Too Many Zooz Live at the Danforth

Hailing from New York City’s subway busker scene, Too Many Zooz, comprised of members Leo Pellegrino, Matt Muirhead, and David Parks, brought their mesmerizing energy to the Danforth Music Hall stage on March 9, 2019.

Too Many Zooz is perhaps one of the most well-known examples of busker groups who have gained a large enough following worldwide to become full-time touring musicians. If you aren’t familiar with their music, you may also recognize them by Leo’s vibrant fashion sense and colourful array of hairstyles. On baritone sax, most would consider Leo the centre of the show.

We’ve all seen buskers in a subway station. Whether you walk by them in passing or stick around for a few minutes to film a clip of a song, there is a constant flow of traffic filtering through and around these musicians. They usually blend into the fabric of a city. Some, however, become viral on the internet, and aptly name their début album Subway Gawdz. This is Too Many Zooz.

There is a certain grind that I believe only buskers understand. As they said on stage, for every one video you see on Youtube, they were there 10,000 other times where they played the same song in the same place, and it was recorded by nobody. They show up in the best of weather and the worst of weather. If that’s not admirable, what is?

This hustle is so evident during their live show. Matt accompanies Leo with triumphant trumpet licks, while David smashes his drum for what seems like a never-ending, continuous set where the beat is free-flowing.

What makes them so compelling to watch is largely attributed to Leo’s performative aspect of playing the sax. He runs, jumps on and off of a riser, and floats almost seamlessly around the stage with what seems like impossibly fancy footwork. Not only is he now considered one of the world’s best baritone sax players, but it comes so naturally to him that he is able to add his own motion and dance to their sound, which is paving the way for another genre of live music altogether. It’s entirely accessible listening for almost any member of the general public who enjoys upbeat dance music.

Leo spoke about the importance of music education and encouraging young people around you who show a passion or desire for the arts to pursue it. He credited a lot of his success to his parents supporting him from a very young age in music and dance.

The floor in the venue had just enough space between fans that everyone was able to dance freely and without judgment (including a very young toddler attending the show in their pyjamas). As the trio focused their energy into each other and their instruments on stage, it created a sea of swaying fans often moving in unison. The band’s love for music is infectious.

Playing for well over an hour straight, it felt like they could have played for many more without fading intensity. They’ve got the grind down pat and created a fully immersive show that doesn’t stray too far from the set up they used in the subway a handful of years ago. This is the kind of refreshing show that you need in your life from time to time to reset and allow yourself to open yourself up to new possibilities of what can be done on a stage outside a traditional band configuration.

Words and photos by Morgan Hotston