If you ask them, they'll tell you where the name comes from. But better to spend your time focusing on the freaked-out riffs, organic home-grown writing and lyrics and (surprise!) vocal harmonies coming from Zyrah's Orange. The boys from Z.O., hailing from Boston, came down to NYC to get their groove on at Tobacco Road, which is bizarrely yet conveniently located on an isolated portion of 41st Street near Port Authority.
First, let me say that Tobacco Road boasts an impressive sound sytem. One which has the potential to make great sound, but seemed to be ill-utilized across three band sets. Mackin was up on stage first, "warming up the crowd" as they say, but I couldn't find too many big-time fans of Mackin; most of the people I spoke to thought they played too long and that the music was agitatingly loud. So by the time the boys in Orange took over the stage around 11pm, a full hour after scheduled kick-off time, a good number of people had already left. Those who were left behind were sporting the "Show-Me Whatcha Got Attidude": you know, a little tight behind the knees, hanging against the walls like shadow critics, arms crossed, looking more like non-participatory spectators than music heads out to experience fine new band and get loose.
So Zyrah's Orange, led by Elliot Page (songwriter, guitar, lead vocals) eased into the night with a tune that, unfortunately, nobody down there knew and at a time when most of the venue was still squirming about the front bar. No worries though, for the first song out of the box the band was testing the crowd, and the crowd was still eyeing up the band, trying to assess whether these guys knew what the hell they were doing.
So we'll call "Give" their tester. Their second song "Fire Engine" (from their Body CD) was tighter, faster, definitely commanded attention, and pulled quite a few closet fans up to the front to shake their thang. "Red Fire Engine" ran into "Personalities" and it was here that the heads started to creep up front, jump around and get hip to some of the sophisticated experimental waves these guys were gearing up to throw down. My call is that somewhere between "Personalities" and "Luckiest Man" (song four) Zyrah's Orange had gained the head-bobbing, booty shaking, leg tapping approval of their uninformed and under-promoted NYC crowd.
It takes a while to know how to play your crowd, but I must say that an hour into their show Zyrah's Orange got it all going on. They turned up some funking groove for "8 Words" into a very subtle, very cool "Happy Birthday," into "Words" during which we got a better glimpse of some improv skill and some individual artist highlight time. Mike Belleran (bass) literally played his finger off, resulting in a massive blister situation. Dan Gulotti kept the energy happening on the drums - consistent, fast-paced, solid drum style back there. Ben Kuris, on stage right, played the often madly possessed (and very much appreciated) "groove gearhead" in the keyboard cockpit.
The transformation in their performance style and their performance confidence was in sharp synchronicity with the transformation in the energy level of the Tobacco Road crowd. Elliot Page was able to switch from folksy pop-rock fusiony lyrics from show's start into the crowd-pleasing, soulfully disco-fied "Funkytown" with enormous ease. The guys brought the funkified energy back around and had everyone's attention for the introduction of their new song "Souls," to be released on their next (third) record release. We were hearing folk, rock and then deep jazz tones, and were then switched back to hardcore jamming once again. With "Souls" the guys were visibly revved up to play, but were being cued to exit the stage. So amid wacky whistling and the some goose-bump-evoking applause, they thanked us all for coming out to play and then they launched into the fastest, funkiest, coolest and most disco-fied "Shakedown Street" I've ever heard. Mike and Elliot were doing a killer job with vocals and by the end of the show, at 2am, I'm pleased to report that they definitely acquired some new fans. At this point nobody wanted these guys to leave the stage, they had us right where they wanted (finally).
Zyrah's Orange is not all instrumental jam. It's not all rock or jazz or funk. These guys can mix it up, and they transcend traditional genres. You hear some classical jazz background stuff thrown in to some syncopating popular stuff, which these guys can twist into whatever kind of musical balloon animal we want.
How to see them?
Make mental note to self: "December 15th, go see Zyrah's Orange at Tobacco Road."
JamBase | Northeast
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