Editor’s Note: This is a collaborative piece with new contributor Joseph Markferding.
It was a particularly chilly January evening as eager concertgoers streamed into the Exit/In via the Hurry Back deck in anticipation of New York City subway sensations Too Many Zooz, who would soon bring their vivacious, house-driven sound to the masses.
Making our way into the warmth, we patiently awaited crisp beverages from the taller than normal bar, where the tenders look down upon you like boozing swine (just kidding, they’re perfectly friendly). In my peripherals, I noticed a rotund man fall to his knees, grabbing the butt of what could’ve been, and hopefully was, his romantic partner. He missed the step coming from the stair platform to the floor. Whoops.
We perched by the soundboards where focused engineers contemplated knobs, dials, and switches. The crowd was there, just not terribly dense at the start of Birocratic’s performance, who would open the show.
I wasn’t sure what Birocratic was all about, so I was somewhat surprised to see one pretty standard white dude in a red hoodie who looked like he was a fresh out of grad school take the stage. He had the standard DJ setup, along with a synth, and bass. He would do the usual DJ bopping and twisting and turning on stage, making all kinds of feeling-the-beat mob faces. During some songs, or parts of songs, he’d bust out his bass or synth and add his own flare to the premeditated beats.
For a moment I almost felt bad for him, as he would be deep in the groove, slapping the bass with funky authority, and seemingly looking around to vibe on the sound with fellow band mates, but alas there were none. But Birocratic did his thing, and he certainly vibed with the crowd that would continue to grow. This was his first time in town, and he indeed left his mark on Music City.
The characters and outfits started to magnate attention, as I noticed one guy rocking a thick jacket that looked like my grandmother’s floral duvet, with a patch of Van Gogh’s Smoking Skeleton on the back. Another burly bear of a fella rocked a big fluffy cheetah jacket and Elton John sunglasses. These were merely a few fashion-forward candidates in plain sight.
Bodies filtered in more by the minute, and soon elbowroom would vanish. I got pressed up near the steel gate barricading the soundboards, and had a woman’s skull three inches in front of my face who had minimal awareness for her surroundings. I could smell her Cucumber Green Tea Herbal Essence shampoo with a dash of cigarette smoke quite precisely. Then the lights dimmed, and out came saxophone maestro and gyration commander, Leo Pellegrino, aka Leo P. He slithered out cool as hell, hitting the crowd with sexy sax notes. It would appear his light up vest would illuminate with each note hit.
And so the trip would begin.
Nothing could have prepared us for what was to come. The trio was adorned in cyberpunk-esque jackets of LEDs that glistened like gems in the dimly lit venue, and they settled into their space like funky Zen masters. As they began their first exploration into their horn-driven jams, the crowd immediately fell under their spell. A woman to our right couldn’t contain her excitement, and would soon put the rest of the dancers in the venue to shame.
David Parks, aka King of Sludge, oozed his way to the back-middle of the stage, booming the percussion into the room, with Matt Doe taking stage-right duties with his trumpet and black firefighter helmet. King of Sludge naturally rocked the light-up crown, while he pounded on the bass drum attached to his chest, adorned with all kinds of other percussive Inspector Gadget instruments.
The guys would go on to play for about thirty minutes straight- and it was beyond fascinating. Leo P. is an absolute stud as a showman, and possibly the coolest motherfucker I’ve simply ever seen. What was most impressive about him was the fact he didn’t say a single word, yet he said so much. His relentless energy was only matched by his masterful skill of the sax, which was then matched by his absurdly entrancing stage presence. I’ve never seen anybody waggle their knees so cool in my life, let alone while setting the sax aflame. He, without question, has the best knee-knocks in the game- prove me wrong.
Finally, after the half-hour block of face-melters, they proved they are not cyborgs. They finally took a break which parlayed into roaring applause. Matt Doe would go on to do the talking. “One of the last times we were in Nashville we played at the CMA Awards with Beyonce.” I thought he was kidding, but after investigation, it very much so appeared to be true. The trio actually played on Queen B’s 2016 album, Lemonade.
He would go on to inform the crowd this actually was more of a subway-style performance, meaning more improvised, as opposed to some of their more systematic and routine shows.
Before long, the gang fired up their vicious, relentless barrage of sound to the crowd, this time firing into a fun version of AC/DC’s “TNT.” After another block of sheer brass magic, this time with Matt switching to synth, there was another break, and this time Leo and Sludge walked off. Matt talked to the crowd a bit, discussing how he used to hate speaking in public, but is used to it now. “Treat yo’ self!” is yelled after he explains the band is about to take a vacation after five years of touring. Right as he started to explain the technical difficulties, they were back in action.
This time Leo came out with a shining new sax, which looked like it was encrusted in diamonds. He presented it to the crowd like a newborn infant before letting out and holding one big wailing note before tearing into more of the same.
Enough can’t be said about how utterly compelling Leo’s stage presence is. So many times he’d lay into one-handed solos, while the other hand shot up and made all kinds of hand signs and symbols as if it were speaking, and other times he’d be swiping his hair back and gyrating in a most seductive fashion.
For their encore, Leo would return to the platformed stage in a huge rainbow fur jacket with a hood, looking as if it’d come from the Lisa Frank collection. They’d go on to hammer into the encore with uproarious crowd approval. “You look like Cam’ron,” says Matt.
Too Many Zooz creates a sound that calls to mind visions of The Far East; that of conferences between sultans and divine birds. The unwavering groove laid down by Sludge provides a rock-solid foundation upon which Matt and Leo take flight like cranes. The baritone sax licks of Leo thunder and wail in incomprehensible rhythms at blinding speeds, which is all the more impressive considering his epic stage presence. The collective action is often so intense it calls to mind the fierce playing of Coltrane in his later years.
Altogether, it’s a sensory experience like none other that seems to have no definitive beginning or end. They create a vibrant jungle of sound. One loses track of time, loses an ability to correctly geo-locate their body, and submits and surrenders to their overwhelming sonic power. And that’s exactly what they provide- an experience. The Too Many Zooz experience.