Rasta-rollers leave no tune unchanged

By Jason Fierstein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The lingering cliche has been with Dread Zeppelin since the L.A.-based sextet started out in January, 1989: "the joke remains the same." Since their conception, the plumped-out Elvis sideshow, fronted by Greg "Tortelvis" Tortell, and the wacked-out backing of rasta/Zeppelin-flavored bandits have created a respectfully tasteful stage mockery of such dead idols as Elvis Presley and Bob Marley.

Who would have thought that the already badly-butchered cover songs and goofy circus tent entertainment would have been such a permanent fad for the Dreads and their fans? To the surprise of Tortell and Dread Zeppelin, the response has been an international sensation. Backed by loyal fans throughout the globe, from Chile (Tortelvis' escape door for relaxation after their energy-draining first two albums) to Graceland, Dread Zeppelin jumped into the limelight shortly after their 1990 release of Un-Led-Ed.

In a phone interview, Tortell spoke of the roots of the Dread Zep creation: "At the time, when we started, there weren't a lot of groups just going out there and goofing around and having a good time. A lot of the groups were taking themselves way too seriously, like Guns N' Roses, in 1990. Also, it has to do with the concept . people are really into Elvis. And the music is very good and if the guys couldn't play, I don't think it (the Dread Zeppelin concept) would have lasted this long."

For a Tennessee-bred country boy to actually team up with rastafarians to cover old Led Zep hits, the concept is a never-ending carnival. Laden with trite cliches, the neo-Zepsters still manage to give their crowds a performance that would leave both Bob Marley and Robert Plant laughing with this flamboyant menagerie.

Dread Zeppelin will be rolling into the Rock tonight. Special guests, Funky Bonz, will be opening for the Dreads. Doors open at 8 p.m. and tickets are available at the Rock for $10 a pop. For more information, call 629-9211.

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