Two Tales II at the Comfort Zone
Friday July 06 2001
Two Tales II at The Comfort Zone
Additional Acts: Brian Gladstone featuring Bonnie Gladstone and Tony Quarrington
Ticket Price: FREE
Acoustic Set: Nejuan / Silver Gypsy / Little Ditty / Camouflage / Monkey (with Jimi Hendrix's Manic Depression outro) / Single (dirty south version) / Two Tales / New Song in Drop D / GreenRoot / Ladies (new version)
Electric Set: Gratefully Nowhere / Saturn / C / Biz / Meet Moot --> Moot / Kousharee / The Flower Song --> They Don't Know jam featuring Derek from Grindig and Jay from Tallman / Swimming In Chlorine / Static / Robert Johnson's Crossroads featuring Mike Helman / Weather
Set Length: Acoustic 1 hr, electric 1 1/2 hrs
Rough Attendance: 120 - 150
Caught on tape? no godammit
Notes: First the bad news. This show is lost forever, having not been recorded on tape, filmed on video, or captured in any medium other than in the collective neurons of the music lovers lucky enough to have been there. As such I am going into extremely fine detail with this review, since I myself hope to forget as little as possible about the evening and will need something to remind me in the future.
What a night! We billed this one as sort of a thank-you party for our most loyal of fans, and did next to no promotion for it. Two Tales Two was announced only to our e-mail list and through word of mouth. No posters, no newspaper listings, no nothing. It was our hope to stage a casual get-togethery kind of evening, no cover charge, all ages, tons of goofing around and just a chance to be a little more human with our audience and not worry about who's in the audience or how many people came, or whether every song was perfectly polished and radio-friendly. The night was nothing short of fantastic, and I'll break it down for you by set:
First, the acoustic set. We had everyone shuffle their chairs up to the edge of the stage for a unique Zygote laid-back feel, and the band was fairly relaxed on wooden stools, wearing bemused smiles on their faces. A brief count-in and the band slid into Nejuan off their Turning Gyges Ring album, a song which sounds like it was made for the acoustic treatment. The clarity of the acoustic guitars made this song - as it did for many others - stand out, as the audience really got a feel for how intricately written the music is. After a typically slithery solo from Ovakim and a thunderous buildup, the song crashed to a finish and an appreciative audience hooted their approval.
The opening bars of the next number were enough to inspire a wave of cheers from the crowd as the band opened the door on that most-liked and least-played from their album, the reggae-flavoured Silver Gypsy. The song just doesn't get treated fairly by electric instruments, and this show offered the opportunity to do it right for once. Do it right indeed. I'll mark this show as the very best live rendition of Silver Gypsy ever delivered by the band. It's a deceptively difficult song; vocals dance on the edge of their keys, the lyrics carry heavy emotional weight, and the timing on each instrument has to be perfect or the whole thing crumbles. This was a rare treat, impeccably performed and intensely sung, and it finally truly lived up to its potential.
Next came the unveiling of a new Zygote original, a little ditty called (temporarily) Little Ditty. Amir handled most of the vocals for this one, and it was (unusual for a new song) actually one of the high points of the set. I watched as the audience leaned forward in their chairs, eyes on the players, minds wide open and trying to store as much of the song away as possible for future memory. It's always amazing to me how fans of the band are able to learn the songs after they've been played only a few times, with no recorded version to help them. This song will make an excellent memory. It's a plaintive and straightforward tune with a haunting chorus that snaps into a rolling outro in a time signature that doesn't exist. A worthy debut.
Camouflage. For this song, fresh off Zygote's recent 5-song album demo, Amir switched from bass to guitar, and he and Ovakim played through a solid rendition of the tune. Lack of bottom-end sound on this one really made the percussion stand out, and Shlag's usually-smothered bell rhythm became the driving force of the chorus. Niiice. (I was hoping for a "Heyyy....Mike Belinski, Heyyyy... Mikey B" verse treatment but was sadly disappointed.)
