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Reviews

If you're a Zookeepers fan and want to get a little riled up, check out the really bad review below from L.A.'s Music Connection Magazine. That guy hated us! The rest seem to like us a lot. It gives you an idea why the Zookeepers are always "Leaving L.A."

Rockin' at the Folk-adelic Party, Pasadena Weekly, June, 1999

The Thinking Person's Party Band, The Easterner (Cheney, WA) - April, 1999

Zookeepers' latest will get you movin', Lewiston Morning Tribune (Lewiston, ID) - November, 1997

Zookeepers unleash the beasts at Backstage, Mustang Daily (San Luis Obispo, CA) -  October, 1997

Club Review: The Zookeepers at Brennan's, Music Connection (L.A., CA) - May, 1997

Zookeepers anything but tame, The Orion (Chico, CA) - January, 1997

 

Links to other sites:

Relix Magazine reviews Set Me Free (You might want to search down for "Zookeepers" once you get there.)

A review from Oregon State University's Barometer. (Nov. 8, 1996)



Pasadena Weekly (Pasadena, CA): June 17, 1999

Rockin' at the Folk-adelic Party

by Bliss

A hometown band that rarely plays at home, hence the title of their most recent album, "Leaving L.A." The Zookeepers are a self-described folk-adelic party rock trio with an unpretentious appeal.

Some bands get so hung up on establishing their uniqueness they freak out when they're compared to other artists. The Zookeepers, however, who've been compared to Van Morrison and Dave Matthews, invite such comparisons.

"If you get too abstract about what you think you're doing, it doesn't mean anything," says founding member Patrick Vernon. "I encourage comparisons, because that's how we communicate. That's just what people do.

"Again I would go back to the Van Morrison/Dave Matthews comparisons -- a lot of peole think we sound like them, which is very complimentary. That's great if somebody thinks we sound like that! Other than that, [the music is] a positive thing, and it's a fun thing. And it's not superficial."

Don't expect Morrison's soulful growl or Matthew's wild guitar-chord voicings, though; similarities are found in attitude and flowing, danceable rhythms.

The Zookeepers are a jammin' bar band good enough at creating a party atmosphere that most weekends find them logging mega miles in their "Obie Van Canobie" up and down the West Coast, and occasionally heading farther afield to places such as Montana.

They play about 100 shows a year, and have accumulated colorful road stories (printed on their Web site) that range from amusing to outrageous. Vernon estimates they average six hours a day in the van, or 300 miles per gig; so playing close to home is a welcome change.

They pull into the John Bull Pub on Friday night.

Frontman Vernon, who plays guitar and harmonica, is the only original member in the current lineup, which also includes bassist Albie Dunbar and drummer Charlie Waymire. Their upbeat music often concerns getting way -- from bad attitudes, relationships, jobs.

"Escapism as a diversion, not as a mental health tool," Vernon clarifies. "A reviewer recently called it 'the thinking man's jam band' or something like that."

One wag wrote they aren't interested in label deals, but the band would love to grab the brass rings of the business: a recording contract, a booking agent, financial support for touring, etc. It's just that they are pursuing them on their own terms.

"I could spend my lunch hour calling record labels, or I could spend it calling clubs in Oregon," Vernon said. "I've chosen to call clubs in Oregon...We're pursuing it in the way we pursue it, which is to get out there and do it. We're controlling the only thing we can control."

What they can control, he says, is their business and their performances. "I can't control if the music industry likes us, or if radio's gonna play us," he said. "We've done three CDs. So basically in '94, when we were really knocking on doors, everybody said, 'Go out and do your own stuff.'

"Five years later, that's what we've been doin'. We're still waiting for them to notice."



The Easterner (Cheney, WA): April 8, 1999

The Thinking Person's Party Band

Brian Johnson

It is hereby declared that all campus party animals congregate in front of EWU's PUB on Tueday, April13, for zoo induction. This decade's party band, the Zookeepers, will be conveying their brand of infectious musical revelry at 11 a.m.

