Take three Falls Church residents and mix with Led Zeppelin, local rock and roll, and a passionate music culturist.
Throw in a pinch of President Richard M. Nixon and what do you get?
Yes! A movie mystery about the 1960s emerging concert scene.
Well, did they or didn’t they?
Howard Herman, Jon Hundley, and Jack Maier play real life roles in “Led Zeppelin Played Here” which will have its Falls Church premiere at Creative Cauldron on Sunday at 6 p.m.
Herman is the former director of Parks and Recreation for Falls Church and now the manager of the Farmer’s Marker, Hundley attended local concerts and is a regular at the Market and Jack Maier is a music archivist who scours EBay daily in search of concert mementos.
The movie centers on an alleged performance by Led Zeppelin at the Wheaton (Maryland) Youth Center in front of 50 fans on the very night of President Nixon’s inauguration, January 20, 1969.
The band was barnstorming across the U.S., right about the time of their first album release.
And before they got big. Really big.
Like some of the groups which played at the Falls Church Community Center about the same time and went on to become icons.
Those who attended the Wheaton performance say yes, the band was there, but no one’s been able to produce any proof.
Not nary a ticket stub, picture, newspaper article, or poster can be found to prove eyewitness accounts, but to hear them is to believe them, according to legend.
Herman’s and Maier’s memories of small concerts at the Falls Church Community Center fit right in with the Wheaton performers.
Like Bob Seger, the Doobie Brothers, Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, Brownsville Station, Iggy Pop and the Stooges and Nils Lofgren who grew up in Maryland and plays with Ringo Starr and tours as Bruce Springsteen’s lead guitarist. They all played in Falls Church.
“That’s what teenagers did on Saturday nights” for about three or four years after the Falls Church Community Center opened in 1968, Herman said, and that’s what Herman did, too.
The community center was the hubbub of dancing and music. Teens paid about $2 a ticket to come, and some high-ticketed acts went as high as $5, Herman remembers.
He thinks cars and “kids becoming a little bit more fluid in their movements” made the small venue market gradually disappear. Big ticket prices, and Woodstock in 1969, Maier said.
A tip in the book, Capitol Rock by Mark Opsasnick, about the local music scene led Silver Spring resident and filmmaker Jeff Krulik to explore the Wheaton rumors.
“Films develop as you work on them,” Krulik said in a phone interview, “and sometimes they become something else.” Like a planned documentary evolving into a mystery.
In his film are fans who say they saw Led Zeppelin in Wheaton, and they can describe what happened.
Krulik, a former producer at the Discovery Channel, said, “I believe it, and I think my film makes a convincing argument.
“I am really grateful to Creative Cauldron for letting us do it [show the film],” Krulik said. “Falls Church is such a big part of the story because some of the bands [in the film] played in Falls Church, too.”
In fact, Maier has found a Falls Church concert poster he’ll take to the discussion which follows the movie at Creative Cauldron, 410 S. Maple St. Tickets for the screening are $10.