Zox rocks for Habitat for Humanity

The Rhode Island-based band Zox came back to Pittsburgh last weekend, electrifying an excited audience with their energy-filled live show. The quartet was greeted by a combination of loyal fans and interested first-timers, but made sure no one left unsatisfied. From the opening chords of ?The Squid? to the last refrain of ?Canon,? the four boys from Providence put on a show that few could forget.

The concert, a benefit event for Habitat for Humanity, was held at Bellefield Hall, a small theatre venue much different from the other local places (The Underground, the Quiet Storm) they have played in the past. Since the show ran late, audience members expecting to see Zox play at 10 pm were instead treated to an enjoyable performance by the Pitt band SoulPatch. Though their vocals were occasionally drowned out by a poor soundboard, their songs still came across as catchy, if not memorable. They could best be described as a mellow cross between O.A.R. and the Screaming Trees. Though they have four very capable musicians, they never really cut loose and jam, teasing the listener each time they seemed to be taking their songs to another level.

After Soulpatch?s entertaining set and an unusually long sound check, Zox jumped right in and never looked back. In their opener, old fan favorite ?The Squid,? violinist Spencer Swain tore through the ominous opening solo and ripped through the rest of the song, leading into a mesmerizing instrumental ending that featured finger picking, posing bassists, crashing cymbals, and an intense finale that mirrored the story of singer Eli Miller?s heartfelt lyrics. This song set the pace for the night, as the boys flowed from song into song, pausing only for the occasional crowd banter that made the band seem like they were the same as the rest of us. They even stopped on many occasions call out to the Carnegie Mellon fans that were prevalent throughout the crowd. These breaks never lasted long, and before the crowd could figure out exactly what the band was saying, they?d taken off into another energetic piece.

Interspersed between songs from their first label album, Take Me Home, were new works that showcased the band?s ability to create affective lyrics backed by memorable melodies. Most notable was the heated breakup song ?Burning Bridges,? which delivered a scathing, almost taunting sound, echoing the sentiment presented in the vocals, in which Miller sings, ?and when I?m gone ... you?ll be gone too.?

However, the defining moment of the concert was Spencer Swain?s intense three-minute transition from radio single ?Rain On Me? to the new piece ?Spades.? Swain, who has been a classically trained violinist since the tender age of five, twirled a story from his wailing instrument, showcasing a skill that is rarely seen at rock concerts. As the tempo of the piece escalated to move into the next song, the crowd erupted, setting the pace for the eventual finale, a cover of Johann Pachelbel?s
famous ?Canon.?

At the start of this song, the band brought the entire crowd to its feet. Many concertgoers spilled onto the stage itself, dancing clumsily to the song?s classical-funk rhythms. As the adrenaline-laced concert finally came to an end, the band stayed for hours afterwards to meet the fans who had been dancing next to them.

Zox is one of the most original bands touring today. Rather than use the violin as accompaniment, like the band Yellowcard, they allow it to be the centerpiece of the band. The end result is a rich, emotional sound that can change from happy and energetic to slow and soulful in a heartbeat. Combine that with more energy than a high school cheerleading team, accomplished musicians, and conversations that are more nerd than rock star, and you?ve got an explosive combination.