The campus-touring three-piece L.A. band has been compared to everyone from the Dave Matthew's Band (minus the dark edge) to Blues Traverler, possessing an upbeat, positive message that seems downright refreshing in these admittedly angst-saturated times.

Led by lead singer/guitarist/harpist Patrick Vernon (who's liable to say or do anything onstage or off, such as dancing through the crowd during solos), the Zookeepers are a people's band with a distinctive style that belongs in it's own category. Imagine a neo-Grateful Dead without the interminable instrumentation (which was Garcia and company's greatest strength or weakness, depending on your POV).

Further proof of the band's egalitarian status can be found on their extensive Web site, which features a good number of other bands, links and free stuff. The Zookeepers have a do-it-yourself approach to life and their music, releasing three self-produced CDs since 1994 while constantly touring and somehow holding onto day jobs (Vernon is a data systems analyst. Bassist Albie Dunbar and drummer Charlie Waymire teach music).

Vernons' lyrics peruse the depths of the human condition without wallowing in self-pity, cynicism, or usually even anger. This alone would place the band diametrically opposite of most '90s music. So if it's possible to consider the concept of a 'thinking person's party band,' then stop by outside the EWU PUB (or inside if it's raining), listen in, maybe dance, and most of all, get tricked into feeling good.

The can be reached at www.thezookeepers.com.



Lewiston Morning Tribune (Lewiston, ID): November 14, 1997

Zookeepers' latest will get you movin'

by Jeanne DePaul

It's a joy to listen to an album by a band whose lead singer can really sing.

Pop in The Zookeepers' latest compact disc, "Leaving L.A.," and listen to Patrick Vernon's voice. Just listen to the guy sing -- he's great.

If you're looking for comparisons, Vernon sounds a little like James Taylor but still undeniably has his own style and way with words.

And these are some good songs. Even some of the CDs of my favorite bands take more than one listen before I can really get into the songs. Not so with The Zookeepers. From the minute "Leaving L.A." begins with the first chords of "It's All Right," I was moving to the music, even though I was sitting at my desk.

And Vernon has a good grip on the lyrics, too, with songs that actually have some meaning. He writes most of the words and music on the album and, although they mostly deal with relationships, they vary from love and camaraderie to anger and bitterness.

His words on "Deeper Shade" strike a positive, optimistic view of the world:

Don't say that the girl's your personal playground
That the world is getting you way down;
'Cos that's not nice.
Just keep on looking, for somebody,
With the light to show you
A deeper shade of soul.

"Movie About it" bemoans the fact that people aren't thinking for themselves much but instead are just sitting back and reading the book, watching the TV show or seeing the movie.

"We don't have our own thoughts anymore. Hasn't this episode aired before?"

Lyrics of several songs are about women leaving their men and some are downright angry ("What You've Done") but just as easily switch to the general confusion between the sexes as on "Muddy Colored Water," where Vernon sings:

"She has her insights. I have confusion. We talk for ten nights, conclude that there's no conclusion."

I am torn during most of these songs. The refrains are so catchy I want to join right in and sing, but Vernon's voice is so good I also want to just listen to him take off on them. Usually I end up doing a little of both. Listen closely to the backing harmonies that slide right in and work their magic.

Vernon's guitar playing sounds good to me, especially a simple, clean solo on "It's All Right" and the frenetic solo on "He's Crazy."

Chris Schoop's drumming is wonderful. It shines through without overwhelming and is especially notable on "What You've Done" and "He's Crazy."

And don't miss the bridge on "Muddy Colored Water" where drums with a march beat lead the bass to a country rhythm beat.

Three "bonus" tracks that are live are a hoot. "The Cow Song" is a soulful ballad about, yes, a cow... or is it just a dream? But it's a sweet song.

And I'm also a Disney lover but the lyrics slamming the kingdom of the mouse in "Main St. USA" are killer. Albie Dunbar's bass playing especially shines on these two live tracks.

My only complaint is the repeating song on the CD. "Margaret I" is enjoyable and sounds like it was a good start to a song but by the time we've gone through "Margaret II," "Margaret III," and the live "Margaret" at the CDs end, it's become an annoyance, guys. It was old by the second one so don't expect me to be thrilled by three and four.

