Too Many Zooz | Gorilla | May 16th
The Wiki-quote that Too Many Zooz are ‘well known for Pellegrino’s characteristic dance moves’ really doesn’t cover licking the full length of a black diamond-encrusted baritone sax. But it does point to how it is hard to tell your friend why they’ve got to come with you to see Too Many Zooz in Manchester. You can say things like ‘they play house music on a sax, trumpet and drums’ or send them a link to the viral video of the band playing in New York’s Union station. None of that covers it. None of it can. But twenty minutes into the show you know your friend gets in when she grabs your shoulder, leans over, and mouths what the f*#k?
Manchester’s Gorilla was slow to fill up on Wednesday night, but that gave the audience plenty of time to grab a beer and enjoy the new backdrop of electrical breakers behind the stage. My friend asked me what I wanted to drink. I’d seen Too Many Zooz once before in Toronto, and so said ‘anything that comes in a can’. It was a practical decision: you can’t hold on to anything at a Zooz show. If Doritos isolated the taste chemical, then Too Many Zooz has isolated the I have to dance nerve. Leo P took a long hard look at the crowd, a deep breath in, and kicked the night off. Literally.
Too Many Zooz is Leo Pellegrino (Leo P) on baritone sax, Matt ‘Doe’ Muirhead on trumpet and keys, and David ‘King of Sludge’ Parks on the drums. The opening track ran for over twenty minutes before Zooz took a collective water break, and it’s hard to get across how much a superhuman feat that looks and sounds like. I think there’s a collective moment in every Zooz show where the crowd – old and new fans – take a quick look at each other just to make sure they aren’t dreaming. Some people stay seem to stay that way and stand open-mouthed staring at the stage. Some people twitch. But most people dance. It’s mesmerising and almost debilitatingly infectious music. And the genre – brass house – is all their own. The brass part of that equation is what it sounds like: trumpet and sax. The house part is pretty on point too: endless variations of the four-beat drum +kick that gives EDM its driving boom-chick-boom-chick sound, with long builds that finish in massive drops. The big difference here, of course, is that it’s those too things together: Brass House.
That description points in the direction of the Too Many Zooz’s sound, but it only points. Too Many Zooz‘s albums – four EPs and the recent LP Subway Gawdz – are divided neatly into tracks. But the shows are just the opposite. The band took maybe 3 or 4 water breaks in the two hour show. The rest was an unbroken stream of sinewy and physical music. Parks is an animal a-la-Muppets on the drums. Muirhead’s just as good on the keys as he is on the trumpet (and complete, apparently, with a killer falsetto). Leo P is many things (dancing sex god, sax freak) and his sax doesn’t seem to be just one thing: it’s a sax and a rave whistle and the record he uses to scratch the songs as he plays them. And dance he does. Too Many Zooz put on live shows that aren’t quite like anything else.
In a time when it seems like you could close your eyes, throw a rock, and hit some member of some band reviving the fiddle and some tin-cup, harmonica version of simpler times past, Too Many Zooz is a brilliant exception. They’ve got the instruments and know how to play them – just check out Leo P’s performance at the BBC prom – but they’ve got no interest in any kind of revival. Their sound, like their performances, is all their own. My friend and I have been talking about the show ever since we sat down afterwards and drank beer out of glasses. They put on an incredible show at Gorilla. That’s what they do. When they come back to Manchester do yourself a favour and get a ticket. And remember, drink anything as long as it comes in a can.
by Chad Campbell