Shawn Kelly was born to be Robert Plant.
As far as his tribute band goes, anyway. The Seal Beach resident still works during the week as a bar manager, and he hasn't toured the world or trashed an expensive hotel room. But Kelly bears a striking physical and vocal resemblance to the Led Zeppelin frontman, to the point where he doesn't need to wear a wig or alter his voice for effect.
"I've been doing session work in the past where they've asked, 'Can you sing that a little differently? You sound a little too much like Robert Plant,'" said Kelly, who pursued a career as an original musician before founding Led Zepland in 1999.
If resembling the British rock icon is Kelly's lot in life, he's made good use of it. Over the last decade, his tribute band has played at the Coach House, Galaxy Concert Theatre, Viper Room and other Southern California venues, attracting audiences of 200 or more. This weekend, the quartet will make its annual stop in Kelly's former hometown, raising funds for the Sunset Beach Community Assn. in the neighborhood's fifth annual Classic Rock Beachfest.
The Saturday afternoon festival, which will pair Led Zepland with the local band Phunkel, comes at a vexing time for the 1,200-resident unincorporated community. Last summer, the Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission put Sunset under Huntington Beach's sphere of influence, and the Huntington City Council is expected to vote Monday on whether to annex the neighborhood. The community association has pursued plans to incorporate as a city, but those plans would be negated if Huntington opts for annexation.
Organizers of the Beachfest hope that the festivities will take residents' minds off politics — for three hours, at least.
"We've been embroiled in all this other craziness, so this is a nice time for us to come together as a community and do something without stress," said Dawn McCormack, the president of the Sunset Beach Women's Club and publicity chairwoman for the event.
Barbara D'Angelo, a Sunset Beach resident for nearly three decades until she moved to Seal Beach last fall, founded the Beachfest in 2006 to raise funds for the community association. Led Zepland was an easy choice for the headlining band — Kelly, who works at Harpoon Harry's in Sunset Beach, is D'Angelo's fiance.
Led Zeppelin's enduring popularity, she said, made the tribute band an ideal group to bring in all ages.
"It's not just people who are in my age group," D'Angelo said about Led Zepland's following. "It's people older than me, people in my age group, and people a lot younger who are just discovering the music of Zeppelin."
For the last six years, D'Angelo has also served as Led Zepland's manager, doing her best to fit gigs around the members' day jobs. Bassist and keyboardist John Baxter works as a painting contractor, while drummer Danny McBride is a building contractor and guitarist Gary Lohre is retired from a job at Albertsons.
Except for a few substitute drummers who stepped in when McBride had arm problems, the band has never had a personnel change — somewhat akin to the real Led Zeppelin, who opted to disband after drummer John Bonham died in 1980, but got back together for occasional charity shows.
"I think it's really cool that a band like this continues to do what they do to keep the classic rock era alive," D'Angelo said. "That's why we do what we do."
If You Go
What: Sunset Beach fifth annual Classic Rock Beachfest
Where: Twelfth Street Community Center, 12th Street and North Pacific Avenue, Sunset Beach
When: 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday
Admission: $15 presale, $20 at the door
Information: (562) 592-2587