One For the Road: Zo! + Sy Smith in New York City (May 3, 2012)

The stare down… Photo by Sean J Rhinehart

The journey to New York City began early Thursday morning when I hopped on the DC Metro and made my way to Union Station. I must have gotten there almost two hours before my train was scheduled to depart (because half of the time, I don’t trust the Metro to get me to my destination without breaking down). I was able to take my time, grab something to eat, pick up my Amtrak ticket and relax until it was time for the train to depart… Our guitarist, Zach Cutler who was also on the same train walked up to the gate, guitar on his back ready to go. We finally boarded the train and everything was smooth sailing… Well, until some lady who smelled like a can of Glade sat next to me and would periodically turn around to her husband and converse loud as hell with him, which turned into no sleep on this train for me! Then, halfway into the ride, the power on the train decided that it wanted to take a break and soon after we began to gradually slow to a stop. We sat there motionless for about five minutes and the train conductor got on the intercom system and announced, “The train is having engine troubles… We are gonna have to reset the engine.” RESET the engine?… Is it WiFi? Call me slow, but I’ve never heard of resetting an engine before. Well, whatever they had to do worked because a few minutes after that announcement, the power was back on and we were moving again (the power continued to cut in and out throughout the remainder of our trip). When we finally arrived at NYC’s Penn Station, I was just happy to be there without any further engine resetting episodes. I got in touch with the promoter as he was en route to pick us up… He got us and took us to the hotel to check-in. I think I had time enough to unpack what I needed for the show and take a quick shower. Not too long after that we had to hop right back in the car and head down to DROM for load-in and soundcheck. But FIRST… We stopped by some spot (I can’t think of the name of the place right now) and I ordered a helluva gyro, it MAY have even been called “Helluva Gyro” on the menu…… Well, maybe not… But maybe that’s how I should have placed my order with the waiter. Lawd, the damn sauce that came with it??!! Once I got it and took it outta there, the thing lasted all of five minutes in the car… I was ignoring texts and missing phone calls because of this food. The joint reminded me of Olga’s Kitchen or Coney Island back home… All I needed was a damn Faygo Redpop with it to make it complete *slips into a detailed daydream*  ……………………… *shakes out of it* Anyway… We hit soundcheck at about 4pm at DROM – walked inside and Sy and flautist Monet Cherise were already in the spot so knowing that we were kinda pressed for time, we quickly set everything up and prepared to run through the set with everyone. Our drummer Brandon Williams came through and set up the kit some time later and we knocked most of the set out during our soundcheck time that was seemingly cut very short. We were also joined by saxophonist LaDarrel “Saxappeal” Johnson who along with Brandon was there all the way from Detroit (they both played with us at our Detroit show), so we were all hyped up and ready to put it on the NYC crowd…

Sy rockin’ the synth bass and Zach Cutler behind her on guitar. Photo by Sean J Rhinehart

When showtime finally arrived, there was a brotha onstage who I guess was the host for the night?… Perhaps? He was telling some half assed jokes and seemingly killing time that we didn’t really have. As a matter of fact, he was so busy joking that he failed to introduce the two of us as a duo. We both walked on stage after the introduction and I walked behind dude and put my arm around his neck to choke him…….. jokingly – I was a good sport about it and focused on the task at hand, which was putting on a great show. But the next time a host fails to simply READ or do their research and introduces us as just Sy Smith… Or just Zo!, I’m clowning that individual thoroughly before we begin our show…

Me on keys and Monet on flute. Photo by Sean J Rhinehart

The show began on a high note and remained that way… I was impressed with the New York crowd because they were PARTYING, which was different because I normally see NYC as the cool, laid back kats who wait until AFTER the show to give you proper praising….. Not at DROM, they were IN it and we loved every minute of it. Sy’s good friend, talented vocalist and musician Gordon Chambers came on stage and joined us for our rendition of Sy Smith’s “Nights (Feel Like Getting Down)” – and the brotha showed no mercy on that second verse, c’Lawd!! At another point in the show somebody yelled for us to do “Groove Is In the Heart” by Deee-Lite – random as shit, yes I know…. BUT Sy “You didn’t think I was gonna take your off-the-wall request and put it overtop of some shit you’d NEVER expect and still kill it” Smith obliged by singing it over the intro music to “MakeLuv2Me”. How ’bout THAT for a crowd pleaser?… Just a FUN, fun show. The fact that we had Sax and Monet to sit in with us with the woodwind instruments just added to the musical chemistry that was in place on stage. The feedback that I received after the show was that people left the show on a musical high, which always gets me excited because I feel as though we have done our job… I got to catch up with a few great friends of mine immediately following the show, including my musical brother AB, Darien Dean, and EVEN saw my dude Illmind in the crowd rockin’ with us… That was dope being as though he and I haven’t chopped it up since around 2006. So we packed it on up and got ready to get on down to Atlanta the next day…

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