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KUZ, Mainz, Germany
20th September 2009
Zoot Woman, Station 17

On the occasion of our 11th international “Grenzenlos Kultur” theatre festival in Mainz (which took place from September 10th to September 26th), the popular British synth pop / electroclash band ZOOT WOMAN was supposed to perform in our local cultural centre, alongside German experimental band STATION 17. This show also happened to be the German kickoff show of ZOOT WOMAN’s fall promo tour in support of their new third album ‘Things Are What They Used To Be’. However, unlike the other shows on the European tour, and since it was a special performance at a festival, ZOOT WOMAN did not bring along SCARLET SOHO as support act this time. The decision to attend this show was made rather spontaneous but since I live really close to Mainz, I arrived at the venue very early, just to see only a handful of people standing and sitting there apart from me and my friend. But this gaping void should change as soon as STATION 17 hit the stage just in time at 8 PM.

Station 17

Hamburg residents STATION 17 are special not only because of their experimental music that really needs time to get used to, but also because it is what one would call an integrative collective of musicians where handicapped people are playing alongside people without a handicap. The band particularly offers people with handicaps the chance to fulfil themselves artistically and musically and to perform in front of the most different audiences. In 2009, the collective is officially celebrating its 20-year-anniversary and can up to now proudly look back on 6 studio albums, numerous 12” releases, the formation of an own record label (17rec.) and cooperations and sessions with several well-known artists.

Their current work ‘Goldstein Variationen’ once again shows this cooperative spirit and in fact impresses with an illustrious round of guests that includes artists such as FETTES BROT, Michael Rother (NEU!), STEREO TOTAL, THE ROBOCOP KRAUS, Melissa Logan (CHICKS ON SPEED) and GUILDO HORN. With the help of these artists, STATION 17 was able to capture certain moments in the studio and were also able to redefine their own sound aesthetics. The band is also keen on mixing music and art together and therefore also puts a high emphasis on visual aspects such as cover artworks and music videos in order to accompany the sonic experience.

Music & Performance
As soon as STATION 17 played the first note, the KUZ became more and more crowded. A lot of people did not want to miss this interesting and extraordinary spectacle, even if they (like me) had never heard of this band before and mainly attended the show because of ZOOT WOMAN. First of all I was impressed by the amount of people onstage. STATION 17 consists of 12 people, and all these 12 people had in fact found their place on the rather small stage. I had read before that the band is playing experimental, electronica-influenced music that will definitely not be anyone’s cup of tea, and after the first few songs I had to admit that it was indeed very strenuous to listen to their often seemingly monotonous soundscapes and the roaring voices of lead vocalists Andi and Dennis.

Nevertheless the whole band really delivered an energetic and passionate performance that appeared to be very entertaining and stirring throughout their set. One could really see that these musicians love being onstage and playing for people, and they also really included the audience into their performance and spoke to them constantly. The set included both songs with vocals (and German lyrics) and instrumentals and were well-received by the audience that was also to a greater extent made up by handicapped people. The band was even called back onstage to play an encore, and obviously had a lot of fans. After having played for about an hour, STATION 17 wrapped up their set with one last song and then made room for ZOOT WOMAN.

Music: 3
Performance: 7
Sound: 7
Light: 7
Total: 5.4 / 10

Zoot Woman

British electronic / synth poppers ZOOT WOMAN, originally consisting of vocalist Johnnie Blake, drummer Adam Blake and bassist and keyboarder Stuart Price, has been around for fourteen years and has since released three studio albums. In 2005, Price, who is also a renowned producer and remixer who has worked with superstars such as Madonna, Seal and The Killers, decided to focus more on said production and remix duties and rarely made any live appearances with ZOOT WOMAN again from that point on. However, ZOOT WOMAN quickly found new support in Jasmin O’Meara who since then helps out the guys on bass, keyboard or background vocals at live shows. Five years after their last self-titled release, ZOOT WOMAN are now back with their new third album that takes the sound of the previous ones to an even higher level and combines all the classic trademarks of ZOOT WOMAN with new experiments and striking 80ies reminiscences. So, unlike the album title ‘Things Are What They Used To Be’ the guys really move forward into unknown terrain - but of course without forgetting about their roots.

