Review by Darren Gawle
Photography by Rodney Gitzel
No, really. Ever since Coast 1040 went off the air, CISL and CFRO (Co-op) are the only two radio stations in Vancouver I can stomach listening to for any length of time. Sad, isn't it...
Well, no, it isn't sad, and I don't give a flying fuck at a doughnut who knows. Well-written, upbeat songs are where it's at, maaaan, and you can bet Zumpano know it, too. You don't think they listen to CISL? Then where the hell did they get the idea of covering Michel Pagliaro and Badfinger tonight? How would they know about "MacArthur Park"? Yes, you heard right: Zumpano are Burt Bacharach junkies and I claim my ten bucks.
Once upon a time Zumpano were all alone in Vancouver, their transistor radios glowing softly under the bedsheets, trying to figure out the chord progressions to "Some Sing, Some Dance"; now there are other like-minded bands in town, like Bossanova and tonight's openers, the Vancouver K(N)ights.
I'm not really sure if you spell that with a "K" or not, and the band doesn't seem sure, either, this being their second gig ever. Tonight's performance is unfortunately flawed, with a string of technical glitches shattering the band's confidence in the middle of the first song. The K(N)ights' songs are three-minute workouts, something along the lines of a female-fronted and electrified Incredible String Band, or perhaps the Bells meet Yes. I begin to warm up to them after the second or third song, but then their colour-coordinated vocalist (go figure the chances of finding a guitar the same colour as her dress!) sings "You excite me and delight me / The way you rock and ro-o-oll!" Gadzooks! It will take Vancouver a lot of effort to come to love this band, but in the end the Vancouver (K)Nights will be loved.
Gaze are conspicuous in tonight's lineup by virtue of evidence indicating that they don't listen to CISL 650. More than a little familiar with the K Records catalog, Gaze start off sounding like Lois or Velocity Girl, instead, but by the middle of their set they've thrown in enough interesting chord changes and time signatures (you'd be surprised at how many local drummers don't know what 3/4 or 6/8 time is) to sound fairly original. By this point, though, their performance hasn't engaged me, and I find myself more enthralled by Robert Dayton's display of topless lei dancing than by Meghan and Meko's best intentions.
Uniformly dressed in grey suits (aside from a smoking jacket-clad vocalist Carl), Zumpano don't readily appear to be the most likely candidates for any Most Outrageous Jumping About and Humping the Monitors awards. But, then again, acting like David Lee Roth wasn't really the point of most of the bands Zumpano seem to have been inspired by (except for Freddie and the Dreamers, but we won't go into that). The band members maintain their places on stage and just play, as though the suits are license to remain relatively still (a band dressed any other way would be dismissed as shoegazers). Carl sashays his way around the stage, maintaining the general air of a crooner bent on mouthing his hotel room number to any woman in sight.
The music? Zumpano is the sound of the other kind of sixties pop, the kind championed by the Classics IV and Gary Puckett and the Union Gap. In other words, for me it's the sound of AM radio when I was three and strapped into the car seat on a grocery run with mum. Perhaps the rest of the audience recalls the same memories, or perhaps there are more under-40 CISL listeners than are letting on, because I'm not the only one Zumpano is reaching tonight. The response is enthusiastic, and it's no surprise that someone tries to request "MacArthur Park."
If there's one problem tonight it's that Zumpano beef up their set with the already-mentioned covers -- not that that's a bad thing in itself, but it only incites the crowd to start trying to dictate the setlist. Soon enough, though, Zumpano run out of songs. The audience, of course, doesn't care, and they sent the band into retreat behind the stage to figure out what to do next. Zumpano returns with an ill-rehearsed take of "Twist and Shout," which luckily placates the crowd. Apparently this was supposed to be 'Zumpano fan appreciation night,' which is about right. In the end, it was the fans who put Zumpano through their paces.
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