Animal Liberation Orchestra wows crowd in Raleigh

by Lauren Cartwright

Who the hell names their band Animal Liberation Orchestra?

Nowhere in the band’s press kit does it give one inkling behind the group’s name. One can only imagine that the Animal Liberation Orchestra is traveling around the world setting zoo animals free with music. Not sure about the animal freedom campaign, but their summer job as opening act for Dave Matthews appears to be working out for them.

A quick peek at the band’s MySpace page reveals a headline that claims ‘“Liberating your inner animal.’” And their music does make a person want to dance about ‘— even in public ‘— in a way that white people should only do in the privacy of their own homes.

The Animal Liberation Orchestra (ALO) gave a crowd-pleasing performance at Raleigh’s Alltel Pavilion on June 21. On the hottest day of the year in North Carolina a sparse early audience seemed to enjoy the show given by the groovy quartet.

Lead singer and keyboardist Zach Gill addressed the audience before launching into the songs ‘— giving a little back-story. With a causal banter while tinkling the keyboard, Gill reminded you of that Will Ferrell skit on ‘“Saturday Night Live’” ‘— only without the polyester suit and bad cover songs.

Hailing from Santa Barbara, Calif., the group has that college band slacker appeal mixed with some groove and jazz. This set has the intimacy of watching from the outside of their practice garage rather than in a 20,000-seat pavilion.

ALO’s lyrics are at times cheesy, but put a smile on your face for their frankness. Their musical friend/ college buddy Jack Johnson cameos on their latest release Fly Between Falls. ALO recently joined Brushfire Records, the same label Johnson is with. Johnson sings on the group’s song ‘“Girl I Wanna Lay You Down’”:

‘“Turn out the lights, bring out the candles. Wrap you arms around my love handles.’”

Candles? Sexy. Turn down the lights? Romantic. The love handles? Not so hot ‘— but very real.

Gill said he recognized a few faces in the audience from Tuesday night’s show in Charlotte. Someone from the audience yelled, ‘“How ’bout Saturday?’” To which guitarist Dan Lebowitz grinned in a knowing way of that performance somewhere in New York.

ALO has been together in some variety since middle school. Bassist Steve Adams and drummer David Brogan round out the foursome with Lebowitz and Gill. The group was once a nine-piece unit and in 2002 ‘— after reuniting with Brogan ‘— the band became the lineup touring today.

The Fly Between Falls album made its way into the YES! Weekly office a few days before the concert and will most likely stay in rotation for a few months in the six-disc changer in this reporter’s car. A good summertime record, the quirky lyrics and mellow grooves welcome an open window and some steering wheel thumping.