Too Many Zooz and Cathedral City Concert Review

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When discovering that Durham’s own Cathedral City had managed to get the gig to support Too Many Zooz I knew that I had to go.

I have fond memories of discovering the internet-subway-jazz sensations back at the start of sixth-form, and arguably they (alongside Moon Hooch) really piqued my interest in jazz. I thought it was energetic, simple, raw and really clever that they were able to strip dance music down to its bare essentials and adapt their playing to create something really unique.

I have fond memories of discovering the internet-subway-jazz sensations back at the start of sixth-form

Much like dance music, when listening to an album of theirs I tend not to treat each track as an individual thing, rather I see them as a longer form which spans the album and is there to create a mood or encourage a certain type of atmosphere, and that’s fine. To this day I think that their album Subway Gawdz does a really good job of this.

Over the years, though, my tastes have changed somewhat, and that sort of thing isn’t really what I go for anymore.

Sax player: The Iconic Leo P
Credit: FifthLegend via Creative Commons on Flickr

Their newest single Bundee did not quite capture the energy that previous releases had; I thought that their move to a more highly produced sound lacked the sort of ‘live-sounding’ energy that had done them favours in their older music.

Despite this, I thought that particularly with the eccentric saxophonist Leo P at the helm, the show they would put on would be something memorable.

I was expecting a sort of club-like level of spectacle and atmosphere which would match the type of music they’re emulating. I was hoping that a successful live show would re-contextualise the music in a way which successful live shows have done for me in the past. Perhaps this more highly-produced sound that they are going for would make sense in a live situation. Sadly, it didn’t quite work out this way.

Cathedral City warm-up act

Cathedral City opened the show well, with a solid setup and sound operator really helping to enhance and give body to the band’s sound. Support slots are always funny though, because often much of the audience would rather they went away and the main act, who everyone wants to see, came on. Fortunately, the inclusion of tunes from Moon Hooch and Gallowstreet helped mitigate this and by the end of their slot they definitely appeared to have won over much of the crowd.

Too Many Zooz let down the fans

The show itself didn’t seem to want to re-create the kind of atmosphere I thought it would; standing in the room felt more like watching a jazz trio embellished with a few LEDs than the dancey set-up I had hoped for. This would have been fine if the music they were playing was as interesting as a jazz trio’s, but that isn’t the point of the music that they play. For me, pentatonic riffs (executed flawlessly, mind), decorated with some minimal trumpet playing to one of three beats laid down by the King of Sludge can get tiresome after about half an hour when the situation dictates that I stand and pay close attention to it. This was interrupted only by the inclusion of We Are Number One from Lazytown, a bizarre addition which I felt the band simply lacked the irony to pull off, taking a break from playing to check your hair in an iPhone camera one minute and referring to memes in the next makes hazy the tone of the evening. Do they take themselves seriously or not? It was all a bit tiresome.

Do they take themselves seriously or not? It was all a bit tiresome.

Upon realising that the theme for the evening would be ‘people standing awkwardly in a room’, I thought that maybe the saving grace of this show would be the energy of the performers and the chemistry that they would presumably have onstage. Again, I was disappointed. The show was minimally choreographed with a lot of time given for the performers to do their own thing. The issue with this was that the three of them barely interacted with each other; they stood a distance apart from each other on stage and appeared to just be getting on with it, and Matt Doe’s deadpan interjections between songs didn’t help to dispel the impression that they’d just rather be doing something else. Needless to say, they did not do a particularly stellar job of winning over what was a fairly cold crowd to begin with, and this lead to boredom and confusion being my dominant emotions for the evening.

I guess they do say not to meet your heroes.

Perhaps it was not their night, perhaps the crowd wasn’t on their side, perhaps the sound operator hadn’t given the baritone or kick drum enough ‘oomph’ through the PA. Whatever the reason, the energy that I had hoped for both from the crowd and from the band themselves was startlingly absent. The band which had once sparked my passion for jazz and saxophones and pushing the limits of what instruments could do came off flat and uninspiring. I guess they do say not to meet your heroes.

Photograph: FifthLegend via Creative Commons on Flick

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