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Review – ZooPaGoo and Party Gravy @ The Polo

ZooPaGoo and Party Gravy at The White Eagle Club 3rd May 2013
by Geoff Dunn. Photos by Brian Rosenberg 

Is there anything better than live, well produced funk? Anything that starts a foot tapping? A tapping that quickly becomes a stomp and a uncontrollable urge to groove? Actually I can think of a few things that are way better but last night live, strutty funk was where it was at. Party Gravy … now there’s a name for a band. Gravy … thick, rich and fragrant. The sauce that enhances and helps the flesh go down. Such a lot to live up to… did last night’s gravy boys deliver?

They did. Featuring not one, but two drummers meshing like smooth cogs in a drive train effortlessly entwined with tight and solid bass, easily providing a Hard-Bop groove for alto sax, two trumpet and two trombone. Rounded out nicely with vocals, the 8-piece delivered wellcrafted numbers that slowly but steadily filled the room. My favourite were the horn solos, with a trumpet solo performed by Ax Long a bright and colourful affair with excellent diction and stabs.

They had slinky dancers. I like slinky dancers. Interval saw us back at the bar … it seems tonight’s beer of choice is the Perla Chmielowa Pils – a crisp, dry brew with extra hops and a kick I didn’t really feel until this morning. Thank you to the friendly bar staff who helpfully assisted with navigating the extensive range of Polish beers and vodkas.

I was sitting having a chat with Simon at the entry desk when ZooPaGoo took the stage. Listening through the curtain I was immediately impressed with the engine room of this band. The drums, combined with strong and dextrous bass produced a NY/Chicago strut that demanded attention. Keys that reminded me of fleshy orange marmalade, rich with texture provided deep colour and flavour to the mix. Local wah-guitar legend, the fez-adorning Zedman, added gravy all of his own. Sax and trumpet comprised the horn section and though they stabbed, swooped and dived in sync, I felt they missed their third member to fill out the mids. The horn solos were bright and left me wanting more which was a pity as they seemed a bit far between.

But that’s quibbling really. Original songs were interspersed with funk classics. There was a little roughness at times but their interpretation of Johnny Guitar Watson’s Ain’t That A Bitch was masterly with well executed stabs and changes. That one was a real pleasure … a great track preformed with gusto and stagecraft. Vocals shone with Sean ‘Funklestiltskin Chickenstrut’ providing the all important stage presence required of street funk done good. The band was joined on stage by a cohort of more slinky dancers from the floor toward the end of their set.

While the members of ZooPaGoo aren’t bad looking … the dancers easily enhanced their stage presence. I took no photos but there were two DSLR-wielding snappers and numerous phone-heads who I’m sure got some of the great pictures that were to be had on the night. Sound was handled very nicely by Dave with responsive attention to detail and clear, well articulated sound. Nice work Dave. Lighting was used to dramatic effect by both performers and lighting desk (also by multi-talented Dave)My friend and I arrived late around 9:45pm after enjoying ourselves elsewhere (unthinkable I know!) there was a DJ playing when we arrived but I only caught the last track … it sounded good but I can’t really tell you any more about them.

The Polo, strong beers, fine company mixed in with ZooPaGoo’s funk-stuff and Party Gravy’s Hard-Bop grooves made it a memorable, if blurry, night. Thanks to Nigel and the CMC for the double pass and the opportunity to write a review for you.