To see exclusive video footage from this show, click here.
Christmas came early last Friday, and, for once in my life, I didnâ€™t feel profoundly under whelmed when the last gift was opened. Iâ€™ve been hyping Andy Zipf and his Pfriends on Pfilm tour for the last few months, and, as this opening date at S.O.T.A. in Fairfax got close, I tried to prepare myself to be disappointed. Itâ€™s not that I didnâ€™t believe the gushing words pouring out my mouth about Zipf, but my beliefs and humanityâ€™s abilities donâ€™t always coincide. Iâ€™ve got this bad habit of idealizing things like human love, drug use, and musicians. Two of those three things, Iâ€™ve been disappointed with, and Iâ€™m still dreaming without acting on the third.
Whether itâ€™s a monstrosity of a venue, too many hyper-chatty fans, or just an off night for the band, Iâ€™ve walked out of far too many shows saying, â€œThat was great, butâ€¦â€
If you didnâ€™t guess it by now, let me just clue you in, this story doesnâ€™t end that way.
That may be the ending, but the beginning of the night started back at my frigid school where three of the six people who promised they would come see Zipf decided that they had better things to do with their evening. (Better things = snowboarding, custodial work, and an all-night, all-man, Unreal Tournament marathon. Seriously).
After meeting up in Reston with another group of people, we tried to find S.O.T.A. If a musician also had a part-time job dealing drugs, S.O.T.A. would be his venue of choice. Itâ€™s a converted warehouse that you probably wouldnâ€™t find unless you were carefully scanning each of the dimly lit entrances, and made more than one person feel a tiny bit out of place. Diamond in the rough would be a poor description for this cozy venue though; â€œsanctuaryâ€ would be more appropriate.
Forget the open-bar conversation prelims though, and skip straight to the moment when Fredericksburg, Va., scene rockers Tereu Tereu (thank you T.S. Elliot for the name) took the floor. Good bands donâ€™t require you to intimately know their entire catalogue before appreciating their live show and led by the fuzzy face of lead singer Ryan Little, Tereu Tereu sprinted and flailed their way through a set that sounded like fourteen different bands and no other bands, all at the same time. I think thatâ€™s called originality. If you took Thom Yorkeâ€™s most frenetic performance combined it with the seductively smooth riffs of Spoon, threw in TVOTRâ€™s sweating intensity, and then topped it all off with a jazz band fresh from Jackson Squareâ€”you just might get Tereu Tereu.
Itâ€™s rare to hear an up and coming band crafting an original and inventive style, rather than just recycling the latest â€œexperimentalâ€ fad into a microphone while staring at their shoes, overwhelmed by their grandiose sense of importance to this new changing world of music. Tereu Tereu enjoys what they do, does that well, and that means something.
Now take a deep breath, because Zipf and company (Pete Lim and Brad Wolf) disappeared while you were watching the microphone, and after the lights go dark and come back up, youâ€™re not going to be in the same tightly packed warehouse staring at the wall.
It started with darkness, and Zipfâ€™s haunting voice crooning, â€œOh child, are we going down?â€ The guitar sped up, the drums beat in, and the lights burst onto Zipf and drummer Pete Lim, dressed all white with sheepish, â€œcan you believe whatâ€™s happening?â€ grins covering their faces.
You canâ€™t describe Pfriends on Pfilm in words. I remember Andy telling me his idea back in September at this small coffee shop, and he used these phrases like, â€œprojecting onto my body and onto the screen,â€ and, â€œimages that will match the themes and moods of the songs,â€ and, â€œI was inspired by Sigur Ros.â€ I nodded at the time, but honestly, I couldnâ€™t imagine anything that Andy could put together independently that could accurately reflect such a spectacular artistic vision.
Carefully crafted by Brad Wolf, the colors, images and footage rolled across and around Zipf and Lim, creating an ocean of music that threatened to wash past the microphone and into the wide eyed crowd. Zipf has always been an incredibly talented musician, but playing by yourself with just a guitar can only take you so far. On Friday night, the packed room at SOTA witnessed what would happen if this D.C. rocker was allowed to make his musical visions into reality.
It was one of those sets where you werenâ€™t allowed to get bored, distracted or ready for the song to change. The entire room cared only about Pfriends on Pfilm and wherever Zipfâ€™s vision might take them. That vision took people from the pounding â€œLast to Know,â€ to the soulful moments of â€œGive All,â€ the bitter â€œFields of Morningâ€ and the sarcastic â€œYou, Me and the Games People Play.â€
While Zipf is a fantastic guitarist who deserves more respect for the living sound created by his innovative riffs, his voice is what drives his appeal. He would step away from the microphone and over the drums and screaming guitar; his voice would still soar through the entire room and control every other element. Zipf is no Bono. He doesnâ€™t dominate the room through a preening, seductive front man personaâ€”but that doesnâ€™t mean you can look away.
Zipf commands the attention of every person in the room through an artistic fury burning through his powerful words, careful calculated movements and a controlled stare that leaves little room for emotional detachment. When he closed with an absolutely paralyzing version of â€œYour Fire,â€ he took the heartbeat of every person in the room, wrapping it around scorching guitars and thunderous drums that almost matched the nightmarish acid trip being projected across the room. When the lights went dark, Lim went out the door, Zipf left a slow loop repeating through the room, and slipped behind a curtain.
If â€œYour Fireâ€ was the fantastical nightmare, then the encore of â€œMy Love will Remain,â€ was your best dream. This tour was about hope, and Zipf left me believing that beautiful music could still be found in still, quiet places.
I read this short story one time about this man who missed out on traveling to an utopist alter-dimension simply because he arrived at the departure point, a barn filled with people sitting on the floor, and was so unimpressed by the surroundings that he thought it must be a hoax. As he walked out the door, he heard something, and turned only to see the upturned faces sitting on the floor illuminated by a strange light and a haunting split-second glimpse into paradise. He tried to open the door again, but by the time he got it open, the room was empty. For the rest of his life, this man was haunted by the fruits of his impatience.
If you only knew what you missed that Friday night at S.O.T.A, youâ€™d feel like you missed your chance at Eden, too.
Nathan Martin is an assistant editor at Patrol.
TOP ANDY ZIPF PHOTO BY NATHAN MARTIN. ALL OTHER PHOTOS BY IAN SOPER.
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