After watching a few performances by some of the "hot" acts of the moment, I can't figure out why these guys aren't hot on the charts. They're making some great music here. Give them a listen.




Mustang Daily (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, CA): October 16, 1997

Zookeepers unleash the beasts at Backstage

by Martha Blackwell

The Zookeepers will prove today that not all zookeepers worry about keeping crowds under control and at bay from the main attraction.

The L.A.-based band will demonstrate its ways at Cal Poly this afternoon.

"It's most fun for us when we can get involved with the audience, meet some people and have a more personal experience," said lead vocalist and lyricist Patrick Vernon of the band's tendency to dance around with the crowd.

Performing at 1 p.m. today at BackStage, the band's sound of funky-country-blues has been compared to Blues Traveler, Counting Crows and Buffalo Springfield and has a heavy influence from folk music.

"I've been a folk-singin' kind of guy for several years not," Vernon said.

Vernon, who doubles on guitar and harmonica, bass-playing Albie Dunbar, and Doug McCowan on drums make up the three-man band, whose main objective in its performance is the three-letter word FUN.

"We're not angry band," Vernon said. "All of our stuff is fun music that's all about having a good time."

The band's current CD, "Leaving L.A.," is the third CD following 1994's "The Zookeepers" and 1995's "Set Me Free." The seemingly simple lyrics hold a deeper meaning and message to the group.

"The lyrics tend to run around the theme of escapism," Vernon said. "It's not necessarily about escaping life or a place, but escaping from your perspective."

All the members hold Monday through Wednesday "day" jobs. They use the long weekends to make their own escapes to college campuses and clubs to perform. Traveling as far as Spokane, Wash., and Lewiston, Idaho, Vernon said the long hours on the road can definitely take a toll on their bodies, but it never takes away from the performances.

We'll get to our location, set up everthing, perform, clean up, then get back in the van to head home for work," Vernon said. "It's tough, but it's always a fun time."

For those students who will be sitting in class at 1 p.m. or who want to catch an encore, the band will perform again at 10 p.m. at SLO Brewing Co. downtown, where they stopped once this part summer.

It was a good time when we stopped (at SLO Brewing Co.) this summer," Vernon said. "We're excited about returning to San Luis and playing on the campus.




The Music Connection (Los Angeles, CA): May 27, 1997

Club Reviews: The Zookeepers at Brennan's

by Bernard Baur

Material: There's one sure thing about the Zookeepers material, and that's that there's no shortage of it. After sitting through 20-some songs (I stopped counting after seventeen), I had enough and left before they were finished. As far as I know, they could still be playing their form of "lazy rock-party music." It may not have been so bad if you could tell one song from another, but other than a change in lyrics, the tune, the tempo and the style remained the same. The Zookeepers like to compare themselves to Jimmy Buffett and Dave Matthews, but they lack the originality of Matthews, and don't even come close to the level of Buffett's material, such as it is. A couple of times they broke stride for a moment and started playing a cover that they melded into one of their songs, which was a clever and unique approach. The one original song that showed any promise at all was "Set Me Free," which had a Grateful Dead type of feel to it. Which begs the question: Just what is it they're trying to do or be? Other groups like the Dead and Phish also play extended songs filled with long meandering jams, whereas the Zookeepers play fairly short songs that seem to last forever.

Musicianship: It's not hard to be consistent when you keep playing the same thing. The only standout in this group was Dunbar on bass. He frequently started the music, and showed promise that it might even go in a different direction, but once the others chimed in, it was the same old thing. Vernon's vocals were forgettable, thankfully, because, for the most part, his nasally, thin voice became very irritating. The group's drummer, McCowan, wasn't half-bad, and showed signs of talent when he and Dunbar kicked off a song.

