Live From outer space: Zoopy Show lands Saturday at Tahoe Underground
The aliens have concurred: Tahoe is ready for invasion. Their alter egos from the Bay Area agree: South Shore can handle a visit by the Zoopy Show.
Just what concertgoers are in for requires a little more explanation. The Zoopy Show is rock ‘n’ roll, and yes, the band performs in full costume, usually with a puppet and two or three go-go dancers accompanying.
But would the band members characterized it as live anime, a kinder, gentler GWAR or, as the East Bay Express described it, Jim Henson and Ween spawning quadruplets.
And more importantly, how would the alien monsters the musicians play onstage describe the Zoopy Show so the uninitiated could understand what they’re going to see Saturday, May 24, at the Tahoe Underground?
“I guess we always say, it’s a rocktronic live Muppet musician band with punk-rock go-go dancers: booty-shaking beats and metal guitar, or disco metal. Sometimes it’s described as that,” said Patrick Fry, who stars as Dancing Piggy Boy, one of the three aliens that gradually morphed from a comic book and puppet show into Zoopy’s elaborate stage show. “Sexually charged dancehall GWAR. It has an element of artiness, for the arty people, but really we’re not that arty. We’re pretty base in a way.”
That’s the Zoopy Show at its simplest: Three musicians in space monster costumes playing a mash-up of punk guitar and punk-funk bass lines in front of an electronic techno beat, with lyrics that extol the virtues of beautiful women and herbal treats. Even at its simplest, though, the Zoopy Show is a complex proposition.
“I work really hard on the music ” it’s not simple music. There’s a lot of programming involved on the MIDI stuff,” Fry said. “It’s all alchemy. It’s very sharply measured out.”
And even at its simplest, the Zoopy Show usually gets some kind of reaction, from curiosity to interest in the go-go dancers out in the crowd to audience members jumping onstage to an ardent following to the occasional outburst of passionate hatred. The only thing the Zoopy Show might not be prepared to handle is ambivalence.
“It’s funny: I would say that if someone’s not going to be into it, there’s not much I can do about it.”
The Zoopy Show, then, is an act with a few levels ” beyond, even the elaborate stage show. The current act ” Fry, Jody “Madball” Gelbart and Jayson Passaro with instruments and in costume, a hyphy puppet co-star and a go-go dancer or three ” traces its roots back more than a decade to the Bay Area.
Fry said that in 1993, Gelbart and his twin brother started drawing a comic book, “Zoopy Funk,” and selling it for a dollar, then made puppets based on the comics and performing a show based on the characters.
The puppet show added music from a band, which toured for a while before breaking up while it still had shows on the schedule. Fry, who had been playing bass in punk bands and sampling for longer than that, soon fell in with Jody Gelbart, and the newest incarnation of the Zoopy myth grew out of that.
“I was like, ‘Woah, this is exactly what I’ve wanted to do since I was 17,’ ” he said.
This summer marks two years of the current incarnation of the Zoopy Show. The stage show (the Zoopys are also working on a show with the Adult Swim division of the Cartoon Network ” “It’s kind of like if you take the Muppets and you take ‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force:’ It’s adult-ass ‘Muppet Show,” Fry explained) loosely picks up on the Zoopy Funk myth: Four space monsters, Dancing Piggy Boy, Slee-nard (Gelbart) and the Fartfyre Dragon (Passaro) and Zappato (the puppet) steal their homeworld’s most powerful spaceship in an effort to save the universe.
After the destruction of their homeworld, they eventually crash-land on earth, where a group of nuns helps nurse the aliens back to health.
“As soon as the monsters are healthy again, they realize they want to dismantle their weapons and play music,” Fry said, and rock ‘n’ roll makes the nuns abandon their habits and don the revealing costume of the Zoopy Girlz go-go dancers.
The Zoopy Show has the aliens touring in their half-broken spaceship and picking up the narrative onstage. The show used to have a voice actor and an actress helping pick up the story and narrate through Zappato’s monologues, although that’s becoming more the province of Dancing Piggy Boy.
“Now, I kind of do it, but I’m also kind of a drunken monster, so I’m not always focused on it,” Fry said.
Despite the long and convoluted background, the show doesn’t adhere to a rigid structure.
“It changes every time,” Fry said. “It’s improvised, to an extent.”
“Our show is actually pretty repetitive in a way ” our set list doesn’t change very much.”
But Fry and Co. take their characters seriously ” as seriously as it’s possible to take puppets of space monsters, anyway.
“One of the cool things about it is a lot of the songs are infused with lyrics that are not from our point of view, from the monsters’ point of view,” he said.
“Shit will get me down as a human, but we write from the point of view of the monsters.”
What the Zoopy Show lacks in structure it makes up for in spontaneity: The go-go dancers and costumed aliens head out into the crowd. Everybody involved stays in character from the time the show begins until long after it’s over.
“Before the show, during the show, after the show, we stay with the people,” Fry said. “We create this atmosphere, and we bring the people in with us.”
And the performers aren’t just putting on a show for the crowd: They’re all part of the performance.
“Sometimes we might be sober and keeping it sharp, and sometimes we’ll be wasted and kicking the shit out of each other on the stage.”
That’s how Fry described it. But the stars of the Zoopy Show interact with their fans in character, and Fry’s might have cast the show in a different light.
“I think Dancing Piggy Boy would say, ‘Warning, may cause seizures,’ with a big grin. And a big Jersey accent.”