2012 in Pictures

"...Give is up for Lorenzo Ferguson a/k/a Zo!, ya'll!!" © Phonte in LA • Photo by Kris Perry (Oct. 2012)

“…Give it up for Lorenzo Ferguson a/k/a Zo!, y’all!!” © Phonte in LA • Photo by Kris Perry (Oct. 2012)

2012 has been another helluva year. I got to do some traveling and play shows in LA, NYC, DC, Chicago, Detroit, Nashville, St. Louis, Bethesda, MD, Greensboro, NC, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Columbia MD, Boston, Virginia Beach, Raleigh, Vienna, VA, Memphis, Indianapolis, San Francisco, and Phoenix …..and Durham, NC for this coming New Year’s Eve. I completed my first year as a full-time musician after the school I taught music at closed last year – I was then able to continue teaching by conducting individual piano lessons and workshop to groups of young ones. I began endorsing Moog Music, received another standing ovation during a performance back home in Detroit, and got the bulk of the recording finished for my newest album ManMade. Sy Smith and I did some touring this year playing big solo shows at DC’s Blues Alley and NYC’s Blue Note and received big performance props from Sheila E while I was back on the road with The Foreign Exchange who wrapped up performances for an album we have been touring for two years, Authenticity. I hit my ten-year anniversary of releasing music as well. Outside of all that, it was a fairly quiet twelve months……….

…Looking forward to 2013. Enjoy the photos!!

The Foreign Exchange at Detroit’s Chene Park – 09.13.12

Phonte, Me, Deborah Bond, Kush El-Amin & Sy Smith backstage after rockin’ Chene Park… Photo courtesy of Drake Phifer

Going back home to perform always seems to disturb my already dysfunctional “sleep-pattern”… I can never get enough rest the night before a Detroit performance – whether it’s a solo show or one with The Foreign Exchange. It’s actually very similar to preparing for a huge game…at home – YET it’s even more special than that because there’s a “we’ve missed you” factor on both sides that can be added into the equation now since I’m not living in the area anymore. As a matter of fact, the only sleep I participated in before this show occurred on the one hour-ten minute flight from Baltimore to Detroit. I was OUT and do not remember taking off at all.. But, I DO remember being awakened by that ridiculously hard ass landing executed by our pilot. I’m talking the type of landing that has been known to make you look extra crazy in public as your sudden waking up from a deep sleep while fighting the air tends to be accompanied by various random, yet well-placed expletives …..I’m not saying this happened to ME on this particular flight, but I’ve heard that’s how it goes down sometimes and you know, uhh… well…… ANYWAY, upon our arrival to DTW Airport, we were to be picked up and taken to the hotel located right along the Detroit Riverwalk. Kush El-Amin (bassist), Deborah Bond (vocalist) and I all walked off of the plane safely and randomly ran into Tim Scott Jr. (drummer) in the baggage claim area. We then caught up to our driver a few minutes later after letting the organizers know that we had arrived into town. The driver was cool as all hell and seemed to be a music head. He also began to hit us with a couple of hilarious quotables and stories… including the one explaining why he wasn’t allowed back on our hotel’s property. We were all in the van like, *crickets*…..  But the brotha got us everywhere we needed to be on time… We just had a bit of a walk ahead of us when we were dropped off on the far side of that hotel damn near by the Jim Crow entrance.

