WHERE: Club Nokia
Better than ... a posse of 'stachioed hipsters loitering on a street corner, though Zoé could likely disguise themselves as such.
As the lights went down for Zoé Saturday night, there was a restless electricity in the crowd. Cloaked in faint clouds of weed, they were a serious group exhibiting only the bare minimum number of fedoras, plaid shirts and unkempt heads of hair.
This was stop numero uno on the Mexican altie fivesome's first U.S. tour since 2009, when León Larregui and his hombres blasted through, propelled by well-deserved praise for their album Reptilectric (2008). But this time the psychedelic, round-sound rockers have hit U.S. roads to promote an unplugged album, of all things. Rigid with anticipation, eyebrows slightly twitching, everyone in attendance had the same question: will Zoé kick this shit out?
See, it's all well and good to watch some girl with an egg shaker dropping a mellow beat at Zoé's MTV Unplugged session, but that sad excuse for percussion simply won't cut it at a rock show. You could make more noise with a weighted tape dispenser.
We were all fretting that Zoé drummer Rodrigo Guardiola might have gone soft, when suddenly this dude behind us bellowed, "¡ÓRALE!" And then, there they were, plodding on stage, strapping on shiny red guitars as the the place lit up with cell phone screens and digital cameras. People started screaming bloody murder.
And if their opening, ultra-electro, thumpy, reverb-y rendition of "Memo Rex" didn't assuage all of our fears, the brain-melting strobe lights went a ways toward doing so. By the time Larregui launched into the second song, "Últimos Días" -- off Reptilectric -- the folks in front of us had their arms around each others' shoulders and were jumping up and down, yelling every word.
It got, like, super hot and the floor started bouncing under our feet. Let me tell you -- we were relieved. Later, after more lights flashed and Larregui cast euphoric glances into the balcony and stomped across the stage swinging the mic stand, someone threw the last dregs of their Jack & Coke up in the air and it looked like droplets of confetti raining down congratu-fucking-lations.
Then, as the band neared the end of "Sombras," we noticed that everyone kind of froze, swaying gently, and it was like every nook and cranny of the club swelled with sound. (It reminded me of seeing Wilco in 2008 at the Riviera in Chicago. Same incredible sensation.)
Sombras tapando el sol / Sombras tapándote...
With long dark pauses between songs, Larregui looked somewhat fatigued, and despite a break in the electro-action for an acoustic take on "Poli," the crowd stayed in the zone all the way through to the three-song encore -- which included, of course, "Soñe." They shook the floor again on "No Me Destruyas," which translates to "Don't Destroy Me."
After a slow-but-steady 15-year rise, Zoé is on the brink of becoming legendary, making the last number appear more like an ironic challenge than a plea. As the band walked off stage, Larregui blew a kiss and finally cracked a brief smile.
Personal bias: I have a special place in my heart for a man in a track jacket.
The crowd: You know how soccer crowds like to chant, "Ooh-eeeh oh-eh oh-eh oh-eeh. Ooh-eeeh ooh-eeeh"? Well, stick a "Z" in front of each "oh-eh" and you've recreated Saturday's show.
Random notebook dump: At one point we looked over into the sound booth and noticed one of the engineers had a 6-year-old kid on his lap. Hmm ... didn't know they staffed all-ages shows with all-ages personnel.
See below for the set list.
1) Memo Rex
2) Últimos Días
4) Vía Láctea
6) Mrs. Nitro
7) Corazón Atómico
10) Poli / Love
12) Labios Rotos
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No Me Destruyas