Hot Day at the Zoo, a fiercely progressive 4-piece string band grown in Lowell, MA, is quickly spreading their eclectic roots up and down the eastern seaboard and as far west as Colorado. Celebrating their 5th year together as a band in January \'08, David Cleaves (mandolin, vocals), Jon Cumming (banjo, dobro, vocals,), Michael Dion (guitar, harmonica, vocals,) and Jed Rosen (upright bass, vocals) HDATZ released this eagerly anticipated sophomore EP, \'Long Way Home\' in the summer of 2008. Darker and edgier than the wildly popular debut, full-length album ‘Cool As Tuesday’, the new EP features 5 gritty, emotionally charged songs. ‘Gypsy Moon’, the album’s opener, is a song that encompasses and transcends the band’s love/hate relationship with the great city of Lowell. At the same time, the song is cleverly intertwined with Edgar Allen Poe’s gothic masterpiece “The Raven”. The result is a deep, melancholy blues number filled with angst, bitterness and despair yet laced with subtle undertones of hope and longing. The title track, ‘Long Way Home’, is an intelligently penned song that tells the story of opposition soldiers that meet at the end of the Civil War as they journey back home. ‘Lost’ is somewhat of a biographical travel song inspired by the life of Lowell’s own poet laureate Jack Keroauc, as seen through the eyes of an old man. ‘Outside Looking In’ is a sing-along ballad that speaks of naive regrets, harsh self-examination and perseverance in the face of life’s many trials. ‘The Wheel’ tells us a tale of the unrelenting turbulence of life on the road, obstacles that are faced, and challenges overcome.
Perhaps it’s easier to coin a word to describe them than it is to pigeon hole their music. Fans describe their pioneering sound as “ZooGrass”. Fact, fiction or fable, their tunes are layered with intricacies and depth reminiscent of Robert Hunter and the Grateful Dead. Their bluesy, grassy, jazzy, old-timey, reggae, Americana infused rock and roll was inspired by many great musicians spanning a broad spectrum of time and genre. With influences ranging from the Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, John Prine, Bob Marley, Sam Bush, Bruce Cockburn, Charles Mingus, Elvis, and bands like the Beatles, Steely Dan, Nirvana and Pink Floyd, it is easy to see and hear what makes them attract a very diverse fan base. Sights and sounds from the everyday to the exotic are infused in their craft. Tight musicianship, skillful songwriting and amazing personalities introduce us to places they have traveled, people they have loved, those they have lost, and those they surround themselves with. Hot Day at the Zoo is skillful at drawing in a draw a crowd, amusing the audience and leaving roots music fans begging for more.
Something happens at a Zoo show that you have to experience in person to fully appreciate. Their onstage camaraderie and self-deprecating humor make every show something to behold. The culinary equivalent would be eating large quantities of pop rocks, soda and whiskey. Yeah, your stomach might explode, but you’re going to have an excellent time nonetheless. While their studio sound displays the band’s temperate sensibility, the live show is where the raw emotion of this band simmers. Their typical 3 set show works the audience slowly and methodically like a steam engine preparing for its ascent up a mountain. The enthusiasm they exude in their live performances stokes the fires and their followers for the long journey ahead. Mercilessly chugging along, always picking up loose strays along the way, and tirelessly building momentum, they take us to the mountain’s peak. Descending into the valley below, it feels as if we’ve lost the brakes as well as our inhibitions. The energy is infectious as it spreads quickly through the room and through all walks of life. The crowds are getting bigger at every show, and you can bet that before too long you’ll be drinking and singing along with the same people you saw at the last show. There’s no looking back for this band. Good things are happening quickly, and their time is now. It’s full steam ahead for Hot Day at the Zoo as they prepare for another busy summer. Gaining considerable momentum in upstate New York since their appearance at the Snoe.Down festival in Lake Placid, NY and the Solar Stage at Mountain Jam IV at Hunter Mountain, the band is set to play the String Fling, the Empire State Brew Festival, the Good Omens Music Festival and they have also been invited back to the Sterling Stage Folk Festival. HDATZ continues their festival tour with stops at Summer Hooka 12 in Ohio and A Bear’s Picnic in Pennsylvania. Also this summer, they will be playing along side the legendary rock band moe. and the Ryan Montbleau Band at the Maine State Pier in Portland as well as with Levon Helm at the Lowell Summer Music Series in Lowell, MA.
\"Spreading their Celtic, reggae-tinged, down-home, stomping music out across the country, the band that played its first gig at a Lowell Folk Festival is no longer small-town. Selling out the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge for their fifth anniversary in January was proof they are expanding their fan base at home. Serendipitously, as Hot Day At The Zoo hits its stride, a renewed interest in roots music has taken hold across the country. Bands like Hot Buttered Rum String Band are heating up the national circuit with Hot Day in their wake.\" - Lowell Sun 3/08
\"The new EP does show a creative leap from Cool As Tuesday. The sound is more diverse, and the arrangements are more tightly meshed. “Gypsy Moon (The Raven)” blends a theme of wanderlust with the supernatural inspiration of Edgar Allan Poe’s gothic masterpiece. Cleaves’s clip-clopping mandolin rhythm drives the story at a speedy, precise trot, and Dion’s vocal and harmonica nod toward the Minnesotan nicknamed Jack Frost. “Outside Looking In” is similarly Dylanesque, though it sounds as if moonshine were also a factor in its ragged-but-right performance. Cumming’s banjo comes to the fore in “The Wheel,” a road song that seems like an Appalachian version of the Buddhist cycle of life and death — though with, yes, a considerable helping of whiskey. And then there’s “Lost,” an up-tempo yarn of “a life gone wrong” that has the peppery spirit of an Irish drinking song.\" - Boston Phoenix 1/08
\"When we think of a hot day at the zoo, we picture lethargic animals and sweating visitors. But this Hot Day at the Zoo is very cool, and anything but lethargic. The frenetic foursome from Lowell peels off a gritty urban-bluegrass sound laced with folk, blues, ragtime, and jazz - a mix their fans call \'ZooGrass\'.\" - Boston Globe 1/08