Rock the Zoo, formerly known as ZooBrew, is a fun event that the Phoenix Zoo puts on every year to help raise funds. With vendor booths sampling a variety of beers from various small craft brews to biggies like Guinness and Sam Adams, wines and even spirits, this is the place to be on the last weekend in April.
The event also features food sampling from area restaurants as well as other vendors and exhibitors, including SRP’s Refrigerator Art recycling program and radio station 98.7 fm the Peak and of course live music from some of rock’s biggest and best.
Armed with a cute mini Rock the Zoo five ounce mug, event-goers are set free to roam the grounds of the Phoenix Zoo. Most of the animals are asleep during the event, and thankfully so – for them anyway- as the rock bands can get pretty loud; this year Marcy Playground and Vertical Horizon were on the bill.
Roaming from booth to booth under the stars, you really feel like life is good. With beautiful weather under the desert sky, sampling some kick-butt adult beverages, listening to live music, you think—can this get any better? And frankly, it can’t. This is a great event and if you have never been, make plans to do it next year; it helps the zoo, it helps the animals and I promise it will help you too!
The main attraction for me at this event was Vertical Horizon, a band that I have loved since I first heard them more than 10 years ago. The band was formed in 1991 by Matthew Scannell and Keith Kane. After graduating from college the duo released their debut album There and Back Again. But it was not until 1999, with their Everything You Want album that the world began to notice them. With five songs that received heavy radio play, the album was a double platinum smash and featured the No. 1 hit for which the album was titled, “Everything You Want.” “We Are,” “You’re A God,” “Best I Ever Had (Grey Sky Morning)” and “Send it Up” were also on the album.
They have released two more records since then, 2003’s Go (which was re-released in 2005 as Go 2.0) and featured the hit song “Forever” and their latest release, 2009’s Burning the Days.
The band hit the stage to the applause and anticipation of huge crowd whom I suspect had come out that night just to see them. Opening with the first track from their latest album, the tune “All is Said and Done,” the band received a warm welcome and Scannell let the crowd know that “…it’s a beautiful night for the evolving love story with your town.” Next came the popular “You’re a God” and “Send it Up,” during both tunes the very likeable Matt Scannell, talked to the crowd, giving us all a chance to sing and be a part of the songs.
Next came another tune from the new album, “The Lucky One,” a song Scannell called a happy tune (as opposed to some of the darker ones he says he writes) and then a song sung by Keith Kane from the Everything She Wants album called “Shackled” that featured a killer guitar solo by Scannell.
The next song “Goodbye Again” (from Go) was preceded by a plea from Scannell who asked the crowd “do you mind if we play a depressing love song…?” The crowd didn’t mind a bit. Also from Go was “Sunshine” a fun tune that got the crowd really engaged—or was that because Scannell took off his shirt at this point…hmmm?
The set was well-paced, allowing the crowd to enjoy songs they knew, expertly timed with peppered-in new tunes and tunes that were less known. “Carrying On,” from Burning the Days—a tune Scannell called one of his favorites and said was about, “…when someone is set on the end, you gotta save yourself,” and with Keith Kane on vocals again “Wash Away” from the lesser known 1995 release Running on Ice, filled the middle of the set along with the huge hit “Best I Ever had” (from Everything You Want) and “Save Me from Myself” (from Burning the Days), a recent top-50 hit on the US adult contemporary charts.
The poignant and heartfelt, “Forever” (from Go) and the mega No. 1 hit, “Everything You Want,” had the crowd rocking and “I’m Still Here” (from Go) ended the set.
Although the event was set to end at 11 pm, Vertical Horizon took a chance and came out for an encore to the roar of the crowd; I don’t think anybody wanted to leave. Treating the crowd to “We Are,” a song Scannell says was the first of his he ever heard on the radio, the band jammed on this one.
Playing an excerpt from Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb,” and doing some pretty cool solos—the guys really gave the crowd a treat to end the night. I think they could have played well into the night without a complaint.
What a great way to end a great event. The Rock the Zoo team outdid themselves with a fantastic 2010 fundraiser and concert; I look forward to hearing what band they plan to treat us to next year.