Music and Performance
Surprisingly, ZOOT WOMAN started out their set with their hit single ‘We Won’t Break’ which had been released in 2007 and redone in 2009 so that it could be included on the new album. Since me and my friend had found a place in the front row, we had a really good view onto the stage, and I immediately really enjoyed how the lightshow was accompanying the synth beats, especially in the intro of the song. Vocalist Johnnie Blake wore a flashy blue suit (and even blue shoes!) that reminded of the 80ies, while Jasmin O’Meara wore extreme high-heels that nevertheless did not prevent her from moving along to the beats. Adam Blake on drums made the trio complete, and after having experienced 12 people on stage during STATION 17’s set, it was in fact quite refreshing to have a convenient amount of musicians on stage again.

With ‘Lonely By Your Side’ another song from the new album then followed up ‘We Won’t Break’ and was well-received by the audience that grew steadily and that slowly started to dance along to the catchy and rhythmic beats of the band. Luckily, the sound, which had been a bit unstable and unbalanced during the first song, improved a lot during the second song which led to Johnnie’s voice being heard even more clearly. The following two songs ‘Woman Wonder’ and ‘Grey Day’ quickly took the listeners back to the era of the self-titled album, only to return to the present state of the band afterwards with the performance of ‘Saturation’ that impresses with a nice, rhythmic interlude and a very poppy feeling in the verses. In general, the performed songs sometimes quite differ from the studio versions, which is of course due to the fact that ZOOT WOMAN cannot realize all elements, beats, and electronic collages of the album as a three-piece onstage. However, one could also perceive slight tempo variations or some newly improvised parts from time to time.

‘It’s Automatic’, the opener and hit single from ZOOT WOMAN’s debut album ‘Living In A Magazine’ then happened to be one of the highlights in the set. Since it is one of the most popular songs of the band, the audience immediately went crazy and danced and sang along to the simple, but catchy lyrics of the song. Another mix of new and old songs followed up this highlight and made sure to keep up the heat in the now very crowded KUZ. ‘More Than Ever’ turned out to be another one of my highlights, especially with the passionate vocals of Johnnie singing “I still want you more than ever.” All tracks of ZOOT WOMAN are of a quite short length, and of course this gives the band the chance to play longer sets that surely please fans of every record and development. Therefore, after having played 15 songs, ZOOT WOMAN were still all but finished with their set, even though the audience might have expected the band to close their set with the song ‘Live In My Head’ that is also the final track of their current album. The catchy refrain and the great, partly improvised interlude made this song another great moment of the evening before the whole show reached another peak with the first encore part. I must admit that I have always loved the debut album the most, and therefore I had been eagerly waiting for ‘Information First’ and the title track ‘Living In A Magazine’.

The first encore part satisfied this appetite, and also the appetite of other fans who had even screamed for the latter song earlier. The set was then wrapped up with ‘Just A Friend Of Mine’ from the current album and left the audience satisfied, stunned, and sweaty. All in all, I really enjoyed the concert and I was amazed at how long ZOOT WOMAN played, considering that this was just an offshoot gig from their tour. The lighting and the music went very well together, and it was a special pleasure to see Jasmin moving lively along the stage while either playing bass or keyboard. The only thing I missed was the interaction and communication between the band and the fans but maybe ZOOT WOMAN are just one of those bands that rather let the music speak for itself. In fact, I really felt the atmosphere and vibe that the band wanted to create and they played a great set that included all the hit songs and basically all of my favourite songs. Quality-wise, this was definitely a solid, dynamic show with a quite decent sound, and I can only hope to see the guys again soon.

01. We Won’t Break
02. Lonely By Your Side
03. Woman Wonder
04. Grey Day
05. Saturation
06. It’s Automatic
07. Lust Forever
08. Taken It All
09. More Than Ever
10. Snow White
11. Gem
12. Memory
13. Witness
14. Hope In The Mirror
15. Live In My Head
16. Information First
17. Living In A Magazine
18. Holiday Home
19. Just A Friend Of Mine

Music: 9
Performance: 7
Sound: 8
Light: 9
Total 8.3 / 10

All pictures by Daniela Vorndran ( / /


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