Animal Liberation Orchestra, the four-piece funk-jam and feel-good groove machine from the San Francisco Bay Area “Blew Out The Walls” off Moe’s Alley in Santa Cruz, CA on Friday night.
The two-set, deep-dive through their catalog (including brand-new additions) served as an excellent warm-up to their headlining set at the Petaluma Music Festival on Saturday. While the band came into what it is today while students at UC Santa Barbara, their friendship began as middle schoolers just over the hill from Santa Cruz in Saratoga, CA. Throughout the set, the band reminisced on growing up around the area.
ALO opened the first set with a relic in “Country Camper”, a fun, lighthearted introduction which originally appeared as an iTunes bonus track accompanying the full-length 2007 album, Roses & Clover. After a seven-minute road trip, a gentle transition into “I Love Music” got the crowd dancing. While the recording is over three minutes on the 2010 album Man of the World, Friday’s live version was stretched out to nearly 12 minutes.
Dan “LEBO” Lebowitz traded his acoustic for a seat at his pedal steel guitar for the fan-favorite “Wasting Time”. Also known as the “Isla Vista Song”, the sleepy beach town vibe of the track was a perfect fit for early placement in the first set in Santa Cruz. The fourth song of the evening was also one of the band’s newest. “Just a Spark” was released on July 19th as part of the Creatures: Vol 1 EP. The standalone track brewed excitement in the audience, who were highly supportive of the new tune.
Earlier in the set, keyboardist Zach Gill waxed poetic on the heat of the room, comparing it to practicing in a hot and sweaty basement, making the next choice of “Blew Out The Walls” even better. The track, which appears on 2012’s Sounds Like This is autobiographical and references the early days of being in a band and discovering the sound of music. The band segued the blistering double-time dance party right into “Dead Still Dance”, another track off the 2012 album.
A first set highlight heard the jam slowed down considerably for a spotlight on drummer Ezra Lipp and bassist Steve Adams. Eventually, Gill’s keyboards space-warped the sound into a quiet cacophony. At first, it seemed as if the band was going to segue into “Baba O’Riley” by The Who, but it never materialized.
“Heroes”, the second new song included in the show’s setlist, slowed things down considerably. It humanizes people we’ve put on a pedestal and reminds the listener that things can change, and it’s possible to be a hero yourself. The first track from the new Creatures Vol 1 EP then meshed into “Lady Loop”. The crowd leaned into the sing-along call-and-response of the song and the band ended the first half of the show on a high note.
The second set started with another sing-along to the 2015 track, “Push”. A strange, unique segue and new intro brought the crowd right into the 2004 deep cut “Pobrecito”. ALO then took their fans on another 12-minute ride before Gill slowed things down for a moment to really appreciate Adams on bass.
“This is my favorite moment of tonight,” Gill said. “We’ve summoned him. Good Time Stevie is here to make the magic happen! Shower him with love and he’ll shower you with magic – it’s reciprocated back and forth.”
Lebo then got back on the pedal steel and they kept a tight and slow groove on “Not Old Yet”. They followed up with “Baby Blind Spot”, another brand-new song.
Watch the band’s performance of “Blind Spot” from Friday below.
ALO – “Blind Spot” – 8/2/2019
[Video: Must Have Media]
“Roses & Clover” came next, and was met with a ton of fan appreciation. The jam took an unplanned twist into several verses of The Beatles‘ “Blackbird”. LEBO took a hard left into a desperado guitar solo before the audience realized they were ending the set with a rowdy “BBQ” sandwich, featuring a planned movement into U2’s “Where The Streets have No Name” sandwiched in the middle section.
A 20-minute encore followed beginning with “Simple Times” from the 2012 album Tangle of Time. As the band exited the stage a second time, the crowd and LEBO connected. Asking if folks in the audiences wanted to hear a deep cut, he and the band members quickly figured out what they were going to play. A fan had responded to LEBO with a request for “Room For Blooming”, but what he didn’t know was that the very song was cut from earlier in the show’s setlist. They obliged with a 15-minute expansion into the end of the evening.
Animal Liberation Orchestra’s upcoming shows include their appearance at Foam Fest in Squaw Valley, CA on August 31st, followed by a Labor Day performance at Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael, CA on September 2nd. Head to the band’s website for tickets to the two upcoming performances.
Scroll down for a gallery from Friday’s show at Moe’s Alley, courtesy of photographer Joshua Huver.