Zaramela, Backseat Charlie and Lapland at Schubas July 16

When the multi-instrumental rap-rock group and DePaul favorite Kids These Days announced their disbandment recently, it was nothing short of a bummer.  They were a band that quickly assumed the distinction of a group that was “going places,” indeed they did go to many places – physically, musically and in terms of long-term career aspirations and opportunities.  The best of wishes have since been bestowed upon them by fans, but it was only a matter of time before someone else came to fill their void.

Enter Zaramela.

Not a knockoff by any means, Zaramela is a seven-piece fusion group in the vein of KTD, but with their own distinct and admirable style.  On stage they sound and look even bigger – I could’ve sworn there was something like 12 of them – perhaps this is due to the fact that they keep the audience on their toes.  They reach from a grab-bag of genres, what they refer to as “musical gumbo,” through sheer musicianship: their three horn players could be seen alternating between trumpet, trombone, alto, tenor and baritone saxes, and even their singer/rapper/emcee/cool guy could be seen sporting a trumpet mid-set.  This affords Zaramela an impressive versatility in songs, which keeps things moving and, most importantly, keeps the crowd engaged.

Schubas was nearly packed to the gills for their show, although their music made it feel more like a party.  Featured vocalist Marykate McPhilliamy lent her strong, bluesy harmonies to round out certain songs.  The end result, with all horns and guitars and singers accounted for, was at times sporadic or even chaotic, but overall enjoyable as hell.

Opening acts Backseat Charlie and Lapland provided two opposing sounds to start things off.  Lapland came first with an intriguing blend of folk and synth textures, sonically pleasing and emotionally restrained.  Backseat Charlie kicked things up to 11 with their own brand of bubblegum punk.

After the show, I got a chance to meet Zaramela and talk with them about their influences and where they’re headed.  They hail from Glenview and are trying to carve out a spot in the Chicago scene just as most of them are entering college.  It seems like they certainly have what it takes, and it’s not a stretch to say that they are “going places” as well.