By Ellen Eldridge
Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta hosted its Independence Day celebration with $1 hot dogs, fresh off the grill, on the back patio in view of nearby fireworks demonstrations and, upstairs, a show by local band I.O.Z. As the opening act for Col. Bruce Hampton, listed as a “Phish After-Party,” one might expect I.O.Z to be a run-of-the-mill experimental jam band. Certainly, aspects of this eight-member band include a second percussionist and a mac-wielding lead guitarist, which lend themselves to an experimental feel, but I.O.Z was a pleasant surprise brimming with talented musicians who made for a fun evening among friends. Not only is the music truly enjoyable to listen and dance to, but it resonates with music professionals as praise worthy. From the bassist, Jonathan Lee, and dual drummers, Greg Perry on drumset and Jeffery Hunt on percussion, congas and even a washboard, to the delightful horn section complete with Jon Marett on tenor sax, Brad Belvin on baritone sax and Jack Rogers I.O.Z completes a talented band.
From the start of the show, which matched the first track of the self-titled release, “Sun,” fans familiar with the music understood the treat in store. Those new to I.O.Z. could feel instantly connected to the group smiling and having a blast playing. One look at the stage and anyone could understand just what it means to play music with a dedicated group of friends who not only appreciate but understand the dynamics of music including a building up and releasing of energy. This could be heard in the opening song around the fourth minute where Steven Senn’s vocals echoed, “Then you turn off the light,” trailed off into cymbal rolls and introduced Daniel Groover’s guitar riff which could have matched that from a pop-punk band. The following chorus exploded by the time the lyrics, “…don’t like it here/Find somewhere else to go/Any second now I know something’s got to blow.”
A good-time feel permeated the crowd with what could be described as a slow ska, or reggae groove driving the song “Figment,” which added the horn section to the stage. The album version of this song included the horns, but the energy and atmosphere of experiencing it live made all the difference. The audience seemed to open up even more after the brass took the stage and that vibe of freedom and celebration took hold. What made I.O.Z. worth the price of a ticket was the effortless combination of styles mixed into songs. The band performed six of the nine tracks on the self-titled album and closed with “Rahtikan Chant” and “Now.” From the electronic samples in the beginning of “Back At Me” to that island sensation emanating from “Figment,” I.O.Z entertained a musically diverse and fun-loving fanbase which is sure to grow with each show played to promote the album. Check out I.O.Z. at the band’s MySpace and see them live at The Five Spot in Atlanta on July 31.