Today is Robert Plant's 64th birthday, and hopefully the adopted Texan -- he lives near Austin with maybe-sorta-"wife" Patty Griffin -- is spending it the way a good Texan should, covered in barbecue sauce, listening to Lightnin' Hopkins on his turntable and wearing nothing but a pair of cowboy boots while he gets birthday texts from Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham. Or something like that.
Since Plant moved to Austin, there have been stories aplenty about the Led Zeppelin howler making time in and around the Capitol City, seemingly passing through crowds anonymously. To be fair, with his scraggly beard and graying mop of hair, he now looks like your average grizzled, aged Austin musician.
While at SXSW this March, rock critic Matt Pinfield told me stories of Plant walking down Sixth Street with minimal hassle, even during the busiest music week in town. He orders pizza from South Congress joint Home Slice under the name "Peter Griffin," a nod to his domesticity and apparent love of Family Guy, and is seen at the Continental Club a few doors down here and there.
"He's been coming out to our shows at the Broken Spoke and it's nothing less than awesome to see the Golden God two-step by the front of the stage," says Texas rock 'n roller Jesse Dayton.
The concept of one of rock's most revered gods walking the streets of Texas brings out my Zep fanboy. I can't imagine what I would do if I saw him. Calmly wave, smile and cheerfully say to the Zep golden god, "Hello, Mr. Plant!".
Sorta like I did when I saw Billy Gibbons in the lobby of my Austin hotel in May? "Hey Billy!" is all I could say when I saw Mr. Gibbons, as he perused a TGI Friday's menu.
Or would it go like this:
"Ohmygodohmygod you're Robert Plant. I listened to Physical Graffiti for a month straight in ninth grade," but in a sweaty blurt that would bring shame onto the next three generations of my family. Who really knows.
Or worse, would my mind blank and would I say, "I really like the Honeydrippers stuff," and totally ignore his band after Band of Joy and before his solo career altogether, confusing and scaring him, in the process making me feel like an even bigger piece of shit? Shades of Chris Farley interviewing Paul McCartney.
"Remember when you were in Led Zeppelin, and Jimmy Page would go "reeeeeer" with the bow on the guitar, and Bonzo would be all "bam bam bam" and you would go "Weeeeeeeel" with your mouth? That was awesome."
So in short, I should never meet Mr. Plant, and if I see him I should run like he's covered in the plague, for his sake and mine.
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Fun fact: On the 2007 reissue of 1983's The Principle of Moments -- Plant's second solo album -- there are a handful of live cuts recorded in Houston at The Summit during his September 20, 1983 gig; here is the set list from that tour.