Out: 'Night of the Living Deadhead' at ZuZu

VIDEO: Joel Roston does the Church's "Under The Milky Way" live at ZuZu

A few months ago, there was talk that ZuZu, the Middle East’s slightly swankier lounge, would stop hosting live music in favor of more DJ-centric music nights, like Solid! and the always-popular Soul-le-lu-jah. This hasn’t proved to be the case, I’m glad to report. On April 6, ZuZu hosted intimate sets by members of the former Boston band Frank Smith. And on April 13, there was “Night of the Living Deadhead,” a two-hour acoustic covers set with Joel Roston from the local exploded-hardcore band Big Bear, singer-songwriter Drew O’Doherty (a former member of the Ivory Coast and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists), and violist and occasional Thalia Zedek accomplice David Michael Curry.

By 10:30, a sizable number of people were lounging on ZuZu’s couches or had dragged chairs from their tables to the tiny dance floor where, a few feet away, Roston, O’Doherty, and Curry had perched themselves in front of the giant glass front window. ZuZu’s “stage” always features an extra element of sidewalk entertainment, as folks outside tap at their cellphones, smoke cigarettes (the distinct smell of cloves often drifts inside), conduct loud, drunken conversations, and occasionally press their foreheads against the glass to observe what’s happening within.

The crowd was quiet, though, as Roston played the Church’s “Under the Milky Way” on acoustic guitar. O’Doherty was moved to offer Roston “the award for doing a song that was on the first mixtape I got from a girl in high school.”

VIDEO: Drew O'Doherty does Morphine's "In Spite of Myself" live at ZuZu

Then it was O’Doherty’s turn: “I am going to answer to Joel’s throwing down the gauntlet of ’80s English tunes that were probably on soundtracks.” He stood up and let loose a deliberately slow version of the Psychedelic Furs’ “Pretty in Pink.” The room seemed a little stunned, as people recovered from the surprise of hearing a soft-rock staple transformed into something visceral and cool.

“I’d like to make a list of progressively zany songs to give to Drew,” Roston said. “He makes them sound so serious and awesome.”

Roston then played an array of serious and awesome songs as well. The Cat Stevens covers showcased his ability to impersonate the peace-loving singer (his voice took on a seriously Stevensy, whispery easiness), and they offered stark contrast to the loud, mammoth presence that Big Bear usually exude.

For O’Doherty, the performance wasn't such an enormous change of pace. “This’ll probably sound like a Neil Young song,” he warned, before playing a Jawbreaker cover. “All of them do.”

-- Caitlin E. Curran

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