STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN

Stairway to Heaven: Led Zeppelin 2 @ La Zona Rosa, 1/29/11

My darling Jamie,

I want you to know how much I love you. From the moment you took your first breath till I take my last. I am so so proud of you. I am sorry to leave you so early but know I will always be looking over you, at your side. Whenever you want to talk to me just close your eyes and think of me. I will be there. I know it will be hard for awhile but time will heal. Be strong. You are a beautiful and smart woman. Please have a full life.

Love you always,

Mom
(Mrs. X)

I found the note in a drawer on the eve of her death. The line “please have a full life” plays in my head frequently.

‘Mrs. X’ is how my mom would sign notes she would leave in the lunches she packed for me in elementary school. I’m not really sure where it came from, and honestly I spent most of today pissed off that I couldn’t ask her once I started writing this. But I know that it was her alter ego, presumably a ‘cooler’ version of her that I would be ok with opening a little note from in my brown bag in front of my friends.

The alter ego is a beautiful thing. I’ve been spending a lot of time as mine lately. HardRockChick is an exaggeration of my real personality; she’s confident and edgy, she’s fun and playful. From the moment I step into the Austin airport to embark on my monthly trips to LA, I’m her. But the moment I get back here, the HRC persona becomes…frivolous and impractical. I’m stripped back down to the quiet, awkward only child who sits at home in The Compound, a small town Texas version of poor little rich girl.

It’s always fun to pretend. I have an immense imagination; because I can see reality better than many, I cope with it by imagining alternate versions in my head. Meaningless relationships become meaningful, unrealized potential becomes actualized. It’s like the adult version of imaginary friends, and it’s perhaps my favorite pastime. Maybe I feel that if I make believe enough, I can really make myself believe it. Let’s face it- it’s way more fun to sit here and daydream about all that could have been rather than what will never be.

Which brings me to Led Zeppelin.

When people ask what music I’m into, I always tell them that my favorite band is Nine Inch Nails. And it probably is; I grew up with the music, I lived in the time it was created. But in reality, Led Zeppelin is probably it. Though the music was all written before I was, it speaks to me in a way that no one else can.

I recently finished Hammer of the Gods after several months of picking it up and having to put it down. It is perhaps the most well researched rock bio ever written; the details are astounding and the multiple perspectives gathered are truly incredible. People often expect me to have some encyclopedic knowledge of the bands I love. I don’t. I always have preferred it to be about the music, which is why it took me so long to pick up this book. Now I know that a lot of Zeppelin songs contain pieces lifted from the blues; but at this point, I don’t care. And neither does anyone else.

Which brings me to Led Zeppelin 2.

This would be my second time seeing a Zeppelin tribute band. This one advertises to provide the experience of seeing Zeppelin at their height of their fame, the mid ’70’s. Fronted by Yakuza‘s Bruce Lamont, the band has been selling out shows all over the U.S.

Hours before the show it just fell together that I’d be taking with me the same person I saw Robert Plant and the Band of Joy with last summer.

As we neared the venue, something seemed very….off. There was a traffic jam to get into the nearby parking garage, and an unusually large number of kids wearing white. Surely GWAR was not in town….I asked around and turns out it was something called a Paint Party, which essentially sounds like a cross between a rave and a foam party (something I only heard about it college). In other words, it’s the latest excuse for a bunch of horny kids to take drugs and touch each other to bad music while pervy old men watch. Our mouths were agape watching these kids walk towards that venue. I was feeling older with every step I took. Perhaps I was so preoccupied thinking about this that I barely reacted when a car screeched to a stop a foot away from me. Please have a full life.

It was a madhouse getting checked in on the list. Being in a tribute band may be seen as artistically compromising to some, but a good one can pull in a serious crowd, exposing the musicians to an audience they couldn’t reach otherwise. Tonight the oddly laid out but always brilliant sounding La Zona Rosa was filled with a mixed crowd with one thing in common: we were there to pretend we were seeing Led Zeppelin.

When the lights dimmed and the band took the stage, I immediately began to wonder how many times they watched ‘The Song Remains the Same’. I hadn’t realized how seriously they took recreating the Zeppelin experience: the hair, the clothes, the jewelry, the swagger, the instruments. EVERYTHING. It creeped me out at first.

It took a few songs before I was able to shake the feeling and just enjoy the music I love. I’d have to say that the one thing I really got out of it was seeing how the songs worked live. When I listen to the songs in my car, they are whole. On stage, I can see the pieces. It was interesting to hear how they pulled off the infamous live versions of Zeppelin songs, such as ‘Dazed and Confused’, complete with the use of the guitar bow and addition of the line “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure and wear some flowers in your hair” and “Does anybody remember laughter?” during ‘Stairway to Heaven’.

Hearing the Zeppelin songs live, even when not played by the real thing, made me more aware of their true brilliance. From the bass line in ‘Heartbreaker’, to the sentiment captured in ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’; the sense of drama created by the building progression in ‘Kashmir’, to the sexually charged lyrics of ‘The Lemon Song’…all were expertly executed.

I rarely ever listen to ‘Stairway to Heaven’. I know it’s a great song, it’s just too omnipresent. But on that evening I rediscovered it’s magic. Held in an embrace, I watched the double neck guitar and thought about…a lot.

The crowd sang and danced along. Watching from the soundboard, I thought about how imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. I mean, it was just eerie how choreographed things were. There seemed to be only one departure from the whole act, when faux Plant took pictures of the audience with a camera. They looked like they were having a blast up there. Like I said before, it’s fun to pretend.

As I left the venue, I remembered how the last time I was here I turned a page, with The Dandy Warhols as my catalyst. I think I’m about to turn another one.

The next morning, when I got into my car to return to The Compound, I set my iPod to shuffle. ‘Stairway to Heaven’ was the first song to come on. I closed my eyes, just like she told me to.

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last
When all is one and one is all, yeah
To be a rock and not to roll.

And she’s buying the stairway to heaven

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2 Comments

  1. MzLulu

    01.31.2011

    Reply

    Oh, Jamie…this is beautiful. The tears are streaming down my face and I am having trouble typing. She was obviously a great mom, I hope she gets to meet mine in “Supermom Heaven”. Peace to you, my friend. Much love, Lulu

  2. aztecjoy

    02.04.2011

    Reply

    Another great and heart felt read. I don't know how it is that you can share these intimate moments with us readers but I'm glad you do.

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