Behind our hotel… The Detroit Riverwalk

After introducing Kush and Deborah to one of my most frequented sammich spots when I lived in MI, *sings* “Tubbyyyy’s Submariiiiiines,” the crew hit up soundcheck at our scheduled time and as I walked up to the stage I could immediately tell that it was about to be a reunion for me… The first person I ran into was Monica Blaire (featured on “MakeLuv2Me”) and right behind her was vocalist, L’Renee whom I hadn’t seen since I moved to Maryland at the beginning of 2006. Then up walked Dwele, who I’ve known since 2003 and would sometimes even jam out with him in Slum Village’s old stomping grounds, Barak Studios in Southfield, MI. He and I got to catch up a bit during his soundcheck… meanwhile, I realized that I knew a few people in his band including drummer Eric “Rain Man” Gaston, keyboardist Brandon “Showtime” Bland, background singer J. Tait, and saxophonist LaDarrel “Saxappeal” Johnson who has played alongside Sy Smith and I twice, at our Detroit (February ’12) and New York City (May ’12) shows. To say that I felt right back at home would be a huge understatement… Now when you’re around all of that talent, not only is there a strong sense of camaraderie but also a feeling of friendly competition as well, which as a former baseball player is something that I will probably never shy away from. It’s natural because you always want to sound your best in front of your peers. With that being said, we sounded our best for about 15 minutes because we were forced into knocking out one of the shortest soundchecks in life (Arrested Development, whose flight was severely delayed had arrived and was on the side of the stage waiting to check after us and the doors were due to open soon after). After our 15 minutes of fame during soundcheck, we made our way back to the hotel for about an hour of down time before it was time to head on back to Chene Park and hit the stage for real this time around.

As we rolled back to the venue in preparation for the night’s performance…let’s just say I was a tad bit beyond ready. Momma Zo! had already sent me a text saying that she, Pops Zo!, my sister and her boyfriend were already there and seated. Meanwhile, I was backstage in full out clown mode in order to distract myself from the fact that I was anxious as hell to get out there and murder this +FE set. My adrenaline was on 12 AND I had the nerve to be sipping on a can of Red Bull. Yeah, I know…But I told y’all, show preparation very much parallels getting ready for a big game. Aaaaand, then the time finally came for us to walk out on stage… I arrived at my keyboard rig and started to get everything set up… I then began hearing people start to call my name from the crowd…


Monica Blaire was there hosting the show along with Suga Rae stopped and said,

“Oh… Do we have some Zo fans in here?”

*crowd cheers*


Adrenaline now on 14.

It was finally time to start up and with only 40 minutes to show our people a helluva time, we knew we had to be on level 10 fresh outta the gate……. And that’s exactly what happened. From the jump, the music felt really good, the crowd was with us the entire time, my hands felt loose on the keys, and the added bonus….. I received a standing ovation during our individual introductions, which just put the show over the top for me. Some of y’all have heard me talk some about hometown love and how unbelievable of a feeling it is to get it… This episode was no different. And the fact that my parents and sister were in the crowd both times that it has happened?… Maaaan, come on nah!!

After leaving the stage ablaze by playing what I thought was one of our best sets this year, I decided to try and head out into the crowd so that I could see my family and check out Dwele and Arrested Development’s shows. Man, I got into the crowd and was greeted by friends, fans, and even a few folks I went to high school with whom I had not seen since high school (’96 if ya nosy ass needed to know). Hell, those folks still know me as a baseball player! I found my family in the crowd via “text GPS” a/k/a “Where y’all at?! / We’re right here!!” guidance. My sister and Momma Zo! were rockin’ the crispy ciel blue Zo! T-shirts while Pops came with the suit and tie combo, per usual. ‘Twas all hugs and pictures as I was soon joined by Sy and Deborah not too long afterward. We proceeded to chop it up with my family and enjoy the remainder of the show…. But uhhh, one of the highlights and my personal favorite moments of the entire night was watching +FE’s Director of Operations, Aimee Flint hit the “Baba Oje dance” (skip to 3:36) in the stands with us at the end of Arrested Development’s “People Everyday”… And y’all know exactly what I’m talkin’ about too – the dance he does at the end of said video to accompany his chanting.  She had the shit down PAT!!! We were loving it so much, we couldn’t do anything but join her…

Ok now… The post-show meal came in the form of one of my favorite Downtown Detroit spots…. Bucharest Grill. Phonte and Tim Scott Jr. became instant believers after I successfully put on to their famous chicken shawarmas. C’LAWD!!!!!! Those two brovahs damn near cleaned their plates by the time I had returned back to our table from the bar with drainks! The Bucharest meal accompanied by a strong rum & coke was an excellent ending to another near perfect day and performance by The Foreign Exchange. I’m always looking forward to the next one… Detroit, we love y’all and we’ll see you again in 2013…!!!

