ZOO STATION - The Complete U2 Experience

ZOO STATION - The Complete U2 Experience

BandRockPop

The Second Best Live U2 Show on the planet. Full sound, Multimedia, lighting and stage performance. Dance, groove and sway to the re-creation of 30 years of great U2 music all in one night. Whether in an Irish pub, Bar, club, outdoor theater, stadium or arena, the show is second only to one.

Biography

The lights go down, it’s dark and the soaring sound of a rock band bound for greatness collides with the low ceiling of a small club. It’s like 1978 all over again, when U2 first stormed the pubs of Dublin, Ireland.

But this is the 21st Century in San Francisco, and the band is Zoo Station, a quartet that bills itself “The Complete U2 Experience.” Since 2001, this talented force has delivered the visual, musical and spiritual thrill of a U2 concert to bars, clubs, outdoor festivals, private parties and corporate events along the West Coast of North America. Singer Bonalmost leads the show, flying high with the vocal strength and confidence of Bono’s The Joshua Tree days. The Sledge showers thick layers of effectual guitar work over crowd as Adamesque on bass and Barely Larry on the drums deliver the pounding heartbeat of some of modern rock’s most memorable songs.

The band’s primary job is replication, but periodically Zoo Station innovates as much as it imitates. During their trademark full-album spotlight sets – in which the band plays an entire U2 album from start to finish – Zoo Station encounters such obscurities as “Elvis Presley and America,” “Promenade,” “Red Hill Mining Town” and “Acrobat,” songs rarely or never performed live by U2.

“Songs like these are exciting,” says Bonalmost. “All we can really do is ask ourselves, ‘What would U2 have done onstage?’”

More familiar are melodies like “Pride (In The Name of Love),” “With or Without You,” “Beautiful Day,” and “Vertigo.” Behind the band, a multi-media visual projection system elevates Zoo Station’s performances to the highest level of virtual authenticity. Swirling abstract imagery appears behind the stage, interspersed with rapid-fire “U2-phemisms” and in-synch flashing light choreography. All are recognizable from U2 shows, and these visual effects, centerpieced by Bonalmost’s lively theatrics, reflect Zoo Station’s deep-set love of U2’s music and their commitment to fully recreating the dense emotional impact of a U2 concert.

Since day-one, when an earnest Craigslist posting sparked the band, Zoo Station has played nearly 300 shows and now flourishes a repertoire of nearly 140 U2 songs. The sing-along radio hits appease casual listeners, while the most loyal U2 fans are wowed by the surprising depth and variety of the set list. Such thrilling rock and roll was made for vast arenas, one-acre stages and sky-high screens, and though U2 quit the bar scene in 1980, Zoo Station thrives there, doing what U2 no longer can: setting the smallest neighborhood pubs burning to life with a sound that has drowned out the world.

Discography

U2 Cover Band Hits the Right Chords with Local Crowds

By Alastair Bland

If they look like U2 and sound like U2, they must be Zoo Station.

This four-piece rock band, with three of its members based in the Inner Sunset District, has been jamming since 2002 with the bold-faced objective of imitating as closely as possible the look, feel, attitude and sound of Ireland's most well-known rock group.

On all fronts, Zoo Station has succeeded, as their success and growth in the past six years demonstrates. Numerous other U2 tribute bands around the nation hash out the songs of one of the world's most successful musical forces, but Zoo Station, named after the first song on U2's 1991 album "Achtung Baby," has cornered the Northern California market.

The group occasionally tours as far away as Portland, but the band more commonly sticks to a tight periphery that includes a dozen regular venues between Sacramento, Petaluma and San Jose. The band played its first gig at the Inner Richmond's Ireland's 32 in mid-2002. At the time, Zoo Station was still a rusty neighborhood cover band, four men in their late 20s performing in street clothes and without any great ambitions.

The group's musical likeness to U2, however, which had just finished a large and well-received world tour, sparked a relationship with the neighborhood pub that would foster the Zoo Station's continual development in the coming years.

