Tonight I went East of the Scumberland river to see Duncan May and the Resonators at the 5 Spot. They had an early slot and I was excited to see them tear it up. It so happens that they were opening for a Led Zeppelin "tribute" band. I was pumped. Led Zeppelin tribute? I've seen some good ones and I was hoping this one wouldn't disappoint. I'll get to that in a minute.
The Resonators played one of the best shows I've seen them do in a long time. I think the difference here was the size of the crowd. Unfortunately, most of Duncan's shows are played to five, maybe ten people, the same ten people every time. Tonight there had to be at least 50 or 60 folks in that little club and the band could clearly feel it. Songs like "Over and Under" and "Sweet Thing" reached a whole new level and the crowd reacted accordingly. It was great to see people appreciate this talented band, as well as seeing the guys get fired up for an actual attentive audience.
During the change over, we got a mini set from local songster Daniel Lawrence Walker, who played a few of his own Keller Williams inspired originals as well as, as one friend put it, "every cover song you shouldn't play".
You see, there is a clear difference between a tribute band and a cover band. A tribute band dresses up, plays the part, and even uses false accents to almost make you feel like you are watching the real thing. A cover band is a bunch musicians who learn their favorite band's songs, and do their best just to get through them without screwing up too bad. Ned Zeppelin was clearly the latter. This five piece, yes five piece, was about the worst cover band I've seen. Even with two guitarists, they still didn't get close. I knew I was in for the bush league when I saw them setting up Stratocasters on stage. The singer struggled to sing like Plant, which is understandable, but there were also obvious shortcomings like no wah to be found in their version of "Dazed and Confused" and lack of a slide in the "What Is and What Should Never Be" solo. And the drums? This guy made me want to get up and bang them myself and then pull a Keith Moon on his set. He didn't even attempt to do the "Bonham" thing at all. It was a pretty pitiful thing to watch all around. Imagine a Journey cover band, (which these guys also are) playing your favorite Zeppelin songs with all their Journey gear and Journey voices and wearing a Skid Row t-shirt.
Now, I can give these guys props for getting up and playing in front of people. It's not easy to emulate your idols in front of a big crowd, granted, and most of the East Nashville cretins in the crowd lapped it up. I even heard a fan yell out "Hell yeah No Quota!" at the beginning of "Dazed and Confused" so I guess it was good enough for some. But if you're not going to go all out, then please, don't bill yourself as an "Ultimate Zeppelin Tribute", bill yourself as "Headlining The Kappa Delta frat party with Zeppelin songs" because some die-hard fans are going to be disappointed. Go ahead, have your fun, and I'll try not to be surprised when a five piece Zep tribute from Seattle sucks. Rock fans, do yourselves a favor and go see Zoso next time they come to town and enjoy the 15 minute "Moby Dick" and the spot on "Stairway". Leave "Dancing Days" to the amateurs.