Two years ago, I moved from Miami to Berkeley. My very first night in California, I ate dinner with a friend of a friend. What was she listening to as she cooked up some delicious but unmemorable dish? Zion I. She was listening to Zion I. She had just seen them rock some venue down in Oakland and was now hooked. To be honest, I didn't listen to them again until the recent One Night Music session. A new life in California had taken hold. I moved into a tree-house-like in-law apartment with a person who was special to me and we were enraptured by all the music we saw. Perhaps it just wasn’t our time yet, Zion I.
Two years later, I found myself in a gorgeous building in a not-so gorgeous neighborhood in San Francisco. I entered the loft, frazzled, as I had just been heckled by some unruly cretins on the street. I sat on the floor and began to look around with my container of brussel sprouts and coffee in my lap. As the ONM crew prepped the space, I decided to mosey around. I left the primary room where the event was to take place and found myself before a narrow hallway. Maps and photographs of earthquakes lined the walls. Later on, the audience members would look at them with interest just as I had. I followed the hallway and turned a corner and I found myself about to walk into an elevator shaft that was somehow reminiscent of Barton Fink. I made my way back into the larger room, feeling not quite comfortable enough to join the set up process. I was just planning on writing and that's not really doing anything, right? I felt a bit like an outsider, even though I was present for the same reasons as the others.
The members of Zion I (AmpLive and Zumbi) with an additional performer (Codany Holiday) entered the space with their manager and their interning manager, a 17-year-old kid and his well-kempt girlfriend. I observed the film crew and their approaches to Zumbi, the frontman of Zion I. Instead of continuing my crow-like pose, I decided to throw aside my feelings of timidity and approach Zumbi myself. “Hi. My name is Lauren. I will be your sign language translator throughout the performance.” He looked at me, began to laugh, and shared with me how cool it would have been if I were serious. I slowly, slowly began to open up. In another minute, I let him know that a chunk of ginger root fell out of his pants. He asked if I have a joke for every minute I’m in the room. Of course. Zion I went up to sound check and I thought about how established they seem. AmpLive seemed so assertive in his stance before his toys. Codany captivated the room with his truly awesome singing voice. If the dude sang Gospel music, I would start to listen to Gospel music. These guys have been doing it for years. Recently, they opened for Mos Def and Talib Kweli at the Fox Theater in Oakland, if that’s not doin’ it, I don’t know what is.
Before the sound check, Ian (ONM) asked the audience if we would move closer to the stage. He wanted the session to exude a close-knit feeling and you can’t have close-knit without a tight audience. At first, I felt apprehensive. Serious hip-hoppin' before 3 pm? Rubbing shoulders with strangers without having a drink first? Can I do this? As the music began, I moved to the front right away. Ian had no need to worry about whether or not the session looked close-knit. It was. The rhythm and the energy of Zion I had us all instantly grooving. It was clear that the audience and the performers connected. Music fed dancing, dancing fed music. ONM was able to capture this truly intimate connection. Unfortunately, it will be at least a month until we get to see them again. They are currently on the Fall 2010 Rebelution Tour with Tribal Seeds, visiting far-off locales such as Carbondale, Illinois. However, on Saturday, November 20th there will be an album release show at Slims. We will see you there.
Recorded in The Epicenter in San Francisco, CA. on August 28, 2010.