Clementine will never forget some of those earliest shows that Zepparella booked. All four members of the band had some skeptical glares shot their way no matter what bar, club or theater they walked into.
Zepparella not only had to overcome the “cover band” stigma at every gig, but the group had to deal with people’s preconceived notions. Four chicks playing Led Zeppelin — for many die-hard fans, it reeked of sacrilege, much less gimmickry. But all it would take was 10 seconds of “Immigrant Song” to turn those skeptical glances into big, goofy grins.
“It was always really fun to have people in the venue be kind of mean and dismissive. We’d just smile and know that by the end of the night, they’re going to be singing a different tune,” says Clementine, Zepparella’s drummer and founding member. “I kind of like it when people have low expectations because it’s fun to prove them wrong.”
The band still performs with that chip on its collective shoulder — it’s brought the four ladies closer together, after all — but the incredulous looks and snarky comments have mostly fallen by the wayside.
For the last 10 years, Zepparella has rocked venues across the country and built a significantly large fanbase along the way. Its 38,000-plus Facebook likes top that of many promising indie bands. The group’s live performances and music videos have accrued nearly 2.5 million views on YouTube. Zepparella even has some famous fans: both Kiss and Weezer have invited the female tribute group to open for them at arena concerts. Heck, Zeppelin’s guitar god himself, Jimmy Page, gave Zepparella his seal of approval.
You can see what all the fuss is about when Zepparella performs at 10 p.m. July 9 at the Record Bar in Kansas City.
Fans and critics alike have hailed the four-piece for capturing Zeppelin’s mystical, emotional and musical spirit. You won’t see Zepparella donning chintzy costumes or toiling over elaborate stage presentations, but each of the ladies tries to dig into the magic of Page, charismatic lead singer Robert Plant, prolific bassist John Paul Jones and deceased drumming icon John Bonham.
“I’m not just playing Bonham’s parts. I’m playing with someone who’s playing John Paul Jones’ parts and so on. So I end up becoming really intuitive and discovering why he played the way he played,” Clementine explains. “It’s all about the connection between the players. I’ve found these three women that I just respect, adore and admire so much and we all approach our instruments in the same way.”
Clementine, Gretchen Menn (guitar), Angeline Saris (bass) and Noelle Doughty (vocals) mainly focus on the quartet rockers from Zeppelin’s early days, so fans of the keyboard-intensive album “In Through the Out Door” may want to refrain from the Record Bar show. Albums “I” through “IV” are very well-represented at Zepparella concerts, as are “Physical Graffiti,” “Houses of the Holy” and even a little bit of “Presence.” Zepparella touches on all of Zeppelin’s greatest hits, from “Dazed and Confused” and “Whole Lotta Love” to “Kashmir” and “Trampled Under Foot” (Saris plays the keyboard parts on bass).
Clementine says the band recently added deep cuts like “The Song Remains the Same,” “How Many More Times” and “Moby Dick” to the setlist. But one you’ll never hear at a Zepparella gig, as much as the band loves it, is “Stairway to Heaven.”
“We need to leave something sacred,” she says. “We always say that if you hear us do ‘Stairway to Heaven,’ it’ll be the last show we ever play.”
Clementine says she can’t wait to show off the explosiveness of “In My Time of Dying” and drive home the powerful strikes of “When the Levee Breaks” at the Record Bar. The band loves playing smaller, intimate venues. Not only do they give the ladies a chance to return to their underdog roots, but they allow Zepparella to give fans the kind of experience they’ve never had with Zeppelin before.
“There’s something really special about hearing that music so loud and in your face,” Clementine says.