PHOTOS from +FE’s Performance at Chene Park

Zo!’s Top Five Moments of 2011 – #1 Going Home and Receiving A Long Ovation at The Foreign Exchange Show in Detroit

May 8, 2011, Mother’s Day…

The +FE crew and I were set to take the short 2-hour and some change drive to Detroit from Cleveland to play our 4th show of the scheduled seven-show tour of Midwest cities. I was up and ready to go this particular morning as we were creeping up on the show date that I was most anticipating. Going back home to perform is always motivational to me because I’m able to catch everyone up on what I have been up to musically  – The same people who saw me making music out of my bedroom in my parents’ house in what I used to call “Crowded Room Studios,” as there was more music and equipment in that spot than space to move around. To be able to bring new levels of success home to folks who have supported you from day one is truly a blessing… So needless to say, I was a bit anxious for this one. As soon as I found out the show was confirmed, I started to text a couple folks here and there and sent a few DMs via Twitter just to make sure that kats were blocking that date off far in advance because at that time folks kept asking, “When are y’all gonna come to The D?”  …The thing was, May of 2011 wasn’t our first time playing in Detroit. The first +FE show at home was over two years ago in June of 2009 and I remember being hyped up for that one too, but this time was much different. First off, the buzz around the show was crazy and the people who were creating it seemed to be super excited. Secondly, there had been four +FE Music releases since that last show: City Lights 2: Shibuya (Sept. ’09), …just visiting too (Nov. ’09),  SunStorm (Jul. ’10) and Authenticity (Oct. ’10). One thing was starting to become crystal clear to us… Detroit was ready, I just didn’t realize how ready.

I’ll put it like this, I was so amped up about the Detroit show that thinking back on it, I barely even remember the actual drive from Cleveland… I remember stopping once for gas after Toledo, but that’s about it. The next thing I remember is checking in to our hotel and asking, “Ayo, who’s coming to the house before soundcheck?” Our bassist, Kush El-Amin and drummer Tim Scott Jr. said that they would roll so we dropped our stuff off in our rooms and proceeded to head out to my parents’ house. As soon as we walked in, I as I normally do when I get home, went straight for the refrigerator to grab a water and a Faygo Redpop to take with me. But to my surprise, Moms had baked a damn sweet poe-tay-toe pie for our arrival… Yep, I said Poe. Tay. TOE. So, uhhh… the three of us had some pie. ….And uhhh…. y’all thought I was greedy as hell? The brotha T. Scott had two pieces.

After we left my parents’ house, I took the fellas to The Bread Basket for a Rueben and some Better Made chips…  For the record, I am currently salivating just looking at the picture below.

After taking our food to go, we only had enough time to head back to the hotel and pick up the rest of the crew for soundcheck at the Magic Stick. Upon arriving to the venue, I started feeling anxious… At that point I just wanted the show to BEGIN. I hadn’t gone home to play in a year and a half, hadn’t been home with +FE in two… everyone was sounding all extra excited about the show – I was truly on edge……… A GOOD edge. Plus, the entire crew knew how big this show was for me… With all that said, I still wasn’t aware exactly how big.

We headed back to the hotel in order to change and get everything ready to go right back to the venue for the show. I was surprising cool, but I could feel my heart rate noticeably increase before taking the stage. Everybody in the crew was looking at me like, “You ready? Are you ready?” I was ready as hell… Normally, the time that we have backstage usually drags along anyway. But for the hometown show, time seemed to be moving at 120 seconds per minute. …..When we finally took the stage, I was the first to walk out to a sea of Detroit faces. I thought to myself, “This crowd is KILLIN the last one… They’re ready.” We proceded to start the show and the crowd was with us the entire time. During the set, I saw a ton of familiar faces, which made me feel even more at home… But still once again, I wasn’t ready.

