Home » A+E » Review: ‘Zebra Butt,’ onscreen visuals, drumming technique highlight Zammuto performance at the Wex

Review: ‘Zebra Butt,’ onscreen visuals, drumming technique highlight Zammuto performance at the Wex

Shelby Lum / Lantern reporter

Videos of finger skateboarding, zebra butts and Christmas trees on fire are all visuals you will experience when seeing Zammuto live. Despite these quarks, drummer Sean Dixon is the most enticing and interesting part. 

Brought by the Wexner Center for the Arts, Zammuto performed at Black Box on Mershon Stage on Friday. 

The first noticeable factor was the drumming. Dixon really was what made the performance for the entire set. During “Shape of Things to Come,” I found myself intently watching Dixon laying out complicated drum beats with seemingly little difficulty. Instrumentally, “Idiom Wind” was made up of mostly drums and bass with subtle, synthesized effects throughout the song. 

The technology aspect began with “Too Late to Topologize,” where projections of finger skateboarding on the screen, and lead singer, Nick Zammuto, began to manipulate his voice with Auto-Tuning. The crowd’s heads were bobbing as a heavier synth beat was played. 

“Zebra Butt” was my favorite of the set. The fast-paced drumming meshed well with the electronic beat, and as the title suggests, photos of zebra butts were projected onto the screen. Dixon was completely captivating, and even with the almost distracting visuals on the screen, he was all I could look at. 

“F U C-3PO” came with videos of Christmas trees suddenly going up in flames and fires taking over living rooms with holiday gifts. During this song, Nick Zammuto’s vocals were completely taken over by the Auto-Tuning, which could have been done more subtly. 

Even with the videos and the Auto-Tuned voice, I was still staring at Dixon, and the band then played a video of 12-year-old Dixon playing the drums. At the end of the video, the drummer went into a long drum solo, a well-deserved showcase of his skills. The bassist even sat down. This was Dixon’s moment. Once his solo finished, the music smoothly transitioned into a cover of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” which was an all-time high of the night. 

Yet after the cover, Zammuto seemed to run out of material. The band played “Yay,” a song about chronic back pain with images of people in pain, bent over from their waist. The images were funny, but halfway through the song, I just felt overwhelmed with the silly, posed photos. 

Zammuto then did several songs to spoofed commercial ads for things like a fake work out stick and Tahitian Noni Juice. The ads were funny, but it also made it look like the group had run out of material with the use of the ads. 

Zammuto finished its main set with “Classy Penguin,” a song about family, which showed clips of the members growing up as well as the singer’s three sons, and then “The Greatest Autoharp Solo of All Time,” which the band played along with a sped up video of an autoharp player. 

The band left the stage, and as the crowd kept clapping the group came back just a few moments later. The band gave the choice of having a profane song or a sacred song, and then decided to play both. 

The profane song, “The Fig and the Finger,” came first, and essentially the only words of the song were the fig and the finger as Nick Zammuto said the words over and over. Pictures of people holding their middle finger were projected on the screen as well as a different hand gesture, which Nick Zammuto explained was the equivalent of the middle finger in other countries called “the fig.” Maybe they intended it to just be silly or a joke, but for a song with about five words, it was way too long. It would have been funny if the song had lasted less than 30 seconds, but the full-length song just dragged the idea out. 

The second encore song was a song from The Books, Nick Zammuto’s previous band, “Smells Like Content.” Granted there were a lot of words, and the song demanded a fast-paced delivery of them all, but Nick Zammuto ended up messing the words up three times. 

“This is the worst encore ever,” he said, trying to joke it off, but it really was bad. “The Fig and the Finger” shouldn’t have been an encore song, and the botched delivery of the final song didn’t help. 

Canadian band Snowblink opened the night, and began its set with “Safety Stories.” The floor was nearly empty at the beginning of the set, and it began the roller coaster of expectations I experienced throughout the night. 

With just a few minutes until the opening set began, there was nearly no one on the floor, which began to concern me. The first two songs Snowblink played didn’t do much to raise the standards, and the vocals weren’t overly creative, but simply familiar. 

Once lead singer Daniela Gesundheit began to warm up though, the performance was on the rise. With “Inner Mini-Mississippi,” a song about being surprised by good things happening and then realizing they had to come to an end, the opening band really hit its peak. Her vocals began to round out and become more distinct, sounding a little like Jewel, but without the deeper tones. 

After the initial let down of the first two songs, I was sold. Snowblink gave a soothing, folk-pop performance with songs that hooked you in, and made me wonder why I had doubted the group in the first place. 

“Rut & Nuzzle” brought in interesting audience participation. Before the band took the stage, the members must have distributed bells to the few audience members who had arrived early, and when the band began to ring the bells, the audience members began ringing the bells as well, engulfing the entire crowd in a real life surround sound. 

“Pray for Surf” followed, after which Snowblink played a song based on a medieval Jewish folk song that had been sung to women in labor pain. 

The highlight of the set was the slow Whitney Houston cover “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me).” Gesundheit asked for the lights on the stage to be completely turned off, and then in the middle of the song asked for the lights on the floor to be turned off as well, plunging the audience into an intimate, dark moment. 

My expectations were then high for Zammuto, after being pleasantly surprised by Snowblink.

In all, both bands put on a great show, and Zammuto’s performance was top-notch but should have just
ended earlier than it did. 

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