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Presence - The Crunge, 3-12-17

Presence, A Tribute to Led Zeppelin, forced themselves to tackle oddball funk song "The Crunge" so they could perform the complete Houses of the Holy album live. Blues/rock keyboardist Steve Sauer dishes how they got it done.

Here it is, "The Crunge"! That confounding "Crunge"!
Presence performs Led Zeppelin's "The Crunge" at Tellus360 in Lancaster, Pa., on Sunday, March 12, 2017.

Here's a little insider story from Presence - A Tribute to Led Zeppelin. For our second show, we gave ourselves an ambitious task, to play an entire album start to finish. We decided on three candidates for the album and let the fans decide. They picked Houses of the Holy, so accordingly, we set about accomplishing every song on the album. Some of the songs dogged us in our rehearsals, but eventually we smoothed out the tougher transitions of "The Song Remains the Same," the complicated timing coming out of the guitar solo in "Over the Hills and Far Away," and the last few bars of "The Rain Song" (I'll let our guitarist Albie tell that story).

But the thing we long knew wasn't going to be easy was "The Crunge." This was Led Zeppelin's foray into funk. Once the bass and drums got the timing right in their heads, executing the backing music became easy. However, the song is guided by, perhaps even dependent on, a rapping lead vocal.

Loretta, our singer, was pretty nervous about it. A couple months before the gig, she had pretty much given up on the idea of singing the song. She wanted me to do it instead. Well, I don't have quite the right voice for it, but after a few run-throughs I managed to achieve the proper feel. It still wasn't right though. I considered teaching her the keyboard parts so I wouldn't have to worry about doing two things at once, but doing so wouldn't make my voice sound any better. We would still be putting a less than stellar singer forward to carry a lead vocal that wasn't in my range at all.

Well, our lead-footed drummer, Oz, put his massive foot down in a one-on-one conversation with Loretta. I don't know exactly what he said. He probably insulted me or threatened her or something. Whatever it was, she came out of that conversation resolved that she was going to sing the song. Everybody wanted to rehearse it except her. The week before the gig, we got her to rehearse it -- once with me singing along to steer her delivery into the right direction rhythmically, and a second time without me opening my mouth because she needed to know she could do fine without me.

Even when she got it right, Loretta voiced her hatred of the song and used me as a sounding board: "I get the feeling that even Led Zeppelin themselves never played this stupid song live, right?" I had to admit, "You're right, even when the rest of the band was playing it, Robert never sang the vocal from the album." Of course she reveled in this answer, feeling more justified in saying how stupid and pointless the song is, how goofy Plant sounds on it, etc.

On the day of the gig, we were finishing up soundcheck having touched on everything else we felt like we needed to. The only thing left was "The Crunge." So we started it off one by one: first drums, then bass, then guitar. At the vocal entrance, Loretta sang the first line and a half until her paranoia kicked in and she stopped us. Out came a profanity-laced tirade that would have made Peter Grant blush. She informed us that she wasn't gonna expletive do the expletive song. We all winced at each other -- did this mean we weren't going to do the full album after all? Then she clarified that she'd do the song at the show but that she wasn't going to expletive rehearse it at soundcheck. Phew!

When it came time for "The Crunge" at the show, Loretta placed herself horizontal, her stomach to the stage, almost pressing her face against her lyrics sheet, and delivered the entire song that way. This lightened the mood considerably. By the end, she was screaming out the lyrics. We were all giggly and ecstatic. She took this song that was a joke in the first place and made it even funnier. It was absurd, and it totally worked. "Where's that confounded bridge?" The crowd loved it, and our Houses of the Holy show ruled. "Never again," she promised.
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