Zach Deputy brought his creatively branded “island infused, drum ‘n’ bass, Gospel-Ninja-Soul” to the Fox Theatre this week. Part gospel, because he is a disciple in the way of the one-man-band. Part ninja, because his music attacks you with dizzying techniques. Part soul, because whether or not you choose to surrender to his music, your soul cannot escape. Ok, that might not be the meaning Zach intended us to get from his self-description. But it should be.
Making creative use of looping technology and a host of electronic toys, he reminded us how enjoyable it can be to watch a lone performer. Deputy played the entire set seated, surround by a collection of digital effects panels and pedals. Though he did not wander once from center stage, his arms and legs were constantly flying here and there, from one digital instrument to the next, creating layers of bass lines, beat box rhythms, strumming patterns, vocal effects, and more. He sang using four separate microphones, utilizing each mic differently to amplify the many different presentations of his multi-faceted, soulful voice. You’d think that this kind of approach would further demand the employment of at least four different guitars, yet he used only one, a nylon-stringed classical guitar that sometimes sounded like a funk bass, then an rock organ, then a Stratocaster, then a brass horn section, then a traditional classical acoustic.
Those who witnessed Zach’s performance were inspired to the core by more than just his instrumental abilities. His voice is bad-ass as well, capable of the highest dance hall falsettos, island reggae stylings, and drawling blues as thick as the ocean’s fog. Jumping from one genre from the next, each song sounded as unique as the last, all the while inscribing his own personal ZD flare upon each tune. My personal favorite of the set, “Into the Morning,” which is the closing track off his most recent studio effort, begins with classical-style flamenco tremolo, then transitions effortlessly into a head-bopping reggae jam.
His songwriting and performing style evokes images of a gospel preacher eliciting praiseful responses from the crowd, leading a congregation in a gospel-esque fashion. His ability to involve the audience in his spontaneous compositions heightened this feeling of this spiritual revelry. This singer-songwriter led his congregation, prompting the crowd to sing, scat, and shout their joyfully responses.
Then after a killer Frank Zappa cover, he said goodbye and sent us home as new converts in the Zach Deputy way, a response not uncommon amongst those fortunate enough to have danced at the feet of this masterful musician. And this is how this unassuming, humble man from North Carolina has gained such a dedicated following. More than one concert-goer confessed to having paid for his ticket because a friend or roommate had seen Deputy before and raved about this guy. Not a surprise. I also left that night fully intending to share the good news: this guy puts on a kick-ass show.