Loop!Station & Zoe Keating plus Brad Brooks @ Red Devil Lounge (4/3/08)

Zoe Keating is the Jimi Hendrix of Cello. It's as simple as that. Looping, layering, banging and slapping the instrument -- anything short of lighting it on fire! Last night I was able to catch another incredible performance while she co-headlined with Loop!Station at the Red Devil Lounge in San Francisco.

I've been a fan of Zoe for the past few years and was introduced to her back when she was a member of the transient female cello 'band', Rasputina. Breaking out on her own, she's been able to establish herself as an up-and-coming avant-garde electronic musician who happens to play one hell of a cello.

Her technique incorporates a MacBook Pro, her cello and a set of foot pedals that she uses to record pieces of her performance and then layer and build upon to create a more traditional song structure.

Completely instrumental, fairly dark and brooding, Zoe's music has been used most recently within an online photo spread of the devastating affects of pollution in China on the New York Times website and I've even seen it incorporated into a segment on PBS recently.

My videos below don't do her performance justice, but I hope you take a listen if you haven't heard or seen her play yet!

Zoe opened her set last night with one of my favorites, "Tetrishead" -- be sure to watch how she'll lay down 'piece' after 'piece' while layering and controlling or triggering the sections of the song using a foot pedal system.

Here's "Tetrishead":

Her last song of the evening was an audience request, "Legions" -- another Zoe classic!

As she left the stage, I was getting tired -- it was a school night you know! -- and I wasn't sure what to expect from the headline band, LOOP!STATION (who spell their name with the all-caps). I decided to stay for at least 15 minutes to see what they were all about... As the two-some, made up of Sam Bass on cello and female vocalist, Robin Coomer, got ready to kick off their set. The pair pulled out 4 dozen donuts to share with the crowd, or at least get them amped-up on sugar. Scoring an old fashioned glazed donut, I thought to myself that I had already made the right decision to stay a bit longer after Zoe's performance.

Looking at the duo, my expectations were still low, but at least I was liking how they were trying to score early points with the audience! The Red Devil definitely wasn't sold out last night, and it wasn't clear to me how many people came to see each of the three bands.

So far I've neglected to mention the first opener, Brad Brooks, who performed with a quirky band that consisted of another cellist, a bass player who also played some type of electronic accordion that I've never seen before and a guitarist. For the first half of Brad's set, he did double-duty playing a vintage Wurlitzer keyboard while singing his off-beat vocals. Clearly a talented musician, but it seemed that his band needed a bit more time practicing as they got stronger as the set progressed, but never seemed to be all that cohesive.

Anyway, back to LOOP!STATION, looks can definitely be deceiving as what I was expecting from the pair was completely shattered as soon as I heard their opening notes. First of all, Sam on cello is nearly as talented a musician as Zoe, but as I quickly learned, Robin can definitely belt out the notes with the best of them. Her voice reminded me of a classic jazz singer -- one of the greats like Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holiday.

Using the same technique as Sam used with his cello, the pair each recorded pieces of their performance that were then looped and layered with the rest of each song using their sets of foot pedals. Robin created her own harmonies using the pedals and absolutely blew me away with her incredible voice. I was amazed that I hadn't heard of the pair before and am still scratching my head why these two don't have a record deal?!?

Again, my videos don't do their performance justice, but I've tried to capture how they incorporate the looping pedal system into their performance. It's easier to notice how Sam will record a piece and then add to it with another part. In "Sweeter" below, you'll see that Sam throws on some kind of effect to make his cello sound like a trumpet while his earlier cello performance is looping in the background.

Here's "Sweeter":

Another great example of their looping technique can be seen in "The Last Time I Saw You" here:

Overall, I ended up staying through their entire set which ended around 12:15 in the morning. I wasn't looking forward to work on Friday, but overall, the show was well worth the $10 cover charge for the quality of the bands last night!

Be sure to check out both Zoe Keating and LOOP!STATION if either come to your town!

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