There are many great rock n roll stories. Only one involves Robert Plant, kismet and PowerHouse Pub.
Noelle Doughty, singer for the all-female Bay Area Led Zeppelin tribute band Zepparella, wasnt looking for a gig when she met the groups guitarist, Gretchen Menn, in 2011 at a Robert Plant show in Berkeley.
Doughty and Menn were waiting in line to go backstage. Doughty has known Plant since the 1980s, when she met him sort of randomly after one of his shows, she said. Menn was pals with a guitar tech.
The two women were immediately drawn to each other and started chatting away, Doughty said.
Menn told Doughty she played with Zepparella, a band since 2005. Doughty sang in jazz and funk bands back home in New York but was taking a break after moving to California, where I was away from my own personal musical community, she said.
When Doughty, who lives in Placer County, finally caught up with Menn and Zepparella a few months later at Folsoms PowerHouse Pub, it was just as a fan.
But when she spoke to Menn after the show, the guitarist told her the group might be looking for a new singer. Its original singer and bass player had rambled on; a replacement vocalist who had performed at the PowerHouse wasnt the right fit.
I said, Oh, Im a singer, Doughty said during a phone interview.
Doughty soon joined Menn, one-named drummer Clementine and new bassist Angeline Saris in Zepparella, which performs Friday at Miners Foundry Cultural Center in Nevada City and Saturday night at Harlows in Sacramento.
Gretchen likes to say that Robert Plant delivered me to the band, Doughty said.
Plant has not seen Zepparella live, but he knows Doughty is in the band. He thought it was kind of funny that I had known him forever and ended up in this role, Doughty said.
Finding a replacement singer with the magnetism and pipes to emulate Plant seemed impossible, Clementine said. But Doughty has a great voice and she (can) interpret the music in a way thats her own yet it harkens back to Plant in a really wonderful way.
Doughty also sports a blond, leonine Plant-esque mane. But unlike some all-female Zeppelin bands (yes, there are others there seems to be one in every major city, Clementine said), Zepparella evokes the bands musicality more than its overt sexuality.
Though Zepparellas playing is aggressive, its look is comparatively polished, with the four women often clad in white outfits that would have been appropriate at an upscale Laurel Canyon party in 1976.
I was recently in Austin and was talking to somebody, and they said, Oh, do you dress up in drag? Doughty said. And all the sudden I thought about what some people might think about a cover band. But thats so totally different from what Zepparella is. As a fan of Led Zeppelin, what was attractive was the music. Theres this overall magic they create.
Clementine hits hard but doesnt try to match every beat played by the late John Bonzo Bonham, Led Zeppelins exceptionally fast drummer. And she might stretch out a part in a way that Bonham never did to evoke and overall Zeppelin vibe, she said.
The thing I love about Bonhams playing is theres an intangible emotional quality that I believe is why so many people who probably never paid attention to drums are in love with this man, Clementine said.
Bonhams drumming sounded huge and epic and dark and scary and monstrous when she first heard it as a teenager, she said. Immigrant Song was the the absolute most hard-hitting thing I had ever heard in my life.
Shes heard harder since but I still remember that sound and the effect it had on me, she said.
Doughty and Clementine politely deflect a question about their ages old enough to know better than to be in a Led Zeppelin cover band, Clementine said.
Clementine and Menn also played in the San Francisco cover band AC/DShe. (The classically trained Menn, who gets written up in guitar publications, was Agnes Young before channeling Jimmy Page.)
The all-women makeup of most bands in which she has played results from like musical minds, Clementine said.
The women that I know all have the same work ethic and passion that I do. Its always just been an easy fit.
Though Zepparellas audience skews more male than female, There are a lot more women than you might expect, Clementine said. She said she hopes Zepparellas music is empowering for women.
Its empowering for Doughty.
Although rock n roll especially Zeppelin was her favorite music even when she was singing jazz standards, I never really sought that out (professionally), Doughty said. This all happened sort of magically.
Call The Bees Carla Meyer, (916) 321-1118. Follow her on Twitter @CarlaMeyerSB.