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Kennedy Center Honors after-party: Led Zeppelin charms the room, Letterman leaves early

You hear that noise coming from the Kennedy Center Sunday night? It was the final aftershock of the Baby Boom, whacking the staid arts temple on the Potomac like a hammer of the gods.

Led Zeppelin, it turns out, still has the ability to shock. As Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters ripped into the sexually-charged "Black Dog" - guitars wailing, strobes flashing, honey dripping - we saw several elderly patrons shrink towards the exits. Clearly, no one had warned them: Hard rock had finally come to the Kennedy Center Honors. (*see also: Why Grohl played drums for Zep tribute)

And just in time! Because the men of LedZep proved to be the most accessible rock gods the event has seen in years. They may have left the older folks dazed and confused ("I met Mr. Zeppelin last night," Aretha Franklin told reporters on the red carpet), but younger guests flocked to the three grizzled Englishmen at the post-show dinner in the center's Grand Foyer.

Jimmy Page - looking like the Quaker Oats guy these days, with that snow-white hair and beatific glow - smiled warmly, seemingly genuinely touched as one fan after another (usually a 35-to-50 year-old dude) told him oh my god you changed my life. "I'm a jazz musician," began one, urgently unloading all the things one needs to tell Jimmy Page ("when I listen to Miles or Coltraine. . . I saw Blind Faith in Japan. . . ").

Producer George Stevens Jr. seemed somewhat embarrassed by the mob blocking the guitar hero from his meal. "Are you the escort for these people?" he hissed to a volunteer assisting Page's posse. "Take them to their table!" Sorry, Mr. Stevens - Sen. Debbie Stabenow's gotta get her photo with him first.

Hey, can you blame the people for seizing the moment? Not like they were going to have that kind of lovefest with honoree David Letterman . The crotchety late-night icon did, at least, drop by the gala, but he was outta there before the salad course, leaving Jimmy Kimmel as the ranking A-lister of a half-empty table. (Did a teenage Kimmel really stay up until 1:30 a.m. watching Letterman, as he proclaimed in his tribute? Yes. "My parents didn't know, so I just did it. We had no VCR.") For guests who paid a minimum of $2,000, the dinner may have offered a little less spark than usual; somewhat fewer members of Congress or the Cabinet visibly mingling with the showbiz elite. Blame the lateness of the hour - many diners weren't seated until after 11 p.m. - but at least it meant that Dustin Hoffman, Buddy Guy and Natalia Makarova seemed to eat mostly in peace.

But here was a moment, shared with us by NBC's David Gregory: Kid Rock meeting President Obama at the White House pre-show reception. Joked POTUS to the rocker, who was one of Mitt Romney's most vocal celebvocates, "I'm still here." No hard feelings, apparently.

Fighting our way through the fanboys, we asked Robert Plant, Zeppelin's howling lead singer, if he was surprised his music still had the power to rattle the gentry.

Hardly. "I played MerleFest in North Carolina last year with my true love, Patty Griffin" - the fetching singer-songwriter on his arm Sunday night - "and we cleared half the crowd." He sounded rather pleased.

From: The Washington Post
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This Month in
Led Zeppelin History

March 17, 1969 - A four-song performance is filmed for TV Byen in Denmark (aired on May 19, 1969)
March 21, 1969 - Zeppelin’s debut TV appearance on "How It Is"
March 25, 1969 - Filming session for the Supershow
March xx, 1970 - The band turns down many TV offers worth large sums
March 05, 1971 - Led Zeppelin started a 12-date "Thank You" tour for British fans, appearing at the clubs from their early days and charging the same admission prices as in 1968. The first show was at Ulster Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland where they played songs from their upcoming fourth album, including the first public performances of Black Dog, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California and Rock And Roll.
March 12, 1972 - Page and Plant rehearse some songs with the Bombay Orchestra
March 25, 1973 - Led Zeppelin finally release Houses of the Holy after production issues with the album cover
March 28, 1973 - Led Zeppelin released Houses Of The Holy in the UK. The album title was a dedication by the band to their fans who appeared at venues they dubbed "houses of the holy". Houses Of The Holy has now been certified 11 times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for US sales in excess of 11 million copies.
March xx, 1974 - The band decide to release a double album due to the amount of left over studio material
March 29, 1975 - Led Zeppelin saw all six of their albums in the US Top 100 chart in the same week, alongside their latest album Physical Graffiti at No.1. Physical Graffiti has now been certified 16 times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for US sales in excess of 16 million copies.
March 15, 1975 - Tickets for the Earls Court shows sellout within four hours
March xx, 1976 - Jimmy speaks with reporters mentioning the new album due out called Presence
March 31, 1976 - Presence is released
March 28, 1977 - Zeppelin arrive in Dallas, Texas to rehearse before opening the eleventh tour of the US
March xx, 1978 - Robert and John spend some time hanging around the Midlands
March 26, 1979 - Robert takes lead vocal at a Bad Company gig in Birmingham
March 04, 1980 - John Bonham makes a TV appearance on "Alright Now" with Bill Connolly
March 26, 2006 - Readers of Total Guitar magazine voted the guitar solo by Jimmy Page in Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven as the greatest guitar solo of all time. The 1971 track was voted ahead of tracks by Van Halen, Queen, Jimi Hendrix and The Eagles. On the 20th anniversary of the original release of the song, it was announced via US radio sources that the song had logged up an estimated 2,874,000 radio plays - back to back, that would run for 44 years solid.
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