Better Off Led

Mockstars are the new rockstars.

By Brian McManus
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 22 | Posted Jan. 21, 2009

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For that they can thank Mark Wahlberg. Some of the general acceptance of tribute bands, Kurutz contends, can be traced to the movie Rock Star, a Wahlberg/Jennifer Aniston vehicle from 2001.

In it Wahlberg's character is plucked from tribute obscurity to front a group he idolizes. The plot was inspired by the real-life story of Tim Owens, an office-supply salesman from Akron, Ohio, who, in the mid-1990s, went from singing in a Judas Priest tribute band called British Steel to actually singing in Judas Priest.

The overriding theme to all this is, of course, if the band you're paying tribute to doesn't have a problem with what you're doing, why should anyone else?

The jump from mockstar to rockstar is happening more and more frequently. Following Priest's tribute-leaning lead in recent years has been Yes, Boston and Journey, who have all cherry-picked their new frontmen from acts that serve as tributes to the original music they wrote.

In Like a Rolling Stone, Kurutz runs down several tribute acts that have been joined onstage by the members of the bands they were paying tribute to. Often times the original artist feels more honored than put off. Paul Hammond knows for a fact that Jimmy Page is a fan of Get the Led Out. (Hammond delivered a custom-built Martin guitar to Page's home for his 63rd birthday.)

Kurutz believes the current musical climate is a perfect petri dish for breeding tribute acts that will never know the scorn of purists. "My sense is--and I hate to say this--that the bar has been lowered in a big way," he laments. "Music is so dispersed now, and no big artists like U2 or Springsteen are coming out. And so much original music is so derivative anyway. What's worse--Badfish, who play tribute to the music of Sublime, or a ska punk band playing originals that are influenced by Sublime?

"There's a whole generation of kids who don't even know what selling out means. They hear Led Zeppelin songs in car commercials or hear this music in video games. We're looking at a future where the stigma of being in a tribute band will be all but completely erased."


There's unmistakable joy in Brian McTear's voice when he talks about the Pauls. McTear is one of Philadelphia's most highly regarded producers, and has worked closely with the Pauls for almost a decade. "They're totally unknown gems," he says. "They have such remarkable talent."


McTear's not talking about the Pauls' performances as Get the Led Out, but instead the countless records they've mastered for him over the years.

Mastering is the final stage of the recording process--after recording and mixing. Like the scene in Napoleon Dynamite in which the movie's protagonist chugs milk and analyzes its flaws ("This cow got into an onion patch"), Hammond and Sinclair listen to fully mixed recordings on their vintage analogue equipment in Fat City and pick out any flaws, equalizing it and pulling out distortion imperceptible to most human ears (and, presumably, even to some deer). It's a very specialized talent. It also happens to be the Pauls' day jobs. They master music every week from all around the world, and their reputation for quality work continues to grow.

"Both of them have incredible ears," McTear says of the duo. "They can hear things in a mix that makes you think they're not human. They've taught me a lot."

Their list of mastered output is a virtual who's who of Philadelphia independent music--the Cobbs, the Brakes, BC Camplight, Blood Feathers, Hail Social, the Swimmers, Golden Ball, the A-Sides, Capitol Years, Meg Baird, Birdie Busch, Creeping Weeds, Photon Band, Ex Reverie. The guys have also been at the helm of two records by Will Oldham, a Louisville, Ky., artist who records under the moniker Bonnie "Prince" Billy. They've mastered releases from as far away as Ireland, Sweden, "even Utah," Hammond jokes.

"Howie Weinberg has mastered a record for me," says McTear (Weinberg is one of music's most lauded mastering engineers, responsible for such work as Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magic, Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill and Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions). "I can say, without a doubt, the Pauls are better," McTear says.


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Comments 1 - 22 of 22
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1. Dave W. said... on Jan 21, 2009 at 08:36AM

“These guys are great! Go see them whenever you can - they will blow your face off with the Zeppelin covers. They get it SO RIGHT! Don't miss them this weekend! I'll be front row ~~”

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2. james said... on Jan 21, 2009 at 09:02AM

“ Boy I don't know why I try to write & record original material when all I have to do is copycat & ape a group that already has a built in audience. I still think a tribute band is pretty lame.”

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3. Carol said... on Jan 21, 2009 at 09:20AM

“The entire band is awesome! A MUST see! You will be impressed!”

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4. Cheryl said... on Jan 21, 2009 at 10:46AM

“I just have to say having grown up with "the Pauls" There are no better artists! GTLO ROCKS!”

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5. reds4life said... on Jan 21, 2009 at 11:33AM

“I need to say having grown up with "the Pauls" there is no better GTLO ROCKS! I LOVE YOU PAUL”

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6. dan said... on Jan 21, 2009 at 12:16PM

“Did you read the article, james? Did it not record how these guys tried to make original music forever? What is so lame about playing the music you love, making a few bucks, and giving lots of people enjoyment?!? Zeppelin songs were made to be heard live and since the Zeps won't do the honors, give me a great tribute band and I'm there!”

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7. silent e said... on Jan 21, 2009 at 12:19PM

“The punny names are always the best part of any tribute band. There's a SF-based all-female Metallica tribute band called Metallicunt, an all-male Go-Go's tribute band called We Got The Meat, and 2 all-female ACDC tribute bands called AC/ D-She and Hell's Belles. Anybody want to join my all-male Hole tribute band? I've already got a name: Pole.”