"Ireland's 32 is sort of our home," said Skott Bennett, the band's drummer. "It's where we'll test out new concepts and ideas. It's where we'll play a new song that we haven't played live before, and we figure, 'If no one at Ireland's 32 cares, no one else will.'"

As the band's Bay Area following gained force, Zoo Station pursued the theme of diligently mimicking U2's performances and personas.

In 2003, the members took on their current stage names. Singer Joshua Fryvecind became Bonalmost, a plain reference to Bono. Bennett became Barely Larry after Larry Mullen Jr. Guitarist Mike Horne took up The Sledge, an easy rhyme with The Edge. And bassist Scotty Schulman adopted Adamesque after U2's Adam Clayton. One night at Ireland's 32, Fryvecind, who bears a similar stature and complexion to Bono, wore a pair of enormous black Bone-esque sunglasses onstage.

"We got such a reaction to that from the crowd that we couldn't ignore it," Bennett recalls.

Costumes followed.

"The whole act became contagious," said Fryvecind. "People just ate it up more and more."

Zoo Station eventually began to play theme shows, including full album covers and live concert reenactments, in which the band imitates from start to finish specific U2 concerts made famous among U2 fans by various live performance video releases. Such shows often place the heaviest demands on Fryvecind, who works the stage with as much theatric gusto as his rock and roll-politico counterpart Bono.

Musically, Horne plays a major role in the band as he employs a multitude of effects pedals to emulate the echoing, thick sound for which The Edge has become almost instantly recognizable in the universe of rock.

Schulman performs backing vocals to bolster Fryvecind's voice, and Bennett plays the drums and works an onstage laptop computer, which lights up the stage's backdrop with fast-paced animation and video footage. The whirling light show occurs in sync with the band's music and includes images and slogans used in the past by U2 during its own tours.

"Blackthorn Tavern and Ireland's 32 are great for up-close rock and roll, but Slims is really good for the big shows and multimedia effects," said Fryvecind.

U2 itself has toned down the scope of its once-huge world tours, like Zoo TV and Popmart of the '90s, but Zoo Station still plays periodic shows that replicate past U2 eras.

"It's our job, among other things, to bring back and preserve the history of U2," said Fryvecind. "It would just be silly if they did that themselves. Their job is to play new music and do new things, but by dressing up and doing what U2 once did, we're keeping alive the essence of U2's live concert history."

Schulman, 30, has been an avid U2 fan for more than 20 years, and it was he who founded the band in 2001 when he posted a note on craigslist, seeking other musicians interested in jamming U2 songs for fun.

"It's hard to believe that this thing has gone as far as it has," said Schulman. "When I started I was hoping to find a few guys with musical interests like my own and form our own band. But we ended up on this track."

Zoo Station plays as many as 10 public and private shows per month, including occasional gigs at the famed Slim's. As their local popularity and their repertoire of nearly 140 songs continues to grow, Fryvecind acknowledges that U2 will someday retire from the world music scene. But Zoo Station's future, he says, remains wide open.

"We'll still love the music, so it becomes a question of whether other people will want t

Set List

We play over 135 songs from the U2 Catalog. In a typical evening we will play between 22-32 songs.

Most recent Set list:

JANUARY 5, 2008
SLIM'S
SAN FRANCISCO, CA
Where the Streets Have No Name
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
With Or Without You
Bullet the Blue Sky
Running To Stand Still
Red Hill Mining Town
In God's Country
Trip Thru Your Wires
One Tree Hill
Exit
Mothers Of the Disappeared
Elevation
I Will Follow
Out Of Control >
Blitzkrieg Bop
New Year's Day
Sunday Bloody Sunday
The Fly
Pride
Vertigo
Bad
Desire
40

The Dalton Brothers opened the show:
Lost Highway
Lucille
Ring Of Fire
The Wanderer
She's a Mystery To Me
King Of the Road
Friends In Low Places