Can’t make Zeppelin’s London gig? An option would be heading to Tahoe City for Zepparella instead
They’re loud. They’re pretty. They rock. This must be a fantasy come true for guys who are prog rock fans: a band of four beautiful women who exclusively play Led Zeppelin songs.
The drummer Clementine said the group began after they started practicing Zeppelin songs. She and guitarist Gretchen Mann, a former Truckee resident who had played with Clementine in AC/DShe, learned so many songs they decided to form Zepparella. Nila Minnerock, a longtime member of Clementine’s first band, Bottom, another all-female group, is the bass player. Singer Anna Kristina rounds out the San Francisco band.
“We started out learning the songs as exactly as we could but when we play live we go off on tangents,” Clementine said. “Musically, it is so much fun, and the songs have so much room to move around in them we can still be us.”
And the crowd, no doubt, likes to watch them move around.
But that’s something Clementine never sees.
“I play with my eyes closed most of the time to help me hear better,” she said. “I never get to see the fun stuff. I never even get to see what the girls do. I’ll watch a video and go ‘Wow, you guys are great.’ “
Zepparella recorded a live album (It hasn’t been named yet) on Sept. 7 in the Red Devil Lounge in San Francisco. Clementine remastered it last week and it is expected to be released in November by What Are Records?
Zepparella’s first album “Live at 19 Broadway,” was recored about two years ago, shortly after Kristina joined the band.
“We’ve come such a long way in those two years that we felt it was time for a new one,” Clementine said.
She explained how the band has evolved.
“When we first learn a song we try to learn it as close to the original recorded version as we can. Then as we play it, we realize places where we can stretch out and give it our own voice. Like ‘Trampled Under Foot,’ that’s different every time we play it. There’s a real long middle section to that song where we improvise. “Immigrant Song” is the same way.
“Led Zeppelin did that live as well and it doesn’t sound like the recorded version. They take it to another place and then they take it back. Our ability to do that is our biggest evolution and that just comes from being a band, playing together and understanding (what each other is thinking). It becomes this easy musical language that we’re speaking between the instruments.”
Because of the crowd response at Zepparella concerts, it’s no surprise both albums are live recordings.
“The audience is always so awesome with us,” Clementine said. “We’ve accumulated a group of die-hard fans who travel wherever we play.”
Mann doesn’t play a double-neck guitar like Jimmy Page, but she does use a bow. Kristina’s singing voice sounds like a mix between Robert Plant and Heart’s Ann Wilson. They play songs from every Zeppelin album with the exception of “In Through The Out Door.” They don’t play any of the acoustic songs or ones that had keyboard.
Clementine, who formerly went by the name Phyllis Rudd, said her experience with AC/DShe helped prepare her for Zepparella.
“AC/DShe gave me a real precision that goes well with (the drumming of Zeppelin’s) John Bohnam,” she said. “People talk about the power of him but the grooves are amazing. “
Clementine was happy to hear Led Zeppelin is reuniting next month for a one-time concert in London. Bohnam’s son Jason, who plays with Foreigner, will replace his father on drums.
Zepparella’s drummer compared the Bohnams.
“Most metal drummers now are playing differently than how most drummers were playing in 1970,” she said. “These drummers today have been influenced by punk rock, then metal and speed metal. I think Jason seems like a more modern drummer to me. I feel the jazz influence, the Motown influence when I listen to Bohnam and I feel the modern metal influence when I listen to Jason.”
Zepparella will be performing Friday, Oct. 5 at the Sawtooth Ridge Café in Tahoe City. It is the same location as Humpty’s, Tahoe’s musical hotspot in the 1980s through the mid-90s.