we could finish our set. It was a riot out there with over 1,000 people throwing all kinds of stuff. Needless to say, we no longer place that song at the end of the show.
Led Zepplica played in India in 2006? Wow! How did that come about? What was that experience like for you? Does the music enjoy the same popularity there as it does in the U.S.?
Actually, we have performed in India on four separate occasions throughout the years. The team in charge of the 2006 Chenai open air concert festival wanted to find the best Led Zeppelin tribute out there to headline the event and they chose us. It was one of the most rewarding concerts we have ever done with over 8,000 in attendance. Everyone knew the lyrics and was singing along, so yes, the legacy of Led Zeppelin is still alive and strong there.
What do you think distinguishes Led Zepplica from other Led Zeppelin tribute bands?
It is all about chemistry. There are many fine individual musicians in the other tributes that compete with us, but there is a reason why we have performed worldwide. Led Zeppelin had it and we have it. Chemistry. It is the ability to have four individuals seamlessly interact with each other and know what to do next. Everyone in the project has mastered the style of whom they are portraying and when we get into an improvisational jam, we can sound like the original. This is why we can fill the void for those who never experienced a live Led Zeppelin concert in the mid-’70s era, when the boys were on top of their game.
Looking over your tour history on your website, it seems this is your first visit to Maryland. How did Frederick become the chosen destination for a gig rather than Baltimore or Annapolis, and do you plan to hit either or both of those cities in the not-too-distant future?
Performing in Frederick came about by a local, Chris Anderson, who contacted us early this year and wanted to do something special for the folks in Frederick. Like others, he scoured the internet and found us. Currently there are no plans for Baltimore or Annapolis, but that could change. If people would like to be informed of these events, I would encourage them to visit our Facebook page.
Have any of you had the privilege of seeing Led Zeppelin perform in person?
Unfortunately, no. Had the opportunity to see Robert Plant a number of years back.
Do you foresee a time down the road when you may tour/record under a different name and play your own music?
Everyone in the band has had or still actively performs in original projects. Our current singer, Keith St. John, performs regularly with Burning Rain, promoting their recently released album. He was the lead singer for Montrose for many years and has freelanced with Lynch Mob, Quiet Riot and other original bands. As far as Led Zepplica, we have had discussions on creating some Led Zeppelin-influenced music for our fans as well as remakes of the Zep classics.
Again, you can check out Led Zepplica on Saturday at the Weinberg Center. The festivities begin and 8 p.m. and yes, tickets are still available.