04 July 2008

Zatopeks Over America

For me one of the high points of the Baltimore Fest was seeing the Zatopeks on stage in America for the very first time. As I've written elsewhere, and possibly here as well, I've known Will DeNiro, the Zatopeks' singer, since sometime in the late 90s, before the band even started, and during the years I lived in London had the privilege of seeing them many times as they grew into one of the best bands in the world.

There's a lot to like about the Zatopeks, including the way they manage to meld the best of 50s rock and roll and doowop with the most up to date and urgent punk rock, bu there's an exasperating aspect, too: how do they manage to be so good and so tight when they rarely practice (three members live in Berlin, the other two on opposite sides of the UK) and often go months without playing or touring? I was pondering this while watching them do an after-Fest gig in the basement of New York City's Cake Shop, a pleasant enough venue, but considerably down the scale from the big stage and state of the art sound system they'd benefited from two days earlier in Baltimore.

I quickly realize that they're simply one of those bands who have that rare chemistry - you see this sometimes, though also rarely, in romantic couples who somehow mesh perfectly while all around them are fighting, stressing, breaking up and tumultuously reuniting - that kicks in the minute they're together and pick up their instruments. No doubt they've had plenty of practice - either together or individually - at some point in their lives, but somehow they seem to have transcended that need. The magic kicks in of its own accord, despite Will and Co.'s best efforts at modesty and self-deprecation.

The Zatopeks' first "tour" of America was pretty low-key, apart from their absolute triumph at the Fest. Two more basement shows, in Philadelphia and New York, and some hanging around and sightseeing. Last night two of them watched the 4th of July fireworks from a Brooklyn rooftop, two others were at a Village jazz club, and one was already back home on the other side of the Atlantic. But given the reception they've gotten thus far, and the rave reviews, it's a pretty safe bet they'll be back to see and be seen by a lot more of America.

In the meantime, it's been pretty cool to have them mostly to ourselves these past couple days. A year or two from now we'll probably need some sort of all-access pass even to get near them. Anyway, Will, Sammy, Sebby, Pete and Spider, it's an honor to know you and thanks for gracing the good old USA with your presence!

Photo by Jim Testa/jerseybeat.com


Wesley said...

You write as if they play anywhere regularly. I think they've now played more shows in America than anywhere else in the last year. Next tour November, by the way.

Marc said...

They will be touring Europe in October.