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8. Becky High said... on Jan 21, 2009 at 10:13PM

“Every artist in Get The Led Out is a consummate professional with many years of experience in all aspects of the music business, and it reflects in every performance they give. GTLO is awesome, but it's just a small part of what these guys can do! They are making a good living doing what they love. Sour grapes much, James?”

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9. R said... on Jan 22, 2009 at 09:34AM

“I'm surprised that original founders of the band, Paul Piccari (the third "Paul") (Bass, Vocals) and Adam Ferriaioli (drums) were not mentioned in this article, especially since they are a major part of the band to this day as well, along with Jimmy Marchiano (electric and acoustic guitar, vocals) who joined the band a couple years ago. I think the reporter should have been more thorough with his facts, especially since Sinclair (an awesome vocalist - unmatched in talent) actually auditioned for Paul Piccari initially before becoming a part owner in GTLO. I LOVE this band and they have never been anything but remarkably talented and entertaining! A must see, hear and totally experience! ”

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10. JH said... on Jan 22, 2009 at 01:52PM

“GTLO is awesome. I've seen them many times, and honestly, you can't critique someone you haven't heard. These guys are Led Zeppelin heaven to your ears. I wish I could see them more often. And by the way, the band members are down right nice guys, oh and girl, Diana, who sings the female parts in the Battle of Evermore is great. Keep doing what your doing, we need an American Led Zeppelin. ”

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11. jgskidding said... on Jan 23, 2009 at 06:31AM

“I have seen GTLO perform many times & as a musician growing up in the Philly area, I am impressed with the way they can "duplicate" Led Zeps music to a tee!! I also have a copy of Sinclairs original music on CD of which I bought at one of their shows. The band has come a long way since Ron Kayfield left , & has stepped it up a notch!!! I will be at the Electric Factory tommorrow with some family & friends who have not seen them, & everytime I bring someone,they are pleasantly surprised! Since I saw Led Zep at the spectrum many years ago, I am extreemly happy that I can listen to their music,live, by some very talented musicians, who are also very down to earth, working class guys like myself!! THANK GOD FOR GTLO - KEEP ROCKING FELLAS...... joe, from down the shore”

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12. JP1959 said... on Jan 23, 2009 at 08:47AM


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13. jesselun said... on Jan 23, 2009 at 10:47AM

“The Pauls rule (so does Lipke and the rest). I've worked with them a millions times, and it's always been the BEST experience. Great article, McManus”

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14. Heather said... on Jan 25, 2009 at 05:42PM

“Black Dog is also a great Zeppelin tribute!!”

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15. Mike H. said... on Jan 26, 2009 at 08:38AM

“It was an incredible show Sat. First time I've seen them perform. Blown away by Jimmy -- I agree that the author of this article really left out some key members of the band...Jimmy carries the hard guitar parts. Anyway, I would highly recommend seeing them. I would also recommend seeing Jimmy when he plays with LeCompt. Much smaller venues and you get to see what he is capable of doing a little better.”

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16. Rock Hardson said... on Mar 25, 2009 at 07:33AM

“Everybody knows that Jimmy Page NEVER had red silk lapels on the inside of ANY of his onstage costumes, sheesh...

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17. zeppelinwoman said... on Jul 12, 2009 at 07:54PM


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18. Lorraine (south philly!) said... on Nov 11, 2009 at 11:52AM

“Hey people, lets just say i know one of the members pretty much all my life and i believe in my heart that he was a musician in his past life lmao,, he is just incredible in my eyes,the best guitarist ive ever witnessed playing,, on and off the stage, YES JIMMY THATS YOU BABE LOVE YA!!!!!!,,but anyways i could listen to them all day and all of the night,,I think they sound better than the original band,but hey thats my opinion and im entitled to it right? But hey,,,,,,,,,,,they are better lol!”

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19. Ronald Wilkinson said... on Nov 23, 2009 at 04:32PM

“I am bringing my grandson to see the show at the Turning Stone on Jan. 16. Saw the show there last Feb. and was blown away. Also bringing some other friends that I am treating. It will be an "I told you so" evening. Rock on, guys!

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20. bet and bri said... on Mar 22, 2010 at 05:14PM

“Saw you in blackwood NJ for the first time. you guys are awesome. We were really blown away . Cant wait to see you again. We are celebrating our 25 th
wedding anniversary in 2011 and want to share that day with GTLO and some of our close friends. That would make a very special day.

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21. franky t said... on Aug 21, 2010 at 04:17PM

“one day i walked past two painters in NYC one was painting his own stuff, another van gogh repros.....everyone oohd and aad at the repro painter...its easy to copy anothers music and sound good....from what ive read these guys released one original record twenty years wonder they are copying zeppelin....they are failed artists, regardless of how succesful they became with their own music...good businessmen tho”

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22. Paul Sinclair & GTLO Fan said... on Sep 6, 2010 at 03:17PM

“One day I was reading an article that was published two years ago, and someone named Franky T posted a comment two years later about something he had no knowledge of. The members of Get The Led Out are constantly producing and selling their own original music to this day and keeping all the money with no middlemen involved. Franky T who? Paul Sinclair is the man!”


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