Archive for June, 2013

A (mock) Review of Zonkaraz at Indian Ranch

June 29, 2013

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Zonkaraz – a mock review

Warning!!! The following review is NOT to be taken seriously. It is a tribute to all those who love Zonkaraz because the band followed their own muse – not the “common knowledge” of the music business. It was inspired while waiting for tickets to be printed prior to the Indian Ranch show when all the same questions and mispronunciations I heard 30 years ago were repeated by passersby. As to the actual show – It was as good as the band got 30 years ago, with the added power of the knowledge this would be the last time anyone would hear this music that had no pretense beyond its sincerity and honesty live.

June 22, 2013 (WEBSTER) –  Today this reviewer witnessed a group of lads and a petite young lady who go by the unusual moniker of Zonkaraz grace the stage at Indian Ranch for one show with their own mixed brand of music. This reviewer does not know what to make of the performance he attended.

The opening act, Maritime Pilot, was clear with their musical intent, instrumental rock designed to engage the listener in a wide range of orchestral moods delivered by talented musicians on guitars, bass and drums.

This was followed by the folk duo of Chuck and Mud backed up by the Hole Dam Band. This combination easily dispatched toe-tapping tunes with delightful vocals from the husband and wife team.

The final act was the aforementioned Zonkaraz. Before discussing their performance let’s talk that all-important first impression – the name. Zonkaraz – Just how do you to pronounce it? What’s it mean? In speaking with the band’s two founders; Paul, who plays piano and Ric, who plays guitar, this reviewer learned that it is a combination of the names of their pet dogs. Really? This reviewer loves dogs as much as any of God’s creatures, but naming your band after them is clearly a poor choice, and will become a hindrance for their future in the music business if they choose to continue on.

So much for the name; how about that first glimpse? There is one thing everyone in the music business knows that to be successful you need to pick a style and convey it. This group has not learned that lesson. There is no coherent look on stage and nothing to set them apart from their audience – anything from Hawaiian shirts to Duck Dynasty wear. This reviewer offers this observation: It was a very sunny day and many of the band mates kept their sunglasses on. This reviewer suggests they all adopt that look and wear shades on stage – that would be a start – and maybe an inspiration for a new name.

Let’s get to what should really concern an audience and this reviewer – the music. Whereas the other groups had a clear style, this group couldn’t decide if it was country rock, blues, a lounge act, Latin pop or a jam band with an odd mix of band originals, a blues cover and a show tune – maybe a little of everything for everyone? This is a big band, on stage were as many as four guitarists, two drummers along with a percussionist, a bass player and a piano player all displaying excellent musical skills. Joining them was vocalist Jo List, a young lady with a powerful, expressive voice. This reviewer did find himself tapping his toes at many points as this is a group of very capable musicians, but just as the groove was found it disappeared with a tempo change. It was a tribute their many fans that they were able to keep up when caught on the dance floor.

And the fans were also as mixed up as the band – young and old, hippie and hipster. This fan base could surely be expanded if the band displayed a more consistent style, and a like minded audience, appreciative of that style, is certainly more inclined to give the positive word of mouth every up and coming act needs. This reviewer was told this was their last show and that makes sense. After all, what audience wants to see a group that looks like themselves, plays a mishmash of music that appeals to no particular group and with a name you can’t pronounce?   Farewell, Zonkeraz.

Graduation

June 11, 2013

Zonk gradJune is graduation season. Lots of speeches are given to mark the passage from one stage of our lives to the next with an emphasis on the future and the many possibilities for the graduates.  My wife and I both earned some new notches on our education belts this year so we got to listen to some of these speeches, but honestly I can’t remember a word anyone said.  Soon enough though, I’ll be part of another graduation ceremony, but without cap and gown or pomp and circumstance. And I guarantee I’ll remember it.

This year we all graduate from Zonkaraz, a course of study I proudly say none of us completed in four years. The tuition was cheap when it started, about $5 a class, payable at the door. The vast majority of us majored in music; some of us focused on ballads – Different Song, Fill Me Up, and Blues in Mind – others on rock ‘n roll – California, Drivin’, Willy Mountain. This band has so many songs and so many styles to memorize, but we did. Just say hey, hey, the month of May and we all know it sleeps inside our bones (or was that the monkey man…?) Well, your hair’s still long and you know what your smokin’, right?  Watching an audience that can mouth every lyric of a band that plays all original music is a tribute to the relentless hours of study we all put in.

Most of the music majors minored in dance. The Zonkaraz dance was rarely a flamboyant thing. Usually small steps side to side with knees bent and just enough shoulder sway to keep the arms swinging, but just as every Red Sox fan knows when to pump a fist in the air during Sweet Caroline, every student of Zonkaraz knows to do the same for Jack Frost. The small step of the Zonkaraz dance may have its history and roots back to the Blue Plate, a venue looking high over Holden, with a floor that moved so much that perhaps the smaller step was spontaneously generated as an act of safety.

A Zonkaraz education wasn’t limited to just music and dance. The unintended goal was to educate the whole person. The band and crew joined the audience as they took on some very challenging courses in Mergers and Acquisitions involving the student body. Zonkaraz was the best wedding band that hardly ever played weddings. Paul and Linda, Walter and Valerie, Tom and Sue, Matt and Judy, Bobby and Debi and me and Pam all met and married while being schooled and, even though there were many other relationships that did not work out, that also was part of the education.

This June 22nd Zonkaraz will offer its final post-graduate course in essential American, outdoors boogie and blues at Indian Ranch in Webster, MA. The prerequisites for this course are few – positive energy, willingness to give and receive big hugs and active dancing shoes (don’t forget the orthotics!).  During this course you will learn just how much fun you have had with your fellow classmates, the reduced flexibility that comes with age and the discovery your memory is better than you think. At the end of class you will know that you have completed a course in life through the hallowed halls and somewhere over the rainbow of Zonkaraz University – my alma mater.