Monkey. Another difficult live song. My theory on this and Silver Gypsy is that both songs featured guest piano on the album, and without that element on stage the songs just can't sound right. I was proven wrong on that theory tonight, especially by SG, but Monkey managed to hold its own as well. The crowd roared at the turn it took into Hendrix territory during the bridge. Suddenly the band was playing "Manic Depression", and not just a little snippet of it, either. They played through the song proper and then let it slip into a disintegrated jam of sorts, swelling and crashing to a picked-apart finale.
The "dirty south" version of Single has become a standard format for the song live, featuring a honeyed slide guitar from Ovakim, vocal riffing from Jer and Amir, a hybrid military/buckshot snare rhythm from Brian, and the essential Shlag percussion solo blistering up the scene. Generally the band launches into up-tempo format at a point determined on a show-by-show basis, and this time it came right before the bridge.
As the song from which these acoustic/electric shows draw their names, Two Tales occupied a humble spot in the latter half of the first set, and was played as a no-nonsense direct album translation. The song boasts an interesting acoustic dynamic without any tinkering, and it's a challenge for Jer and Amir to maintain the tight harmonies when there's no wall of noise there to hide inconsistencies.
From here the band moved into a second new song, this one completely nameless and referred to on the set lists as "D", which is short for "new song in Drop D". It's a good song, with a dark foreboding feel, but for some reason didn't get the same reception as Little Ditty. Personally I feel that this one belonged in the electric set, the intensity of the vocals and the song's style in general just didn't match the acoustic vibe. I think that the band picked up on this as well, since after this song was played Amir could be heard commenting "Let's get to the electric already" and Jer made a point of reminding the crowd that after a couple more songs and a set break, they were going to come back and tear the roof off the sucker. The same sort of thing happened at the first Two Tales show, so I guess it's characteristic of Zygote to yearn for the juice.....
That first split-second of jangly metallic guitar that congeals into the razorwire rhythm of GreenRoot is one of my favourite moments in any show. "ChukaCHUN chun da Da da CHUN CHUN da da Da da....." Beautiful. This rendition of the tune was mostly Jer and Ovakim on guitars, with Jer and Amir on vocals. Brian and Shlag got to relax, Shlag going so far as to order a beer and lean on his congas drinkin'. Nicely played, with some bass effects introduced into the bridge by Amir, and the drummers eventually getting bored of standing around and inserting themselves into the mix for the song's close.
This we weren't really expecting. When it was announced that the last song of the acoustic set would be Ladies, the crowd went NUTS. Who knew the song had such a following? I can only assume it's because the original Two Tales version of the song is one of the few Zygote live cuts available to the general public. The band has done extreme overhauling to Ladies since then, so I think that the audience was a bit thrown off by the changes. Once the new face of Ladies grew familiar though, the crowd settled into it and by the time the unaltered crescendo roiled in at the end, people were goosed, juiced, and ready for the electric set. Zygote quit the stage to grab a drink, a smoke, a laugh with some friends, and to get ready for set 2.... electric.
The strange thing about this show is that we honestly expected the acoustic set to far outshine the electric set. The Comfort Zone is not exactly famous for great sound, and our impression was that the lower-intensity, more honest acoustic instruments would fit the room better than your typical Zygote wall of sound. In the end we discovered that that impression was wrong. The electric set was AT LEAST as good as the acoustic, even better by some accounts. Several historic moments throughout the set reinforce the night's magnitude. Let's go:
Gratefully Nowhere. As a statement for moving from the beauty and simplicity of the acoustic set to the hard-crunching vibrancy of the electric set, the 'Gote couldn't have picked a more appropriate song. As the resident Heaviest Song in the band's current repertoire, (Weather is the only real contender,) GN raged like a thunderstorm into fantastic supercharged life and quickly set the tone for the rest of the night. People instantly kicked their chairs back and created space for themselves to move in front of the stage, and the floor from that point on was a throng of happy music lovers. Three minutes and thirty seconds later, the band crunched to a halt as one, and in the deafening silence a cheer rose from those in attendance. Zygote back in their element. The grins on the faces of the band members spoke for themselves, and you knew that you were in for something special.
