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My Trip to Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2009

By Cathy Kelty

My name is Cathy and I live in Bishop, California, about 260 miles north of Los Angeles, in the beautiful Eastern Sierras. I've been a big Zeppelin fan for about five years now, somehow having missed the amazement during my teenage years in the '70s; you might say I was somewhat Dazed and Confused back then. So when I got wind that Jimmy Page was to induct Jeff Beck into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, I joined the museum and spent several hours on speed dial to get tickets. Success! I invited each of my friends in turn but they all had other things to do. Finally I posted to the great Zep mailing list FBO offering a free ticket to anyone who would help defray the costs of the trip, and to my delight, a woman named Laurie Whitecloud from San Diego joined me.

I arrived in Cleveland on Thursday afternoon, and I meet Laurie for the first time in the lobby at 7:30. On Saturday we go to the RRHOF museum and breeze right in. It's a neat place, lots of cool stuff to see and hear. It's open free to the public for the day and soon becomes more and more crowded. By then we've skipped dinner, coffee, and breakfast so we leave to find food.

After eating we head to the city center and our route happens to go past "Talent Check In" at the Public Hall. So we stop there, hanging out with four local Metallica fans. Security sent us up the steps away from the entrance, and the cops put up barricades to keep the raging horde of six in its place. It's cold and windy, but we're having fun joking with the cops, the drivers, and people from the press. A chauffeur offers to give us his autograph, ha ha.

James Hetfield arrives. Great excitement! He stops to have his picture taken with a boy who just then is walking by with his mother. I don't know who is happier, her or her son. As things seem to be heating up, Laurie offers to go to a nearby drug store to get Sharpies. While she's gone, Ron Wood arrives, all smiles and waves. We hang out long enough to see him and Hetfield leave, as well as watch two guitars placed in a van and whisked away.

The show starts right on time. The stage design is great, a grungy warehouse version of the Rock Hall glass pyramid. Laurie spots a white ponytail at a table near the stage - Jimmy is sighted! Little Anthony and the Imperials do some old time R&R. Wanda Jackson is the coolest 71-year-old woman on the planet. She says she feels Elvis in the house, and so do I. Local boy Bobby Womack tears it up. Spooner Oldham is unintelligible. Only respect for Elvis keeps the crowd with Bill Black's family and DJ Fontana. Eminem is cool, gets everyone into a call-and-response of "two turntables" "and a microphone! Run DMC are emotional. With the lights, the music, the fans' enthusiasm and the speeches (which go on too long but are heartfelt) it feels like being at rock and roll church, can I get an Amen!

Then finally - Jimmy! He gets the longest, warmest, most enthusiastic ovation of the night. He looks cooler than Clint Eastwood riding into a one-horse town; he's happy, relaxed, leaning on the podium, using his hands to talk, and gave Jeff a huge hug. Then, can it be? YES! They head on to the stage. Beck plugs in and he and his band start Beck's Bolero. It sounds great. Jimmy joins him - they are smiling and jamming and I am transported. Smiles, hugs, and then Jimmy gracefully leaves the stage. I'm grinning like an idiot, at the music, the woman bassist who ROCKS, the guitar playing which is sublime, the fact that I just saw and heard Jimmy Fucking Page! I want to howl at the moon.

The crowd wants some Metallica. Flea goes on forever talking about them, causing several testosterone poisoned fans to keep shouting "Come on, let them play!" When they do the sound is huge and it's a proper rock concert. The crowd is so with them it becomes too fascistic for my taste. But it's undeniable they belong there.

There's a break while the stage is arranged for the encores. It takes a while and to keep us occupied they play the scene from Spinal Tap where the band wanders lost in the bowels of a stadium, very funny. While Wanda and company belt out some rockabilly Laurie and I take the opportunity to move closer to the stage.

Then, YOW! Here it is! Jimmy, Jeff, Joe, Ron, Flea and Metallica are the New, New Yardbirds, playing "Train kept a Rollin.'" I could cry from joy, it is inexpressible. The first song Zep ever played together, like a new beginning! Inexpressible except that like Steve Martin I get happy feet. I'm already standing and just dance, feeling like a 15-year-old with a crush on Jimmy. I don't care how I look; I'm happy, happy. I don't even notice that Jimmy doesn't solo because I'm moving to that rhythm - and he never stopped it - train kept a rollin! I see him do a little dance move as he leaves the stage and am filled with love. That and the sight of Beck ever being Beck, unplugging from the cacophony and giving everyone the finger, are the best moments of the night, some of the best moments of my life.

Back at the hotel we get granola bars and potato chips from the snack machine, calling it a wonderful day at 3:00 AM.

In the morning we go back to the Ritz and eat the most expensive omelettes ever. Wisely no one famous shows up. We do some shopping and more perusing at the Rock Hall, and then Laurie bids Cleveland good-bye. I follow on Monday morning, filled with contentment.

Rock on!!

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