Oct 052011
Authors: Allison Sylte

In a scene from “The School of Rock,” Jack Black asks a group of elementary school students to name bands that rock. Liza Minnelli, Christina Aguilera and Puff Daddy are the only answers he receives.

Aghast, Black confronts the children, asking one simple question.

“Wait… Don’t tell me you guys never got the Led out?”

Unlike Jack Black’s students, Fort Collins residents will have the chance to “get their Led out” when the aptly named Led Zeppelin tribute band Get the Led Out makes a stop at the Lincoln Center this Saturday.

Get the Led Out (GTLO) was formed in 2003, when lead singer Paul Sinclair, a veteran of the Philadelphia music scene, was asked by a friend to perform in a local Led Zeppelin tribute band. While Sinclair, a longtime Zeppelin fan, was initially opposed to doing a straight-up Robert Plant impersonation, he was nevertheless intrigued by the idea.

“I didn’t want to do an impersonator type thing,” he said. “Most groups dress up and become a performer, and I was much more interested in trying to replicate the music.”

This led Sinclair to get his longtime friend and musical partner, Paul Hammond, involved in the project, which would involve recreating the studio versions of Zeppelin’s songs in a live environment.

“That interested me a hell of a lot more than dressing up on stage and doing a whole bunch of posing and impersonating,” Sinclair said.

Hammond, the group’s guitarist, initially said “no” to the idea, saying that when he thought of tribute bands, it immediately brought to mind a negative stereotype of Elvis impersonators who could neither impersonate the music nor the musicians themselves.

“But then I figured, if we do an accurate musical appreciation of the artist, there’s no negative connotation to me,” Hammond said.

Since then, GTLO has been touring across the country, having largely bypassed the small club scene to play in large venues. A show on Friday will mark the band’s first stop in Colorado.

“I think tribute bands as a whole are beneficial,” said Joe Fife, a guitarist and salesman at Spotlight Music in Fort Collins. “Trying to recreate a classic experience is definitely a good thing.”

To mimic Zeppelin’s complicated, multi-layered sound, GTLO has six members rather than the four who toured with Led Zeppelin. This, Hammond said, is to stay true to the studio versions of the songs their audiences know, rather than to try and do a direct impersonation of Zeppelin’s radically different live act.

“Take for example, ‘Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You.’ It has two acoustics, an electric guitar and a timpani drum on the studio recording. So if we played it live with just four people, it wouldn’t come to life the way it does with our current set-up,” Sinclair said.

The band rehearses once a week, and at this point, has most of the Zeppelin catalogue down, according to Sinclair. For him, the difficulty arises in trying to mimic their attitude, and from a technical standpoint, trying to recreate Robert Plant’s distinctively high-pitched vocals.

“We aren’t weekend warriors; we’re hardcore, seasoned musicians,” Sinclair said.

The hardest thing about playing Jimmy Page’s parts, for Hammond, isn’t the technical difficulty, but rather the inaccuracies that defined his guitar playing.

“A lot of the stuff he did was off the cuff, improvising. That’s like trying to copy Miles Davis on the saxophone,” Hammond said. “The hardest thing to copy is the attitude and the appeal of what he does. Getting just that whole feel of how he plays is hard.”

While GTLO tries to emulate Led Zeppelin musically, in other ways, the band takes a radically different approach.

Where Zeppelin is remembered for wild, drug and alcohol-filled nights with groupies and mud sharks, GTLO is almost the anti-Led Zeppelin in that respect. Instead they take time to take care of themselves and focus on the music.

“Zeppelin was iconic enough to get away with that stuff, even though not all of their shows were great,” Sinclair said, adding that he doesn’t even drink.

The best thing about getting to perform with GTLO, according to Hammond and Sinclair, is the audience interaction and the passion that audiences have for the band’s music.

“We have extraordinarily extraordinary audiences,” Sinclair said. “They sing every note to every song, sometimes so loud that it almost drowns us out.”

Hammond and Sinclair chalk Led Zeppelin’s appeal to the power and timelessness of the band’s music, saying that the band’s initial fans from the 70s have passed their love for Led Zeppelin on to their children.

And even 31 years after Zeppelin officially broke up in 1980, Led Zeppelin remains a mainstay among college students.

“Zeppelin’s still popular because they’re pretty epic; they have a lot of sweet classics,” said Cameron Sprincz, a freshman business major.

“Listening to Zep is a rite of passage. They exemplify the ideas of sex, drugs and rock and roll, something that just draws you, especially when you’re younger,” Sinclair said.

For Fife, Led Zeppelin’s appeal comes from something simpler: the quality and timelessness of the band’s music.

“They came out at a time where their style of music wasn’t played a lot. They were kind of a trendsetter, and a lot of people haven’t seen anything like it,” Fife said. “I still break out Led Zeppelin songs when I play electric guitar. They’re timeless.”

And while neither Hammond nor Sinclair initially wanted to even join the group, they both say getting to play Led Zeppelin’s music has become a blessing.

“It turned into the gig of my dreams, recreating the music I grew up with,” Sinclair said.

Content Managing Editor Allison Sylte can be reached at verve@collegian.com.

Show info
When: Saturday, at 7:30 p.m.

*Where: *The Lincoln Center Performance Hall

Tickets range from $28-$39

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