Up next was C, the instantly groovable and irresistably magnetic number off the Nashville Tapes. Anyone who remained in the depths of the Comfort Zone was sucked to stagefront by the pull of this song and forced to dance by the irrevocable order of their mortal soul. SUPERCool. Amir took the opportunity to show off on the bass, bubblingly bright waterfalls of notes tumbling through the staccato guitar and crisp percussion lines. What a crowd-pleasing song....
Next on the roster was that old warhorse Biz. The endurance that this song possesses, its ability to stay fresh for the audience and fun for the band is simply amazing. The near-industrial grind of the verses contrasts vividly with the rich strumming of the chorus, an effect that keeps the song actually breathing life into itself. Combine that with the "Just For Me" line that just BEGS the audience to scream it into the microphone held out invitingly by Jer, and the driving rumbling outro, and you have youself an instant Zygote classic.
Meet Moot --> Moot is one of the typical Zygote plug-prone areas, but this time the band skipped any goofing around and hammered right through an album-faithful version of it. The audience was treated to EXTREMELY high energy here, the band racing to keep up with each other, Brian clinging to the edge of the beat and Aaron's fingers a frantic blur. Tons of fun. The slow/fast solos unleashed by Aaron here were inspirational, but only a hint of what was to come later in the set.
After the spectacle of Moot, the band took a moment for Aaron to tune his guitar, and the rhythm section broke into an impromptu version of "Rapper's Delight" by The Sugarhill Gang. Upon realizing that nobody onstage really knew any of the words, Jer asked some guy in the front row if he wanted to come up and freestyle. "Some guy"'s name was Jeff, and Jeff was AWESOME. He rapped through at least two verses of the song with sick style, and was ready to keep on going... The band and the audience was delighted. Big hand for Jeff.
Kousharee. Another song with an immediately distinctive intro, and a fan favourite judging from the howls. Koush's strong point is the first transition from verse to chorus, where things really start to swing. At this show we got a fairly standard version of it, which ain't a bad thing by anyone's account.
The Flower Song. Ahh The Flower Song. Rarely disappoints, and this time it went over the edge and delivered beyond capacity, flowing through a few unspecified rhythmic twists and the usual raps, chants, and banter before mutating into a marathon They Don't Know jam. They Don't Know found Zygote buddies Derek from the band Grindig up onstage to howl on the guitar, and Jay from the band Tallman joined the crew to hold the beat on congas while Shlag switched over to Djembe. Some vocal experimenting between Jer and Amir garnished the music nicely as the band surged and quieted repeatedly, carrying the crowd through multiple crescendoes. Some typically bizarre guitar lines thrown down by Derek allowed the band to break character a bit, and it was a real treat to see the 'Gote work with some friends from other outfits. A note on Grindig and Tallman. Both of these bands are amazing. Grindig rips crazy blues-laced soulful tunes, and if you like intelligent dark and heavy, Tallman is the shit. Thanks to those boys for being so damn cool.
Crowd favourite (I know I've called more than one song in this review a "crowd favourite", but this song may be the champ of crowd favourites) Swimming In Chlorine came next, and as usual it rocked ass. Such a primal song, and the hardnosed rap from Amir gets better every time. The "trend's so tired" lag in the second verse was pretty funny this time, with Jer muttering nonsense into the mic and Amir trying to shut him up before hollering back into the song. As a bonus, Shlag's Kweeka was clearly audible at this show. For those of you not in the know, the Kweeka is a drum he uses that sounds sort of like a straw being pulled in and out of a drinking box quickly. You know the one....
Static. Always goes over like a charm, and this time was no exception. The thing I noticed in particular this time around was this barely-noticable guitar stutter that occurs infrequently during the chorus. For some reason it just jumped out at me and I found myself focussing on it throughout the song like I'd never heard it before. Strange....
