Lez Zeppelin rocks Pittsburgh

Last week, I saw Lez Zeppelin at a Pittsburgh club called Diesel.

It was almost too delicious to fathom. Uncharacteristically, I fussed over what to wear. What’s the proper thing to wear to experience a cover band resurrecting 30-year-old music? It was quite the conundrum, given my wardrobe. Finally I settled on cargo pants (pockets to hold all my junk) and a black “Faith the Vampire Slayer” T-shirt. My girlfriend Caty looked much cuter in her clam diggers, purple tee and spanking new Tevas. That girl can pull off any look. If we were cities, she’d be Milan and I’d be, well, Pittsburgh.

Lez Zeppelin has neatly carved its own unique niche in a genre that is not only crowded, but insanely crowded. Cover band? Led Zeppelin cover band? Becoming famous in its own right? It’s rarer than an echo in a vacuum. But if the glowing press is to be believed, these women not only hold their own, they make the music their own. New York–based Lez Zeppelin consists of Sarah McLellan on vocals, Steph Paynes on guitar, Lisa Brigantino on bass and keyboards, and Helen Destroy on drums.

Helen Destroy’s sound is every bit as heavy as John Bonham’s; at times it was like Godzilla was crashing the house. It’s no easy feat to beat out a drumline that’s completely memorable, and to do it as Destroy did, with such crushing aplomb, speaks to the depth of her talent.

But it’s not as if any one of the three musicians stood out in particular. All three of them shone. From the very first riffs emanating from Steph Payne’s guitar on “Immigrant Song,” it was apparent to the fist-pumping throng that these women can, and do, rock with the best of ‘em. I will say that although Sarah McLellan commands a dominating on-stage presence, she doesn’t quite possess the wailing rock chops of let’s say, Ann Wilson or Amy Lee.

But that doesn’t hold back McLellan or Lez Zep one bit. In fact, by the time they ended their regular set with “Kashmir” and offered encore renditions of “Rock and Roll” and “Whole Lotta Love,” whatever doubts I had lingering in my mind were entirely shattered. They whipped the packed club into a grinding frenzy. It was phenomenal! Somehow these four women have transcended the tribute band genre and have established themselves as something apart from, yet still akin to, the originators of their chosen musical oeuvre. Outstanding.

Check their website to see if Lez Zeppelin is playing in a city near you this summer and fall.

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