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June 16, 2024

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By: Bernadette Giacomazzo

Every afternoon at lunch time, Market Square in Pittsburgh holds a free concert showcasing some of the local indie bands. One such band is On Beyond Zebra, a middle-aged group consisting of Janet on lead vocals, Jake on guitar and harmonica, Sam on bass, and Ed on the drums. Sponsored by Pittsburgh's alternative station WXDX-FM at 105.9, Sprint PCS Communications, National Record Mart, and USA On-Ramp (, On Beyond Zebra strutted their stuff on June 27, 1997, at 12 noon.

You have to hand it to them -- they DO splurge on the best equipment; the drummer uses Zildijan. Still, even the best equipment could not overshadow some of the low points of the concert.

They began their one-hour set with the Theme from Star Wars. It was a bit disjointed, and too bass-heavy. Still, they do put up a strong front and promise to be good musicians.

The second song, however, "Mr. Slick", showcased Janet as a strong,bluesy-type singer, with a lot of Sheryl Crow(or maybe Bonnie Raitt?) influence. Her throaty warble has incredible energy, as though the about-30 year old vixen has a razorblade-suitcase full of tales worthy of an aged veteran. Gwen Stefani, she's not(and, might I add on a more personal note, thank GOD for that! My experience would have been considerably more painful had she been otherwise). "Charred", one of my favorite songs they'd performed, appears on the "In Your Breast Interest" album, whose proceeds go to breast cancer research. Admirably, On Beyond Zebra keep their political correctness intact. Musically, this song was more unplugged as Janet strummed the rhythm guitar and the high powered bass was toned down. Later, the quartet played a funked-up version of "Steel Coaster", and their second instrumental interlude, the "Buck Rogers" theme, sounded a bit more put together. Finally, they played "Glory Box", the song on the Romeo and Juliet trailer(NOT the soundtrack), and the violin accompaniment brought tears to my eyes. They lightened things up by inviting us to join their mailing list, and to put our favorite Fat Albert character next to our email address.

Collectively, On Beyond Zebra prove to be a very strong band and put up a great front. Talented, experienced, and soulful, On Beyond Zebra promise to be strong contenders for a major-label signing. The greatest danger they face, however, lies in stumbling on chords and cohesiveness. Also, as older musicians with a great deal of Dylan-esque soul, they should keep their collective hands off the pop-culture remote if they're to be taken seriously. Overall, however, I was impressed. RATING: B+.

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