This could not be resisted, and marks a most historic point in the history of Zygote. Three years, seven months, and two days after his final performance with Zygote, former 'Gote guitarist Mike Helman climbed onstage to wail through a marathon version of Crossroads. Damn, the boy can still rock. This show marks the first time that Mike and Ovakim share a stage as well, and the two guitarists playing together really highlit the difference between the old Zygote and the new Zygote. Mike's style is so classically bluesy, so damn tasteful it makes you want to cry. Really took me back. Countering that was Aaron's bright and bold musical character, fingers leaping from fret to fret in an amazing display of virtuosity. The song went on forever (I can hardly blame the band for wallowing in the experience) and during that time there were at least two extended solos from each guitarist that left the crowd breathless, and a lick-for-lick tradeoff that was priceless and had our eyes bouncing from player to player like we were watching a game of tennis. Both guitarists stood really tall tonight, and each made the other look very very good. This was an amazing moment and I only regret that it wasn't caught on tape.
Weather. Weather closed the show with a bang of course, but something about it seemed a little off. Maybe it was the two and a half hours of music that the band had just pounded out, but the tempo here was a little draggier than usual and that manic Weather energy seemed to be missing, at least until the final kaboom when things picked up and the boys poured their last drops of blood into the performance. A killer night. The band thanked the audience profusely, drifted offstage to mix and mingle with everyone, and this show, this fun, amazing, historic show, slowly sizzled itself into our memories.
Overall the show was just great. Just absolutely great. I long for more shows like this. Shows that overcome their own inherent deficiencies to log amongst the greats. On a side note, I brought a ton of old posters, flyers, stickers, demo tapes, and zygoteer back issues, and people snapped them up WAY faster than I'd expected to add to their Zygote memorabilia collections.... who woulda thunk it.... We went out of our way to plan an intimate and casual party for our loyal fans, and it went off exactly the way we were afraid to hope it would. Big big thanks to everyone who attended, we hope you got out of what we put into it.....
O.k. So after reading the review that Josh wrote I don't know if there is anything to add. Let's see. Gratefully Nowhere was the song of the night. Grindig and tallman rocked. I'm pretty sure I don't have to mention anything about the Flower song. The only thing I have to add is that after all this time, and after all the shows I've seen, the return of Mike, even though it was for one time only, was incredible. That's it. Simply incredible. Now on with my bantering.
Apparently the 'Gote loves the CO-ZOne because the last two shows have been, and have sounded imepeccable and it is now being dubbed the GOte-ZOne. The band plays through the "bad sound" and always puts forth every last ounce of energy they have and if you think I'm exagerating you could have found Amir after the show, crashed on a chair with a towel over his head muttering and mummbling in the corner.
Zygote truly has reached a new level of performing and I can't wait to see the faces of everyone who will return from their summer journeys to find...a new Zygote.
See you at the next show,
You're looking for comments, well I got one. That show was the most incredible show that I've seen Zygote do so far (even though all the other shows were incredible! The night in general is definitely going to be the highlight of my summer! The acoustic set was unbelievable and the chairs were a nice touch but not as much fun as bouncing around! Ladies was unbelievably sick and the electric set FUCKING ROCKED!!! All in all it was an amazing show, one that won't be forgotten! ~Jeff (the guy who rapped)
Well, it was my first Zygote show ever, since I just got into the band a month before or so. It was absolutely amazing. It was so chill during the acoustic set sitting in comfy chairs watching the band be so relaxed and into their music. The electric set was soo sick when everyone was immediately up and jumping and into the music. The band put on an
amazing show and I can't wait until the next. Zygote is quickly making its way up to number 1 for me, and I can't wait to hear more new songs and even the amazing old songs. Zygote is the shit! ~Megan
I was just at the Comfort Zone last night and I gotta say, another great fuckin' show. It was much appreciated and you guys truly sound better and better every show I see. ~Bram
PICS - I took a roll or two, they're in development as we speak.
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