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A Hairfarmer’s heavier side

Grateful Greg and the Whole Lotta Led crew set to bring down the house at upcoming Dusty’s gig

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Who: Whole Lotta Led
When: Saturday, Feb. 21, 9 p.m.
Where: Dusty's

It doesn't matter if you've lived in Whistler for three months or three years - you've heard of The Hairfarmers, or at the very least, you've seen the two longhaired, smiling musicians kickin' around town. The much-loved duo of "Grateful" Greg Reamsbottom and "Guitar" Doug Craig have been rocking out on local patios, creating some serious après sessions, for almost ten years now.

On break from one such après session at Dusty's, Greg is still amped up, turned on, and ready to rock.

But "Grateful" Greg also has a deep, dark, not-so-secret underbelly: he's been a diehard Led Zeppelin fan since childhood.

"It was 1980, I was ten years old and heard 'Dazed and Confused.' It was on the radio, it was the Electric Lunch, Rock 101," Greg said with a grin, "It just blew me away. I went out the next day and bought the record."

His parents, fellow music lovers, were pleased that their son had discovered Led Zeppelin.

"I listened to it a lot through high school, especially, pretty much burned out on it and didn't listen to it for a while after high school," he admitted.

"Of course, when the band started I had to go over all of it and get it back into my brain, and now its burned there forever."

The band he's referring to, of course, isn't The Hairfarmers. Rather, he's talking about Whole Lotta Led, Whistler's beloved Led Zeppelin cover band. With Phil Richard on guitar, Tom Rimmer on drums, Mike Wilson on bass, and Greg on vocals, these guys sound pretty damn close to the real thing. In fact, an assistant producer who worked with Led Zeppelin has been to a few Whole Lotta Led shows and told Greg that he's heard the real thing 30 times, but when he closes his eyes at a Whole Lotta Led show they sound identical.

Whole Lotta Led first started rehearsing in 2001, and played their first gig in February 2002 at The Boot, after Greg met Richard at an open mic night.

"He was playing guitar and I get up there to sing, and he goes, 'Do you know any Led Zeppelin?' and I said, 'I know all of Led Zeppelin.'" The rest is history.

"You can either sing that stuff or you can't, and I'm not claiming any special powers or talents - its strictly physiological luck."

They don't stray far from the original music - "that's dangerous territory," Greg said with a slight shake of his head.

Before Greg earned the moniker of "Grateful" Greg, when he was playing around
Vancouver in the '80s and '90s, he was known as Greg Zeppelin.

"It was pretty unique, it was very heavy for the time. I mean, I grew up in the '70s and the '80s, so I was too young in the '70s to really go to concerts, and by the time I was going to concerts in the '80s, the music was crap, right?" He pauses briefly to order a Jameson on the rocks.

"Most young adolescent boys wanted something heavier, so for me it was Cream and Sabbath and Led Zeppelin and early Stones and Jimi Hendrix."

The timelessness of the original band may help to explain the popularity of Whole Lotta Led as well.

"It's rock and roll fused with the blues with a little bit of psychedelic edge to it, and no one else did it as effectively as they did it," Greg points out. "Lots of other people did it, but history has proven their music stood the test of time. They're as popular now as they ever were."

One of their recent all-ages show proved just how universal the music really is.
"We had 10 year olds out there, to people who saw Led Zeppelin in 1969, and all points in between," Greg said, "There are 19-year-old kids at the bars wearing Led Zeppelin t-shirts as much as there ever was."

He loves to look out into the audience and see such a diverse crowd.

"The 60-year-olds are watching the 19-year-olds dance," he said with a laugh, "I will too when I'm 60."

The band plays less frequently than The Hairfarmers, so the shows are something of a rarity and they're almost always sold-out events.

Both groups have accumulated strong followings of local music lovers over the years.

"Whistler is a vibrant community of really switched-on people and I mean, they like their rock and roll, they like their music, they like their hip hop, they like everything! So its not like we're in a retirement community here. It's a bunch of young, octane-fuelled maniacs in this town, and putting Led Zeppelin on is like throwing gas on the fire."

There are some pretty serious Whole Lotta Led fans out there. Last year one of Greg's friends actually flew his daughter to Whistler from New York on her 19th birthday to see their show.

The two groups definitely have distinctly different sounds.

"They're two different animals completely," Greg affirmed.

But he doesn't seem to have a hard time switching hats. In fact, this week, he's set to play an après session as a Hairfarmer at Dusty's earlier in the day before the evening's rock and roll show with Whole Lotta Led.

"That's my job, that's what I do full-time," he said, "You get so much in the moment... you have to get so wrapped up in it, you have to be really there and present. You can't just half-ass it. I mean, you can, but people can tell the difference. If you really want to get people off and have them get into the whole vibe, you gotta commit. You've gotta go slightly insane and go all the way there and channel Elvis, so to speak."

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