- This is a completely staged photo.
The hammer of the gods fell on Mark Boudreau’s dream of thousands of people getting the Led out at National Harbor this weekend. Slow ticket sales and an unclear strategy for paying bands doomed the Arlington man's Zep Fest, which had been scheduled to take place at National Harbor this weekend (instead: try the Peeps store!)
But just because the Yardbirds, Vanilla Fudge, and the guy I used to buy records from at Penguin Feather back in the day won't be juxtaposing themselves with the smooth jazz that blasts out of NatHarb's outdoor speakers, you don't have to suffer through a Page-and-Plant-free Memorial Day Weekend. Here are some ideas for constructing a Valhalla of your own.
IDEA: LISTEN TO LED ZEPPELIN ON THE RADIO
The trouble with Memorial Day/Labor Day weekend classic rock countdowns is that you have to spend the first 200 songs or so throwing bones to people who think the ‘90s mattered. Shine that! WGBG Big Classic Rock on the Eastern Shore will be will be streaming Led Zep Online’s Memorial Day “Get the Led Out” show,” which this year is a toast to Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. (On Tuesday, Bonzo would have been 63.)
IDEA: TOUR AREA SPOTS WITH ZEPPELINIZED SIGNIFICANCE.
Led Zep played its share of shows in the Washington region, but two stand out.
• On Feb. 10, 1975, dirtballs in Landover rioted outside the Capital Centre as Zeppelin played, throwing rocks and bottles at the building when they realized belatedly that tickets for highly anticipated events must be purchased in advance. Eighteen thousand seven hundred maggots managed to get in, but their brethren repped them well in the parking lot, pelting the fuzz with garbage on the site where Heavy Metal Parking Lot directors Jeff Krulik and John Heyn would make their famous film 11 years later.
Since the Cap Centre is gone, go to the Boulevard at the Capital Centre mall in Largo instead and wing one of your flip-flops at the Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse (or: take advantage of its very attractive $12.95 prime rib special).
• The Wheaton Community Center, once the Wheaton Youth Center, holds a unique place in Led Zep history: Here, the band may have played in 1969. In 2009 David Montgomery did his best to untangle the weird history of this purported event, of which no substantial record exists.
Jeff Krulik is a big part of that article, too; in 2008 he began working on a film about the mythical concert, which supposedly occurred in a fallow point on the band's tour schedule.
"It's just such a tough thing to prove," says Krulik. "It was a hastily assembled concert when they had an off night when they were barnstorming across the country. Whether it happened or didn't happen" — Krulik does believe it happened — "it's kind of secondary to my story."
Zep Fest's cancellation dinged Krulik, too: He was scheduled to play a rough cut of Led Zeppelin Played Here at the confab. Having a deadline, he says, would have pushed the film along considerably further than it is now, a state he describes as "in many different folders on my computer."
But that wasn't the only disappointment. Richard Cole, Zeppelin's tour manager at the time, was scheduled to be there, and this represented Krulik's best opportunity so far to get someone from the band's camp to comment on whether the concert occurred.
Right now his interviews consist mainly from people like D.C. radio legend Barry Richards, who says he booked the show, and area rock history obsessive Mark Opsasnick, who chronicled the show in his book Capitol Rock.
Krulik has also filmed folks who say they were there. "I've talked with several people," Krulik says. "You basically just have to cross-reference the stories. Unfortunately, some of the tell a different story. I'm confident that it happened, but people want proof. People want a ticket stub. That's not going to exist because it was basically put together in a couple weeks."
"People who work with Barry say it happened, and people who worked with Barry say it didn't happen," he says. "This is like Rashomon."
Part of the reason the concert was so ill-documented, Krulik believes, is that it took place during the weekend of President Nixon's first inauguration, and most of the people who'd normally be interested in seeing Led Zeppelin were organizing a counter-inauguration protest downtown. "There's footage of that, there's pictures of that, that was going on at the same time that Led Zeppelin was driving down 95 to come play at the Wheaton Youth Center," Krulik says.
Krulik, a Maryland native, may take his first trip to National Harbor this weekend nonetheless. "I might go down there anyway to see if anybody shows up," he says.