More Than Zero

Zero - Ekoostik Hookah - The Nields

September 18, 1997

First Appeared in The Music Box, October 1997, Volume 4, #11

Written by John Metzger

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Zero concerts are all too rate in Chicago, but on September 18, this talented band visited the House of Blues and put on an amazing performance. Opening with the jazzy jam Cole's Law, the group quickly found its groove as guitarist Steve Kimock and saxophone player Martin Fierro delicately carried the song into a dream-filled burst of color. It's hard for an ensemble to begin on such a mellow note, yet Zero has managed to accomplish this feat on numerous occasions.

Picking up the pace, Zero then tore through Friday's Child, a song written by Van Morrison that the group covers on its self-titled album. Bassist Bobby Vega jumped all over this tune, providing a series of amazing bass runs to keep the song bouncing along. Greg Anton took over for a brief drum solo which led to the highlight of the evening, a blistering Pits O'Thunder, which also can be found on the band's latest disc. The sextet built the intensity to a fiery crescendo before departing the boundaries of the tune. Led by Kimock's guitar playing, the band tore into an amazing jam that was quite reminiscent of the Grateful Dead's stratospheric excursions during Feel Like a Stranger. Throughout the jam, Kimock's guitar rang with the stylistic tonality of Jerry Garcia.

Paying tribute to Chicago and the House of Blues, Zero launched into a blistering Mercury Blues which featured an introductory lap steel guitar jam from Kimock that flirted with Devo's version of Workin' in a Coalmine. In addition, Chip Roland flavored the tune with some New Orleans-style piano licks, and Judge Murphy delivered a soulful vocal performance. End of the World Blues continued to maintain the momentum as Kimock ripped through a series of Clapton-esque solos. To conclude the 70-minute set, Roland led the band into a funky jam called La Fiesta.

Chance in a Million began the second set, and Zero quickly regained the momentum from the first half of the show. Kimock the ever-changing chameleon floated between the styles of Garcia and Mark Knopfler. The band continued the groove with a funky, jazzy jam called Golden Road. Kimock, Fierro, and Roland all took turns delivering masterful solos.

Catalina, the highlight from the second set, took off right from the start, with each jam twisting and turning around the melody of the song. Zero played through a quiet musical excursion that gave way to the sound of Roland's keyboard and then Kimock's guitar. Like the simultaneous hatching of a thousand butterflies, the band burst into a full-blown epic jam.

After a standard rendition of The Band's The Shape I'm In, Fierro announced that Bobby Vega was ill, and they were going to be forced to end the set 40 minutes after it had begun. The band quickly returned without Vega to pull together an encore that featured Kimock and Roland on guitar and came across quite well despite Vega's absence.

The Nields a band from Northampton, Massachusetts, opened the show with an average set of songs that had a few audience members dancing feverishly. Ekoostik Hookah performed in the middle slot and blew The Nields away with a set of songs that ranged in style from jam bands like the Grateful Dead, Phish, and the Allman Brothers Band to Sly and the Family Stone. More amazing was the second song that the band performed, which featured harmonies that captured the essence of Crosby, Stills, and Nash. On its final song of the evening, Ekoostik Hookah's keyboardist picked up an acoustic guitar and began a solo performance of a song in the style of Cat Stevens. Before the tune ended, the rest of the band had joined in and mutated it into an all-out Allman Brothers Band-style jam.

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Copyright 1997 The Music Box