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Review: Zoogma create dance-rock fusion at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg



The State Theatre transformed into an all-night dance club Friday as Zoogma came to town and showcased their unique combination of rock, world, electronica, jazz, and hip hop. These Oxford, Miss. natives seamlessly combine the diversity and accuracy of a DJ with the high energy of a four-piece rock band.

For the longest time, I had trouble believing that electronic deserved to be a real music genre. I thought DJs just stood up there and pushed buttons while bobbing their heads like the guys from A Night at the Roxbury.

But over the years, I have come to appreciate the art of deejaying, and even come to love it. I understand now that mixing and mashing a bunch of samples and songs is not as easy as it looks. I have seen and heard some electronic music that proves not everyone can do it.

Still, call me old fashioned, but I love to watch musicians put their heart and soul into their instruments. So it took me a while to feel that same passion for a guy standing behind a laptop.

But it is totally possible, I have seen it.

If Phish and deadmau5 had a musical lovechild, it would be Zoogma. They took me on a journey and opened my eyes to a new world of musical possibilities. They  started off the show with a remix of Ellie Goulding's Starry Eyed. Goulding's vocals echoed over a layer of spacey samples and a steady drum beat. They seamlessly came to a pause, the audience begged for more, and then the music started back up, with the band throwing a live guitar riff into the mix. As the song built, more layers were added -- synthesizers, bass and more crunchy guitars.

Each member has impeccable skill on their instruments. Plus they were switching instruments mid-song, proving they are masters of more than one instrument. Even if they dropped the electronic element, this band would be amazing.

But the synths and layers of EDM are the cherry on top of an ice cream sundae. Primary Colors showcased more of a space-jungle vibe with bongos and rhythmic bass combined with high-pitched synths. They really showed off their ability to jam during this song. Each guy switched from synth to guitar and back to synth. It was difficult to distinguish when one song ended and one song started, because their transitions were flawless. The crowd didn't mind though, they just kept on groovin'.

Hip hop made it into the mix when they clamored into M10, a song featuring samples from Three 6 Mafia's Stay Fly Till I Die. This song brought the vibe to an all-time high: The guitars were louder, the drums were faster, and the entire place was jumping.

Zoogma mixed in other samples like Gold Dust (Flux Pavilion remix) and Sabotage by the Beastie Boys. It was refreshing to hear those songs done in a new and exciting way, instead of someone just hitting play and not adding their own spin on it. They also delighted us with some new music, flaunting their ability to jam. These songs featured more live instrumentals and less fill-ins. The bass line bumped loudly in beat with the easygoing drums, while two guitar riffs mixed harmoniously to create the melody.

These guys didn't just bring mind-melting music, they also brought retina-destroying lights too. No seriously, I had to turn around halfway through the show and listen with my back turned because I thought I was going blind. The bright lights prevented anyone without sunglasses from seeing the awesome things they were doing on stage. I like being able to watch a guitarist shred the neck of his guitar, or watch the drummers' sticks disappear because he's moving so fast. So that was a little disappointing (and extremely painful), but it happens.

Most DJs have elaborate light shows that probably cost millions of dollars. This simple setup included four colored lights beaming from the back of the stage into the crowd, and a big "Z" symbol hanging behind the band. Simple, yet clever and affective. It had the whole audience making their own "Z" symbol out of their hands (think "zultan" from Dude, Where's My Car?).

I have never experienced anything like Zoogma. Their sound is refreshingly original yet immersed in the tradition of dance music. They recently teamed up with Big Gigantic, a dup from Colorado that combines electronic music and hip hop with live drums and saxophone, for part of their recent tour. And on Saturday in Fort Lauderdale, the band got to share the stage with one of their life-long inspirations, Perpetual Groove. This is only the beginning for these guys.

-- Kate Cillian, tbt*

[Last modified: Monday, March 4, 2013 10:03am]


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