ALO Tangles Up the Beachland Ballroom In Funky Joy Grooves

Concert Review

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You missed another good one, Cleveland. (Unless were there, in which case you had a hell of a good time.)

I bring that up only as a brief foundation for this review. One of the more dynamic bands in the U.S. these days (yes, really) hit Cleveland last night for the first time in more than two years. We and plenty other music writing outlets have published many words about them (their new album is a fantastic little trip), and, as in the cases all earnest stewards of contemporary culture, we've encouraged you to check 'em out.

ALO lit up the Beachland Ballroom last night with a varied set that touched on all corners of their canon and included a yarn jam wherein the band literally tangled up the crowd with "high-quality" yarn. They only tossed two new songs into the set — each a delight — while they jammed out their message of peace and good vibes. 

Zach Gill, rocking the keys beneath a massive buffalo hat (?), was in fine form as he and bandmates Steve Adams, bass, Dan Lebowitz, guitar, and Dave Brogan, drums, vaulted across time and kicked some gems from various points in their tenure together. 

Each tune featured excellent jamming. Lebo, as always, was dropping mind-bending solos. "Try," a song he sings lead on, seemed like the undisputed centerpiece to my ears; the mid-section jam was stellar. 

For this show, I spent a lot of time watching Brogan knock around the drums. And until last night, I'm not sure I fully grasped how much he drives the band's improv or how goddamn locked-in he is at all points. Dude's a machine. (When he led off "Wasting Time" in one of the encore slots, you couldn't help but nod your head in time, blissed out and content.)

A personal highlight was "Spectrum" into "Plastic Bubble," featuring Gill on the uke. "Spectrum" is undoubtedly one of the band's finest moments, a simple and upbeat jaunt through a vexed mind (and aren't we all quite familiar with that?). It was another example of the band strutting its ability to construct engaged sets and keep the audience, feverish with excitement, on its toes.

A yarn jam, folks.

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We here at Scene have written plenty of times about Cleveland's weird problem with filling out our independent music venues, with showing local and regional and national touring acts that Cleveland gives a damn about live music. I'm still not entirely sure what the issue is, but bands and fans have mentioned this concern to Scene many times over the years. 

Listen, the crowd was bringing it last night. Full-on enthusiasm, the sort that the band symbiotically feeds on, thereby increasing the collective energy in the room exponentially. So it's not like this is a problem, necessarily, for individual shows, but the crowd sizes at Cleveland's best indie venues should raise a few eyebrows. 

To cap off the show, the band dropped fan-favorite "BBQ," and Gill launched into some trademark banter toward the end. Casting an eclipse across the past two years in Cleveland, Gill actually continued what he was saying the last time the band was in town. He pointed out that Waterloo Road has come into its own, thanks to multi-million-dollar streetscaping projects and an explosion of local businesses — just like he hoped for two years ago, just like our whole city hoped for as North Collinwood business headlines revealed the neighborhood's uncertainty. To me, that was an extremely touching moment.

So, here we are, once again at the other end of the spectrum.

***

Here's the setlist, courtesy of Fluffhead:

Dead Still Dance
Sugar on your Tongue
The Ticket
Walls of Jericho
Nacho Monkey*
Country Electro
Try
Everybody Wants to Rule the World
Waiting for Jaden
Spectrum
Plastic Bubble
Room for Bloomin'

Encore:
Shine
Wasting Time
BBQ

* featuring yarn jam


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