The band will be at the House of Blues on Saturday.
By JOHN BENSON
Cover bands are, well, cover bands.
Occasionally one strikes a chord with the public, like Kiss cover band Mini-Kiss, featuring vertically-challenged musicians ostensibly partying every day. There's also the Pink Floyd cover band Wish You Were Here, which performed the famed 1977 Pink Floyd Cleveland Municipal Stadium set in its entirety last month at Scene Pavilion.
But Lez Zeppelin, which rolls into Northeast Ohio for a show Saturday at the House of Blues, is altogether different.
Sure, these New York City-based girls can rock and ramble on with ease but it's their moniker that catches people's eyes and seriously gets them to consider taking in a Led Zeppelin cover band when they normally wouldn't care less. Actually, it's the Lez, as in lesbian.
'Don't ask, don't tell'
"It's intriguing for lots of people for many different reasons," said Lez Zeppelin guitarist Steph Paynes, calling from her home in New York City. "We have a strict Clintonian 'Don't ask, don't tell' policy. That's the way we decided it should be because it doesn't really matter whether we are or not. It's not what's important. But if people want to try to guess, that's fine. It's out there for their enjoyment."
While it wouldn't be surprising to learn Paynes and her band mates are as straight as Jimmy Page's violin bow, the uncertain hint of lesbianism acts as an integral marketing tool for the group.
"We certainly have among our audience a gay following but I wouldn't say it's overwhelmingly gay," Paynes said. "In fact, more than not, I would say that our audience is primarily into Led Zeppelin much more than people who think it's a gay act."
Attempting to find a sexually suggestive lyric in a Led Zeppelin song is tantamount to finding a black T-shirt at an Ozzfest concert. If "Squeeze me baby, till the juice runs down my leg" (from "The Lemon Song" -- penned by Robert Johnson) doesn't come to mind, then you've just flunked Led Zeppelin 101. Your ZOSO fan club membership card will self-destruct in five seconds.
Oddly enough, there are a few androgynous references that Lez Zeppelin could have fun with, including "I've been this way 10 years to the day. ... Gotta find the queen of all my dreams" (from "Ramble On") and "Hey lady, you've got the love I need" ("Over the Hills and Far Away").
Paynes said the girls have enough material for three hours of getting the Led out, including classic rock tracks and somewhat obscure album tunes. While Paynes has her own white dragon suit, a la Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page in the early '70s, it's her guitar work that she feels impresses audience members, who upon arriving aren't quite sure an all-female band can pull off a night of Led Zeppelin.
"But then you realize," she said, "my goodness, the music is so varied. It's not just about hard-hitting guitars and drums. On one hand, it's seen as really heavy male stuff but I'm not so sure it really is all of the time. Maybe there is a little bit more estrogen in it than people give the band credit for. And there definitely is with Lez Zeppelin."