Thursday, January 27, 2011
Field Report - Zig Zag Jones @ Longboards
There’s a buzz around town. No . . . I’m not talking about the contact high one gets when hanging around the back alley’s of Pacific Beach . . . though, I suppose that could count. No, no, no! I’m talking about the inaugural performance from San Diego’s latest reggae fusion, world soul, funkified R&B outfit called Zig Zag Jones. I’ve seen many a band’s first performances in my time, but never have I seen a place so packed as I did on Friday night, January 21st at Longboard’s in Pacific Beach. Holy spit . . . you couldn’t walk from one end of the bar to the other in under a half hour! Once you eventually got there and tried to order a drink . . . forget about it! And all of these revelers were in attendance strictly to see this new band break out and make some noise. Waveriders, this band puts on a hell of a show!
This seven piece outfit hit the stage and the place came unglued. There wasn’t a hip that wasn’t swaying, a toe that wasn’t tapping, a head that wasn’t bobbing . . . Zig Zag Jones hammered away through a little over an hour long set and impressed me on several different levels. First off, the rhythm section . . . tight, but not so tight that drummer John Sheppard, percussionist Ty Kiernan, and bassist Denis Sluka couldn’t go a little free-style or throw in some improv without losing the groove. This trio is the foundation of the band, sturdy yet retro-fitted to move in case of earthquake so the whole house doesn’t collapse. Then you have the flourishes of keyboardist Matt Trout and trombonist Jordan Morita, masters of adding color and texture to the songs, never overplaying their parts, yet always lurking in the shadows, prepared to jump out and give the listener that Wow! moment. Finally, the two man tandem of singer/guitarist Gerald Lee and guitarist Craig Mitchell, acting as MC’s, energetic frontmen, and ringleaders to this circus of world class musicians. Smooshed together . . . Zig Zag Jones. In your face, uncompromising, and fucking fun!
Highlights of the night were definitely the show opener “Zig Zag Jones” with its heavy groove, infectious melodies, and high energy musicianship, as well as “Dinner For Two”, “There’s Love”, and “I’ll Be There For You”. All of the songs incorporated a technical aspect that couldn’t be ignored, but also featured a soulfulness that couldn’t be manufactured . . . they balanced everything perfectly, keeping the songs organic, but not completely turning their backs on modern ingenuity. The way these guys would break down the songs, create tension within the groove, then bring it all back up . . . damn impressive. Every time I looked up on stage, I saw a band smiling, having a good time, doing what felt natural and that translated to a crowd that soaked up the reggae tinged R&B groove tunes and returned to the band even bigger smiles, squeals of delight, energetic dancing, and sing-a-longs that had me wondering how this was the bands first ever gig. If you were there and weren’t having a good time, you must have been dead or too stoned to know what was going on.