Beloved Zoe Keating Weaves Instrumental Cello Pop at Yoshi's

Categories: Last Night
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Zoe Keating 
October 12, 2010 @ Yoshi's

Better Than: A Christopher Nolan movie soundtrack (almost)

If you've still been kicking yourself over not getting tickets for those Godspeed You! Black Emperor reunion shows, last night's show at Yoshi's would have been a nice substitute for your apocalyptic string-rock needs. Zoe Keating soaks up all the atmosphere in any given room like a sponge and spits it out in the form of densely arranged, cinematic cello spirals and loops. And her signature style is perfect for a place like Yoshi's, which abuses mood lighting like it's garlic (you can never have too much garlic!)


Zoe maximized the possibilities of the cello, utilizing every sound that the unwieldy instrument has ever been capable of making. Slides, plucks, percussional noises, and strums are fused with the capabilities of a laptop to create a one-woman symphony of subterranean and rustic soundscapes. "I got off on playing in high school symphonies," she confessed before breaking into a cover of Beethoven's 7th. "So I really love working within all these cellos."

She capped the night off signing albums of hers and talking to her many adoring fans ... and I mean adoring. If the love for Zoe wasn't already evident by the fact that she's topped the iTunes classical charts four times, then last night it was secured by an audience that fawned over her every statement and motion. "WE LOVE YOU ZOE!"

Twitter Revelation: "I hope I remember 1) how to play the cello, 2) all the parts at the right time, 3) what button to press when." Zoe's cute uncertainty continued throughout the night as she openly mused on the challenge it is for her to play many of the songs live. "I love that there's a towel on my laptop," she observed as soon as getting on stage. Her concentrated workouts with Ableton and Sooplooper necessitate it.

Critic's Notebook

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Artist Complexion: Dramatically pale. Like Robert Smith-pale. Zoe lives in the redwoods now, so being surrounded by trees probably isn't helping.

Things that reminded me of MC Escher: Song titles ("Tetris Head," "Exergency"), Zoe's labyrinthine hairstyle -- which defied the laws of physics -- and the equally serpentine loops and layers of laptop-cello-pedal engineering.

Sound: Swoon-inducing. Like taking a triple-shot of Absinthe before stepping outside of the bar just in time to see the sun exploding.

Closing song: "Optimist" -- "This is a pop song -- if instrumental cello music could be called pop," she announced. "Feel free to make up your own lyrics and sing along -- in your head. Use your inside voice."

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Zoe's fandom: At an all-time high. She not only sold out her 8:00 p.m. show, forcing her to add a second show at 10:00 p.m., but also performed two encores -- not just planned ones, but the sort of classic spontaneous encore where the audience actually doesn't let the performer leave the stage without getting more songs out of them. "I have nothing else to play, but that's never stopped me before."

Audience: The sort of sophisticated crowd that gives you dirty looks when you're texting too loudly. I would expect no less from a venue that serves sushi, plays smooth jazz, and has a massage table.

Sushi report: There couldn't have been a better day for sushi. When stepping outside feels like walking into an oven, the best choice for meals is definitely something that's raw and refreshing -- it works wonders to retain your energy. The only problem was that the Dragon roll was so good, I was having difficulty resisting the urge to surrender all table manners. At a show where photography is barely allowed, every audience member is in formal wear, and completely hypnotized by the stage at all times, there's no easier way to feel like a dick than by tearing into your food like a fat kid at his last supper.

Difficulty getting the ability to take photos: Very hard. It's pretty funny when you've gotten the permission from everyone who matters on staff at Yoshi's -- and even the performer -- and are still getting warnings that there's no photography. That sort of thing happens in nearly every job. Bureaucracy fail.

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