Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Rocking Dead

Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience
The Warfield, San Francisco
November 24, 2010

Of course I like alot of bands and artists from past decades and generations, but I hated Led Zeppelin as a kid because the "normal" kids and Jocks liked them. However, I eventually discovered their greatness in my 20's and have been fanatical about their legacy ever since. That being said, I still actively seek out artists and bands from here in the 21st Century... because to stay stagnant with your record collection is to become a zombie.

One of Umlaut's favorite new t.v. shows is The Walking Dead. I like it so much that I've started to read the long-running comic book series that the show is based on. While The Walking Dead is set in a stereotypical post-apocalyptic zombie world, what makes the story transcend the usual Horror fare is how much effort it spends to depict the human side of the survivors and how their situations affect them emotionally and psychologically. There is always an underlying melancholy with the characters. No matter how tough or hardened they might seem they're still haunted by their lives before the zombies; a better time when things were good.

The audience at tonight's show were Classic Rock Zombies who are easy to trap with nostalgia and also easily led to believe they can relive the past or even experience something from a previous generation that they missed. Nostalgia is like fresh meat to Classic Rock Zombies and Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience (JBLZE) fed and engorged them on this night before Thanksgiving.

This was an odd show right from the start, with chairs and tables set up in the downstairs area which is usually general admission. Umlaut is an Old Fart and I think the last time I was at a seated event at The Warfield was back in the 80's when it was still completely theater seating from its original days as a movie palace in the 1920's. We found our seats and for the first couple of songs it was actually alright because I was caught up in hearing THE SONGS. The JBLZE opened with 'Rock And Roll' and went into 'Celebration Day', the latter being one of my favorite Zeppelin songs.

Feeding the S.F. Classic Rock Zombies
(Photo courtesy of Photo Ray)

However, it didn't take long for reality to hit me and I remembered that I was watching a cover band. Yes, it was billed as a Led Zeppelin "experience" and a "tribute"... but it was still a cover band... albeit a cover band with actual DNA of the subject band in the lineup.... but still a COVER BAND.
  • The singer looked like Chris Daughtry and it was CREEPY watching a bald Ed Hardy / Tapout-type guy sing 'The Lemon Song' ("Squeeze my lemon 'til the juice runs down my leg..."). The song's demeanor came off more like an ode to date rape with that guy on the mic.... Sorry, just being honest; Zeppelin songs should only be sung by dudes with long hair.
  • The guitarist played well enough, but it was CREEPY how he did EVERY Jimmy Page move and mannerism and even facial expression that I've ever seen in vintage Zeppelin footage and photos. I imagined that he's been playing in Zeppelin cover bands for decades and perfected all of the moves in front of a mirror... When he pulled out a violin bow during 'Dazed and Confused' I literally laughed out loud. Trivia: Umlaut has stood within 5 feet of Jimmy Fucking Page and I didn't have the balls to talk to him. True story.
  • The bassist was an anonymous long-haired guy playing a Fender. He would have looked better as this cover band's singer. That's all I got...
  • The band was rounded out by another guitarist who also played occasional keyboards. It's a testament to Led Zeppelin that it required 5 mortals to recreate their songs that had originally been performed by only 4 Rock Gods. Having that extra musician onstage annoyed me. No, I'm not a musician, but it felt like the cover band was cheating by using that extra musician to recreate these iconic songs. Cover bands... can't live with 'em... can't kill 'em.
  • Jason Bonham reminded me of Ricky Gervais as he did his monologues in between songs about memories of his dad. The monologues were accompanied by old home movies and family photos and had some entertaining anecdotes... but they only served to pull the heartstrings, crank up the nostalgia, and effectively distract the audience from the fact they were watching a COVER BAND. However, I got a CREEPY feeling that I was watching someone use the stage as therapy to publicly deal with some deeply-rooted abandonment issues... At one point Bonham said how he had lost his dad but "You (pointing at the audience) lost your favorite band...." and I said out loud "Iron Maiden??" Sorry... sometimes my smart ass side gets the best of me.
Ironically, I was sitting with two people who actually saw Led Zeppelin in concert and we all shared the same feelings about what we were seeing... Ranging from "WTF" to "WTF" to "You've got to be kidding...". Low point: Bonham playing a drum duet with his father during 'Moby Dick' using synchronized vintage video of Bonzo (some of it I recognized from The Song Remains The Same). The Classic Rock Zombies ate it up and gave the spectacle a standing ovation; I wanted to point out to them that the JBLZE version of 'Moby Dick' had only lasted 10 minutes and Zeppelin's live versions would sometimes extend to 30-45 minutes. I'm just saying...

During 'Dazed and Confused' the cover band threw a huge chunk of fresh meat to the audience by performing that old Summer of Love Hippie Shit anthem 'San Francisco' in the middle of the song.

Of course, the local Classic Rock Zombies became engorged on this fresh nostalgia flesh and ate it up. My stomach turned and I had to look away from the feeding frenzy. It was awful... just awful.

I became more interested in watching the people around me and became fascinated by how zombie-like the crowd reaction was... The band was the fresh meat representing a long-dead beloved band and the audience stumbled after them and were blank stare drawn to them. There was the guy in the front row wearing a sleeveless t-shirt pumping his fist to every song... The older hippie woman in tie-dye dancing and twirling... Another woman who did interpretive hand gestures to each song... The wasted biker dude at the bar who kept shouting "BONZO!!"... The MILF-riffic mom sitting to my left who practically gave me a lap dance as she danced while her teenage son sat next to her looking bored (I probably should have tipped her..). I was in the midst of a Classic Rock Zombie apocalypse; this was an event geared for music fans who look to the past and dead (or near dead) bands for their musical entertainment. The smell of nostalgia-drenched flesh drew the Classic Rock Zombies out and their blind and mindless pursuit of the Zeppelin memory was awful and horrifying to witness... and I had to escape. I had to get as far away from The Rocking Dead as possible. RUN.

The first part of the evening ("Act I") lasted around 70 minutes and 10 songs. After 'Moby Dick' there was a scheduled 15 minute intermission that was to be followed by "Act II" of the JBLZE. I realized there was no way in Hell I could sit through the cover band playing 'Stairway To Heaven'. NO... FUCKING... WAY. So we left just as "Act II" started. RUN.

If you bought one of every JBLZE merch item you would have paid around $170. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. I don't want to be a zombie! To quote H.P. Lovecraft: "That is not dead which can eternal lie... and with strange aeons even death may die." Hope I die before I get old.