Last month’s “Best Between-Song Repartee” award goes to the all-female tribute band Lez Zeppelin, for the following exchange:
Guy in audience: “You’re hot!”
Lez singer: “You can call me that all that time. Especially when I’m PMS-ing and feeling sad!”
The place was Hiro Ballroom; if you haven’t been, it’s kind of like the Crazy 88s’ hangout in Kill Bill, with the Yakuza thugs replaced by investment bankers. The time was four or so songs into Lez Zeppelin’s set, which, considering the many bowed-guitar/drum/Rhodes solos, translates to about 45 minutes. I had spent most of the show smiling, enjoying the feeling of my bangs swaying with each thump of the bass drum.
Novelty is the least interesting aspect of this band. Sure, they look like what the original Zeppelin would look like if they’d been hooked on yoga instead of heroin and booze. But what’s more worth noting is that they haven’t merely gotten the songs down; they’ve nailed the feeling—that balance of sonic-boom attack and scrappiness. When a moment needed extra weight, they would decelerate in unison, then lurch into gear again. I haven’t seen a rock band pull that off since Supergrass.
I was also thinking of the weird world of tribute bands. Here’s a little chain of associations that came to mind:
- BLACK F∆G: I’ve never seen them, but their Facebook page indicates that the “’Absolutely Fabulous’ Tribute to Black Flag” is going strong. They just played a Brooklyn show with the Meatmen, they of the stirring equality anthem, “Tooling for Anus.” Bottom line: any band with a member named Raymond Pettiboner has got my vote.
- Rise Above: the Dirty Projectors album before Bitte Orca, in which David Longstreth and his band reconstruct Black Flag’s 1981 album Damaged from memory. The way they stretch, splinter and reassemble their source material can make Black Flag sound like easy listening.
- The DPs' Black Flag mini-set at this year’s Our Band Could Be Your Life show was much more faithful, channeling Greg Ginn’s shrieking guitar and the relentless pounding of Black Flag’s rotating rhythm section. The show, an outgrowth of the book of the same name, also featured Buke and Gase doing Fugazi, St. Vincent doing Big Black, and Les Savy Fav’s Tim Harrington reading Minutemen lyrics off his iPhone.
- Harrington, one of the most unpredictable frontmen around, should really consider joining the next Night of One Thousand Stevies. This year marked the 21st year of “ballet dancers, drag queens [and] downtown legends” (Time Out) gathering to swing their shawl-clad arms and croon “Dreams.”
- The real tragedy is that Schlong, perhaps the most lovable punk band ever to rise from that East Bay hotbed that yielded Green Day, isn’t around to performTumours: the entire Rumours album drunkenly and stoned-ly condensed into a seven-inch record.
If I’m forgetting any big ones from this year, please let me know. It seems like a fertile time for tributes, whether they take the form of mastering the tributee material or lovingly warping it beyond recognition.