Sounds Local by Sheryl Hunter: Zepparella to deliver matinee tribute to British rock legends

  • Zepparella photographed at Max Crace Studio, March 2018. PHOTO BY MAX CRACE

Published: 5/11/2022 3:14:09 PM

Tribute bands have been around for a long time, but their popularity has exploded in recent years. We only have to look at the music scene here in the Valley to see these bands playing everywhere. The Shea Theater in Turners Falls has hosted multiple tribute acts in recent months as has Hawks and Reed in Greenfield, where they even present a monthly Grateful Dead show that welcomes the many local bands that play the music of the 60s legends.

One of the reasons that these bands are so popular is that people like to know what they will experience when they go to a show. Classic rock bands like the Dead, Pink Floyd, and many others, whose music is performed by these groups, are no longer together and touring, yet their popularity has never waned.

One such band that remains wildly popular is Led Zeppelin. The British hard rockers emerged in the late 60s and are true rock legends today. Their fan base ranges from younger fans, who discovered them long after they split up in 1980, and those who have been with them from the start.

If you are one of these fans you will not want to miss Zepparella when they play Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center on Saturday, May 14, in a special matinee show that will begin at 2:30 p.m.

Zepparella is an all-female band that has been around for almost 20 years and have toured the country — even opening for bands like Weezer and Kiss. They have won high accolades from both the press and fans for brilliantly playing the music of Led Zeppelin and capturing the spirit of the band as well.

How did a group of women ever decide to tackle the music of the mighty Zeppelin?

“Guitarist Gretchen Menn and I were playing in an AC/DC band, and on a late-night drive home from a gig we were talking about wanting to play more often,” said Clementine, who is the band’s founding member and drummer. “I mentioned that I had long wanted to learn John Bonham’s drumming parts, and had an idea for a Zep band. She said she wanted to learn Page’s parts, and the band was born.”

Zepparella originated in San Francisco and played their first show in 2004. They have been rocking hard ever since.

“Anna Kristina, the vocalist and harmonica player, was the first singer,” said Clementine, who works as a spiritual counselor when she is not playing with the band. “She left for a few years but returned several years ago. Holly West, the bass player, is the newest addition and joined about four years ago.”

I assumed that being an all-female band and playing heavy Led Zeppelin music, booking agents might scoff at them and be reluctant to give them gigs. Fortunately, Clementine said, that has not been the case. Instead it’s been the band’s fans that have been the reluctant ones.

“We still have to win over die-hard fans and start shows with a cadre of folks with their arms crossed. But by the end of the set we usually win them over. We love this music as much as anyone, and try our hardest to do justice to these amazing songs,” she said.

And Zepparella do justice to the music of Zeppelin, capturing the sound and energy of guitar god Jimmy Page, the wailing vocalist Robert Plant, the muscular bass playing of John Paul Jones, and the thundering drumming of the legendary John Bonham. They don’t bother creating a specific look or fussing around with special lights — this group simply play their hearts out and let their love and respect for the music shine through.

What can concertgoers expect to hear at this show? Clementine promises a mix of favorites as well as deep cuts to keep everyone happy, although they don’t play “Stairway to Heaven,” a song they consider too sacred to touch.

“We all love the songs in which we get to stretch out and improvise in parts: ‘Immigrant Song,’ ‘Dazed and Confused,’ ‘Whole Lotta Love.’ This is why Zeppelin is so much fun to play, and why the band has been going for so long,” she said. “Staying true to Zeppelin means a balance of hitting all the great recognizable, sing-a-long parts, as well as putting our own musical flavor into places that call for it. ‘When the Levee Breaks’ is another favorite, since it showcases Anna Kristina’s incredible harp, and it’s just a killer song.”

This show will be very different for the band in that they rarely play matinees. The upside of playing during the daytime is it means that kids are more likely to come out for an early show. According to Clementine the band is open to this playing during daytime hours.

“It’s a nice change for us, since we get to see all ages in the crowd,” Clementine said. “We’re always impressed by the good taste of Zeppelin fans and the way they teach their kids about the great classic music. We are really looking forward to seeing everyone!”

Zepparella are not the only tribute band on the horizon as there are many other nationally touring and local acts that play the music of famous bands and that have shows coming up.

Big Yellow Taxi, a group of well established local musicians who perform the music of the one and only Joni Mitchell, will be at Hawks and Reed on Friday, May 20, at 7 p.m. Local musician Chris Devine will step into the role of Ian Anderson when his band Minstrels in the Gallery take on the music of Jethro Tull on Friday, June 3, at 8 p.m. We will be talking to Chris about this project as it gets closer to show time. For advance tickets to this show and Zepparella, visit

Shea Theater Presents recently announced that on Saturday, July 30, at 8 p.m. they will welcome Misty Blues’ Queen of the Blues to the Turners Falls’ venue.

Misty Blues will pay tribute to four quintessential female blues artists — Bessie Smith, Big Mama Thornton, Ruth Brown and Koko Taylor. They perform songs and relay stories of these women’s lives. For tickets and information

The Calvin Theater in Northampton also has a full roster of tribute acts lined up on its calendar including artists who play the music of Van Morrison, Steely Dan, The Eagles, Foreigner, Bob Seeger, Abba and Chicago. For information on these shows, visit

Sheryl Hunter is a freelance writer who resides in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national publications. She can be reached at


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