Now… for those of you who have ever attended an +FE show, you know that there is a portion set aside during each show where Phonte introduces the entire crew individually… The order is normally: band members, vocalists, and last, of course is Nicolay. Well… for the first time in our touring history, the introduction order was different and to say that it caught me way off guard would be an understatement. Phonte went through and introduced everyone and I noticed that he skipped me… I was thinking, “Ok, he’ll probably do it after Jeanne and Sy.” Welp! After introducing Jeanne Jolly and Sy Smith…. He introduced Nicolay. *blank stare* I wonder if anyone has pictures of my face during that time, I’d like to see them because in my head it was, “Oh shit! WTF?… I’m going LAST at the CRIB? This is crazy….!” The next thing I knew, Phonte told us to cut the music and proceeded to go into my introduction. I’m sure I was standing there looking silly and lost as hell leading up to….

“Give it up for your own… Lorenzo Ferguson a/k/a Zo! y’all!”

The place just got LOUD…….. and I couldn’t do a damn thing but stand there and cheese.  In normal situations, people cheer, yell out, etc. and I’ll show love back by waving, bowing or something to make sure that they know I appreciate them. This time was a little different… Detroit got loud…. Matter of fact, Detroit got loud and HELD it. I was smiling… waving………smiling some more………. waving……  That’s when I first realized, “Oh damn, they’re not stopping!” I was completely in the moment at this point, plus my parents and younger sister were in the audience as well so this just became a helluva moment for me. I didn’t know what to do anymore or how to react – I just started looking around with the “This can’t be real” face on and man, it felt GREAT – SO great that I THEN thought to myself, “Oh ok, I see…. these negroes are tryna make me cry now.” And damn if I didn’t feel a lump in my throat – Man, this ain’t good. I just kept thinking, “Naaaah man, I’m not going… I’m not going. Breeeeeathe.” Of course, the more I thought that…. The louder they seemed to get and the bigger that lump got. THEN, I turned to my left to look at the crew, you know, just to kind of get their take on things and they were no help at all as Sy and Jeanne both had their hands on their mouths in the “Awwwww” position looking like THEY were about to cry. SHIT!! It was settled… I definitely wasn’t looking over at the crew for ANYmore support. The crowd thought they had me though!! – Because after awhile, instinctively I took my cap and covered my face with it while turning around. *sigh* This did nothing but fuel it and made them cheer even louder. Their loud ovation went on for a solid couple of minutes. I know I may seem to be making light of it, but it was by far one of the most unbelievable moments of my music career up to that point. Of course I’ve already had a few of my people jokingly say, “Aw man, you were about to cry, you were about to get emotional?” Maaaaaan listen… You work this hard for this long, keep it up after moving away from home and then return to that type of hometown love… If your throat doesn’t lump up from a reception like that, you may need to check and see if you have a pulse. I have never gotten an ovation like that before or since… That was a moment that left me truly humbled and I will never forget it.

“Laughing At Your Plans” (from Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange)

Clip taken from the upcoming live acoustic CD/DVD “Dear Friends: An Evening With The Foreign Exchange”, available June 28 2011 on +FE Music. Directed and edited by John Elliot Gray.

Source: Parallellogram · Directed by John Elliott Gray

Recorded and filmed live at SoundPure Studios in Durham NC on February 20 2011

Phonte: Vocals – Nicolay: Acoustic guitar – Jeanne Jolly: Vocals – Sy Smith: vocals – Zo!: grand piano – Chris Boerner: Acoustic guitar – Kush El-Amin: Acoustic bass guitar – Tim Scott Jr.: Drums