Performance: I suppose a good excuse for the never-ending set was that this occasion was, in fact, a CD release party for the group's third independently produced album. But for a venue filled with close friends and fans, what was most notable in the crowd was their lack of attention paid to the band. In an obvious attempt to interact with the audience, Vernon left the stage with his wireless guitar and played among the crowd. They couldn't care less, and he ended up sitting on a bar stool, eventually working his way back to the stage. This is a band that plays for themselves in a pure form of musical masturbation. They say, "just give us an outlet and we'll play for anybody," and I have no doubt that they would.

Summary: This gig was the most mind-numbing experience I've had in years. I was praying for the set to end, or, at the very least, a change of material. The Zookeepers claim that they're not interested in recording contracts or working with any label (Editor's Note: this is bullshit, the Zookeepers make no such claim), which is a good thing, because otherwise, they might be disappointed. However, this same lack of ambition and outdated slacker attitude is reflected in their music.




The Orion (Chico State Univ., Chico, CA): January 29, 1997

Zookeepers anything but tame

They describe themselves as a cross between Jimmy Buffet and Dave Matthews. They sound a bit folky, a bit country - and they're a whole lot of fun. They're the Zookeepers, and they're headed our way.

They hail from Los Angeles, a city that's somewhat of a zoo. Their west coast tour begins this week, stopping off at LaSalle's doorstep. With the combination of their spirited sounds and lead vocalist Patrick Vernon's impromptu comedic jams, the Zookeepers are sure to provide relief for the back-to-school blues.

Touting a bluesy-sound themselves, their style is comparable to greats like Neil Young, James Taylor and the Grateful Dead, along with recent groups like Counting Crows, The Spin Doctors and Blues Traveler. They have produced two independent CDs, their latest being "Set Me Free." Currently they are in the basement finishing up on their third, "Leaving Los Angeles," due out by April 1. They have been labeled as "bluesy, alternative pop" but with three way harmonies and a combination of every musical genre except punk, they remain truly unclassifiable.

"Some people are scared off by the Buffet/Matthews description," said Patrick Vernon, the band's quick-witted and charismatic lead vocalist and writer. "Some people have an instant aversion to Jimmy Buffet. Mostly we're just having a good time."

For the three 'Keepers are Vernon, lead vocalist, guitar and harmonica, Albie Dunbar on bass, and new drummer Doug McCowan from the Swiss metal band, "China."

Their name was derived from the James Taylor song, "Knocking 'Round the Zoo," off of his first album. "We came up with that name six years ago, and it turned into a fun band. It's nice to have a little silliness," Vernon said.

Together they travel in their van, Tupie, touring the west coast. "If you don't like to ride in a van," Vernon said, "Then don't be in a band."

They have spent so much time on the road, in fact, that they began a column titled "Road Stories" on their web page. (http://www-scf.usc.edu/~rvernon/zoo.htm).

In a June 5, 1996 entry, Vernon writes: ..."During our last set, Chris, Patw and Albie were doing a few covers while I danced around like an idiot on the dance floor. At one point I made the fatal mistake of pulling off a guy's cowboy hat and exchanging mine for it. Cowboy's aren't too hip on little blue caps! That guy nearly took my head off. But I bowed to him several times, and prayed, and the incident passed without much bloodshed."

With the exception of near death experiences, the Zookeepers thrive on interaction with their audiences.

"I enjoy playing at places like LaSalles - you get to know the audiences, Vernon said. "It's a sense of community. We'll play if there are hundreds of people in the audience, or if there are just three people eating burritos wondering what we're doing there."

As artists, it's not the money that appeals to the Zookeepers. It's not fame or desire to be signed to a major label. They've chosen to stay independent and record their own albums in their small 16 track basement studio. The Zookeepers just want to concentrate on their passion - the music.

Vernon still wishes for increased audiences and popularity in 1997. "I would like enough audience so we could quit our day jobs," he said.

Even with talent that almost guarantees success, the Zookeepers will continue to play live venues. "When you're only recording albums and not playing to audiences, it's kind of empty," Vernon said.

Be sure to catch them tomorrow night at LaSalles, where they team up with their firneds, The Uninvited, for a dancin' good time. "Set Me Free" will be available at teh show. Get there around 9pm. It's free - no excuses.



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