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Sax and the City

It’s no secret that I love music. I’ve written about barbershop and Billy Idol, and if you ever meet me in person, both of those things will definitely come up in conversation at least once.

About a year ago a friend of mine posted a video on her facebook and a new obsession was born.

The video is simple enough: two guys playing music in the New York subway system. One playing what looks like a MacGyver’d percussion setup, and the other on baritone saxophone with red hair and moves for days. While I’ve never played the baritone sax, I’ve been told it takes a great amount of breath control to play it…and this guy is jumping around, kicking, and spinning while playing it. He has an amazing energy about him that’s impossible not to watch.

I decided right then to find out more about the group. A few YouTube searches revealed that the group is called Too Many Zooz, and is actually made up of three musicians: a trumpet player, the bari sax player, and the percussionist. When the trumpet player isn’t available, the other two still go to play in the subway. Another YouTube video of them had found their way to Reddit a year or so before I discovered them, and went semi-viral. That video now has over 2 million views.

Their sound is something they call brass house. To me, it sounds like a combination of funk, jazz, and electronic dance music. How they make three instruments sound like EDM, I have no idea, but it’s fantastic.

By this point you might be saying to yourself “wow, she got obsessed rather quickly.” No. I am a nerd. And as Wil Wheaton so eloquently put it, “being a geek [nerd] isn’t about what you love; it’s about the way that you love it.” See his whole speech here, it’s great. I am most certainly a nerd for music, and that means I find out everything I can about music that I like.

A few months into my Too Many Zooz fandom, they announced a kickstarter campaign for their very first professionally produced album. I am all about encouraging original artists, so I became a campaign backer. Plus, the level I chose sounded fun. They’d take a disposable camera on tour with them, fill up the camera, and send it to me. They seem like fun party dudes, so I was looking forward to the results of that.

They also mentioned in their campaign that they’d be coming to California for an album release party/concert! Because I follow them on social media *cough*stalker*cough*, I’ve noticed that they rarely come to the west coast. Most of the time they’re touring the east coast or Europe. Europe seems to love them. They’ve had several sold out shows over there, so I understand why they’d want to go back.

As soon as the tickets went on sale I snagged several, thinking I could find a couple of friends to go with me, and spread the word about this cool new sound.

So back in August, I went with two of my friends to LA to see Too Many Zooz perform at the Teragram ballroom on a Thursday night. First of all, I must explain that going to LA is a mini-adventure for those of us who live in Orange County. Most of the time, my thought process for going to LA going something like this:

“We should go to LA for [event]!”

“I wonder how early we’ll have to leave to get there on time”

“Ugh, finding parking is going to be horrible, and expensive…”

“How late will it be when we get back?”

“You know, maybe we’ll skip LA this time.”

So actually going to LA ends up being quite a feat. My friends and I decided to meet up and carpool to the concert, which started at 9pm. Also, it’s a Thursday night, so I have resigned myself to the fact that I won’t be getting a whole lot of sleep.

We decide to eat dinner in LA somewhere unique and not a chain of restaurants. After driving to the general area of the concert, we ended up at a place called The Pantry Café.

After figuring out how and where to park, we went inside and I was immediately charmed by its quaint atmosphere. This restaurant has been open 24 hours a day since 1924. You can only use cash, and they hand-write some of their menu on a chalkboard. Bonus: They offer breakfast 24 hours a day!

All three of us ordered a cheeseburger. Unbeknownst to us, cheeseburgers come with an appetizer of…coleslaw? I definitely wasn’t expecting that. We had a good chuckle about not realizing we would get coleslaw. We even joked that coming to LA was like visiting another country where you’re unfamiliar with the customs. Tell me sir, is it customary to eat one’s coleslaw before your meal in this part of the world?

The next thing our waiter brought out was mayonnaise and mustard. Strangely, the mustard warranted a plastic bottle, but the mayo came out in a little dish and saucer.

The burgers arrived and were very fresh tasting. Our waiter was attentive and adorable. When he came to refill our waters he held out the pitcher and asked “more tequila?”

We found our way back to the car, paid $10…ugh. Then figured out how to navigate some one way streets over to the theater. A bit of OC nervousness creeped in here, because it’s not a great idea to get lost in the wrong part of town LA, and “wrong part of town” changes from street to street. It’s fairly abrupt.

We got to the Teragram Ballroom at 8:30pm, parked, paid $12 to park (seriously, LA, come on), and went inside. I love the venue. It’s intimate, but doesn’t make you feel claustrophobic.

I had seen on the ad for the concert that there would be a DJ opening for the band beginning at 9pm, and when he started up, I was pleasantly surprised by his selections. He began with some modern funk selections, a little alt-pop, and then moved to house music. People all around me were using their phones to discover what the songs were because the whole crowd really seemed to like his set list.

As I looked around, it occurred to me that I might not be hipster enough to be in this club. So many mustaches, skinny jeans, and purposely-faded t-shirts under cardigan sweaters. Sort of amusing, really.

We started getting a little antsy right around 9:45pm. I guess this is what happens when you get older. Anything that doesn’t really get going until 10pm is “late.” *sigh*

Finally, right around 10pm, they came on stage and the energy was immediately through the roof. Here is sexy sax man, exhibit A:

He’s ridiculous, and flamboyant, and talented, and good looking. It’s impossible not to watch him on stage, and he knows how to work a crowd to get their participation and reaction.

One of my favorite things that happens during concerts is when the whole crowd recognizes the first few notes of a song and takes the energy up a notch. I wondered if this was possible with purely instrumental music; it is. When they began playing a song from their first EP, made famous by one of those viral videos, the cheering got louder. In an attempt to participate in the song, those who knew it well started pumping their arms in time to the saxophone riffs and pauses. It was a unifying experience.

The highlight of the night was when they broke into Hotline Bling. Now, this is a song I don’t particularly like, and yet when they started performing it, slow and jazzy, I couldn’t help but get into it. It doesn’t hurt that the trumpet player is pretty freaking fantastic.


Toward the end, the percussionist (King of Sludge) gave a sincere and heartwarming speech about how they do it for us, the audience, and that it’s our reactions from the pit and our support online that helps hem even exist. Even though I suspect he was high as a kite at the time, he also seemed genuinely touched that we all came out to support the band.

Sadly the night had to come to an end, and the King of Sludge came down into the audience, where I had a chance to shake his hand and thank him for being so awesome.

I was tempted to stay and meet the band afterward, but it was already almost midnight, and we still had to get back to OC. So I decided adulting was the better decision. The energy from that night carried over nearly a week for me. I must remember to go to more live shows.

As a follow up to this experience, a couple weeks ago I got the heads up from Twitter that I should tune in to the Country Music Awards. First of all, most everyone else was watching the apparently thrilling world series game. And second, I really am not a fan of country music. However, I decided to check it out. And whom do I see gracing my television?


Wow. I mean, I was so excited for them you’d think I knew them personally. But this is a huge moment for a few guys who started in the New York subway system. Apparently she asked them to be on a track from her latest album Lemonade over a year ago, and then just a few weeks ago she asked them to play it with her on the CMAs. They were all on stage, although Leo got the most camera time, for obvious charisma reasons. I guess they had to cancel a couple of tour dates to make themselves available, but hello….WORTH IT.

Twitter was abuzz with questions about the sax player from her performance

I felt a mix of pride and excitement. Everyone else is beginning to catch on to something I already knew…that these musicians are worth playing attention to.

Hey, maybe I *am* a hipster! Hmmm. Either way, I can’t wait to see the success that comes their way. I’ll continue to seek out new and interesting music.


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