A house and EDM band composed of a baritone saxophonist, a trumpeter and a drummer might be unexpected. Last Wednesday night at The Haunt, however, Too Many Zooz defied conventional musical expectations and did so. With screaming trumpet melodies from Matt Doe, evocative dance moves from Leo P and heart-pounding beats from The King of Sludge, Too Many Zooz brought a large EDM festival ambiance to an intimate Ithaca venue. Too Many Zooz is a self-defined “brass house” trio consisting of saxophonist Leo Pellegrino, trumpeter Matt Doe, and drummer David “The King of Sludge” Parks. I had a chance to sit down with Pellegrino before the show and learn about the band and how they got their start.
Deer Tick does a pretty good job of subverting your expectations. Judging from the album cover of their first full-length album, “War Elephant,” which includes nothing less than the band members sitting on a sand dune in front of two women in bikinis holding a shotgun and an AK-47, you might not expect the mellow fingerpicked guitars that follow. Moreover, after hearing Deer Tick’s infectious blend of tender folk and rollicking roots rock, you might not expect it to be something you could mosh to. Nonetheless, that’s exactly what we did at Deer Tick’s March 3 show at The Haunt. The night began with comedian Solomon Georgio taking us through his life as an African immigrant and “professional homosexual,” interweaving narratives of childhood bullies with social commentary on racism and homophobia.
If there is one word that is overused when describing concert experiences, it’s “magical.” Experiences and emotions are subjective, yet everyone seems to come back to that word. I agree that there is a certain atmosphere to be found at concerts that can’t be found anywhere else, but I believe that the affects found in a Girlpool concert are in a category of their own. Girlpool’s music takes emotions that are difficult to describe and puts them in an accurate, concise form of music that makes one think, “Wow. Why couldn’t I think of that when it’s so straightforward?” Taking those sentiments to a small venue like The Haunt makes the experience personal by forcing one to address neglected, bottled up feelings, creating a truly magical experience. Girlpool opened their show with “123,” the first track off their newest album Powerplant.
The Districts released their new album Popular Manipulations August 11, featuring their former indie rock sound, but richer and more developed. The band hails from Pennsylvania and earned their modest fame during their high school years. The album opens with the song “If Before I Wake.” The lyrics open with “thunder woke me up, it was storming in the city, I was suddenly wide awake.” The song is the perfect introduction for the lyrically exciting album, as it acts as a wake up call for the band’s new success. The lyrics “too blessed to be depressed” and “god, I’m bending over, love me” perfectly exemplify Rob Grote’s raspy and addicting voice that captures and keeps the listener’s attention. “Violet” is the second song on the album that touches on past memories.
The experimental pop band, of Montreal, delivered a theatrical performance at The Haunt in Ithaca on Monday. The band was founded by lead singer Kevin Barnes in 1996, and their music has since endured various evolutions since their early rock, alternative sound. With the release of their most recent album, of Montreal has embraced an experimental pop vibe that deviates from the style of the band’s 13 previous albums. This performance not only showcased the band’s new sound, but also integrated various songs from their older albums, all which were welcomed by the crowd of veteran fans. The band’s publicist Naavin Karimbux described Barnes as “a sort of modern day David Bowie.” Though this statement seems a bit too bold, Kevin Barnes certainly knows how to entertain the crowd and his use of costume changes, dancers, sets and theatrics allows him to mimic Bowie, in his drama and androgyny. The first song on of Montreal’s latest album is “let’s relate,” which begins with the lyric, “how do you identify?” This question of identity pervades the band’s music and was an overarching theme of the performance.
With cover art that looks like a 1960s cinemascope collage, deep, resonant chords and nostalgic lyrics, Eisley’s fifth album exudes longing. The Texas-based Indie Pop group, founded in 1997 by an eclectic bunch of siblings and cousins, tries to capture and harmonize something simultaneously far-off and contemporaneous. Like the collage cover art indicates, the album truly melds a universal sympathy that connects so many unrelated moments—the far-off planet—and yet it also retains a sense of western egotism—the Marilyn Monroe-esque figure crying newspaper tears. This collage metaphor carries beyond the cover art, the track list and the album. Eisley—which translates to ice island in many Germanic languages—named itself after Mos Eisley, a space town in the fictional Star Wars universe.
In the two years since I first saw Real Estate play The Haunt, I have done a lot in the way of growing up. In 2014, I was a naïve sophomore with a head full of possibilities and uncertainties. Now I am a senior with one eye toward graduation and the “real-world” beyond; probably still naïve, but much more settled in my views and plans. Real Estate, in contrast to my development, has remained fairly static. The band hasn’t released so much as a Single since 2014’s Atlas: the record which they were supporting on that previous spin through town.
Ithaca Underground has long been lauded as one of the few music and art collectives in Ithaca that truly keep their ears to the ground and deliver the locals exactly what they want to hear. With that being said, last night’s concert was a dream come true for those who love to let the music visibly shake them up and down, those who feel not fear but exhilaration from the prospect of a mosh pit and those who like to keep their face down and, as Jimi Hendrix famously put it, “wave their freak flag high.”
Last night’s show was kicked off by Ithaca cat-pop group Teencat, whose energetic basslines and straightforward, if dark, riffs were topped off by the optimistic lyrics and strong lead vocal performance delivered by Kari Aldrich. They were followed by local favorite Shore Acres Drive, a three person-collective that blends emo, punk and post-hardcore and first debuted their music at the Ithaca Underground stage of the 2014 Ithaca Festival. Shore Acres Drive consists of Cornell students Charlie Fraioli on guitar and vocals, Jake Burchard on the drums and Ithaca College student James Manton on bass. Shore Acres Drive started as a solo acoustic project, with their music written exclusively by front man Charlie.
Titus Andronicus play their own music to warm up the crowd. This is fitting; Titus Andronicus don’t seem scared of over-indulgence. Their breakthrough album was 2010’s The Monitor, an hour-long kitchen-sink explosion of punk riffs, honky-tonk piano, a bagpipe solo and lyrics that used the American Civil War as a metaphor for personal strife and alienation. Their latest album manages to surpass The Monitor in grandiosity; 2015’s The Most Lamentable Tragedy runs an hour and a half long with several intermission tracks and two tracks titled “No Future Part IV: No Future Triumphant” and “No Future Part V: In Endless Dreaming.”
Luckily, Titus Andronicus balance the pretension of their album formats with unpretentiously great songs. At their best, they meld arena-rock riffs with a ferocious punk attack.
There are few ideas that loom larger in American music legend than the concept of the rock star. A legendary figure, he exists for only one purpose in life: to see the masses swoon in appreciation of his mere appearance onstage. A band may have all the talent in the world, but without a larger than life personality leading the sonic charge and embodying the sound for a live audience, there is a good chance those good vibrations will fall on deaf ears. Many modern front men have tried to capture the animalistic energy of rock legends like Jagger, Hendrix or Mercury, and some have done it well. Is there room in rock and roll for another kind of star?