Led Zeppelin cover bands tend to come in two stripes. There are those that trade in gimmicks—the one that renders, for instance, Zeppelin standards as Afrobeat jams, or Lez Zeppelin, which features four women.
And there are those that claim to be the "ultimate Led Zeppelin experience" after taking considerable pains to reconstruct specific wardrobes, iconographies, instrument rigs and techniques to recreate sounds and visions of Page, Plant, Bonham and Jones at, say, The Forum in June of '72.
Paying homage for a decade and a half, Led Zeppelin 2 indeed has its namesake's sound down to an artful science. But while many tribute-act members indulge only in resurrecting their heroes, Led Zeppelin 2 includes musicians and songwriters from the leading edges of Chicago's indie rock, jazz and metal scenes. For instance, Bruce Lamont, who works as Robert Plant, also leads the willfully weird, very heavy Yakuza. He's collaborated with the likes of Brutal Truth and Locrian. Apart from Led Zeppelin 2, his acts push the envelope of heavy music to the point that his membership in a band devoted to hard-rock dinosaurs seems anathema.
Lamont spoke about how his dual lives compete and intersect.
INDY: How different is touring with a production like Led Zeppelin 2 and a band like Yakuza?
BRUCE LAMONT: Better catering. In my world, I'm used to van tours, and we get a couple of drink tickets. This is an overwhelming experience now; lunch and dinner backstage is a pretty big deal. I'm way impressed with this whole thing. We're not getting spoiled here, or we're trying not to, anyway. I think of this more as an acting gig, or a piece of musical theater as opposed to the creative endeavors. But it's fun nonetheless.
Speaking of "musical theater," Led Zeppelin 2 is careful not to identify as a cover band or a tribute act. What's the difference?
It's not just about the music. The majority of it is the music, obviously, but we want to come across much as a Led Zeppelin musical experience might have been at the height of their heyday. We focus more on their live performances as opposed to recreating studio versions of their songs. Over the past few years, we've realized that we really want to up the ante on this whole thing. The costumes have to be there, the lighting has to be there. So we focus on the experience—the visuals and the costumes, even down to the banter. I'll dip in and out of my fake Robert Plant English accent and back into my southside Chicago, you know?
You're best known for Yakuza, an avant-garde metal band acclaimed for its incorporation of jazz and world music. How do you end up in a Led Zeppelin cover band, anyway?
Well, I'm kind of a workaholic. This band just started as a fun thing with a bunch of musicians around Chicago. There was this thing that Scott Lucas from Local H would do every Halloween. He'd get a bunch of bands together, and they'd play at the Double Door. We'd dress up as our favorite rock 'n' roll stars. We used to do Sabbath early on, but once I wanted to get into the Dio era, that shut down. Then we were like, "Well, why don't we do Zeppelin? But let's not do the hits." People were way into it. The music was there. We just walked into it.
Does Zeppelin show up as an influence or a reference in your music, Yakuza or otherwise?
The first time I heard a Zeppelin song, I was 4 years old. Zeppelin became a retro thing rather quickly. I went to high school in the late '80s, and Zeppelin was a huge thing for me. I'm sure it had some influence on my brain back then, but I don't really reference them today. I always walk around with headphones on, and people will ask me, "What are you checking out today?" And I'm like, "Oh, Cut Hands." And they're like, "What?" And I'm like, "Cut Hands! That's William Bennett from Whitehouse!" I have to say, "Oh, it's just some crazy noise shit I listen to." It's basically anything but Led Zeppelin.
Do you find much overlap between the audiences at Yakuza and Led Zeppelin 2 shows?
I've seen a couple Yakuza shirts here and there. I always give them a shout-out. I see metal shirts all the time. I tend to give them a shout after the show. I'll shake hands and talk to people, and I'll say, "Oh, kickass Maiden shirt!" or "Oh my God, you're wearing a Bathory shirt?!" There's this one kid in Fort Lauderdale in his teens. Every time he comes, he wears an even more underground metal shirt, just to fuck with me. He might have been the kid wearing the Bathory shirt.
This article appeared in print with the headline "The show remains the same"