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Get ready for a 'whole lotta' Zeppelin at ROH this Saturday

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Jean Violet gets ready to belt out some Robert Plant vocals as the lead singer in tribute band Kashmir. (Courtesy photo)

ROCHESTER - Jean Violet acknowledges there's plenty of Led Zeppelin tribute bands touring the country - and some may even replicate the Zeppelin sound as well as or even better than Violet's band Kashmir.

But he says when it comes to a live concert like the one they'll have Saturday in Rochester, Kashmir rocks a house like no one else.

"Our shtick is we are about the whole live energy thing, even before the show," said Violet, who plays Robert Plant, rock's premier power vocalist. "We get to a state of mind, we're energized. Then after you see the band there's this transfer of energy from us to the crowd and back to us.
"I see people all the time who say, 'I've been to Led Zeppelin shows, and this made me feel like I was traveling back in time.'"

It is this time travel that has become a labor of love for Violet and his three bandmates: Andy Urban (Jimmy Page) on lead guitar, Paul Cooper (John Bonham) on drums and Felix Hanemann (John Paul Jones) on bass, keyboard and mandolin.

And if practice makes perfect, well Kashmir is getting there. They've been doing virtually the same gig for almost 20 years.

And this year - and this concert - is going to be something special, Violet told The Rochester Voice on Friday.

"This year we're celebrating the 50-year anniversary of Zeppelin's first two albums - Led Zeppelin I and Led Zeppelin II, which both came out in 1969," Violet said. "We'll be playing a lot from those first two albums."

To hone the authenticity of what audiences came to expect in a Zeppelin concert, they studied many of the band's live performances broadcast by the BBC

Violet said the Rochester Opera House audience on Saturday will see the band have some fun with Zeppelin standards like "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You" from the first album and seminal rock anthem "Whole Lotta Love" from the second album just like the band did five decades ago.

Violet, himself, grew up in Pittsburgh and began playing in a rock band in the late '80s before moving to New York and organizing another heavy rock band. Once there he ended up being signed by a Japanese record label for a rock project in the Orient. He later toured in the Far East and the United States.

Then around 2000 he was working gigs back in New York City when on a whim he joined up with other local studio musicians to perform as a Led Zeppelin tribute band as a spur of the moment oneoff.

"We played at Kenny's Castaways on Bleecker Street (Greenwich Village), and people loved it," he said. The nightclub, a sort of rock incubator, closed its doors in 2012, but Kashmir was already well on its way to becoming a premier Led Zeppelin tribute foursome.

"We ended up playing a lot of gigs at Madison Square Garden and I knew there was potential," said Violet, who looks hauntingly like Plant and sounds like him, too.

For its four longtime members, the Zeppelin tribute gig has provided a steady income for nearly two decades.

"It was our goal to play small venues and work our way up," Violet said. To date they have played for crowds as large as 15,000, in Canada and during motorcycle events in Sturgis, S.D., and New Hampshire.

Violet said fans telling him they felt like they were back at a Zeppelin concert from 50 years ago keeps him and his bandmates clear to their mission as well as seeing generations of families all enjoying the show they put on.

"To see two or three generations of families loving the concert is something very special," he added.

For more info on Kashmir click here.

For tickets for Saturday's show at ROH, click here.

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