Posted by Samantha Hatfield on 06/28 at 09:55 AM
It was an overcast Saturday in State College, but that didn’t stop folks from coming out for the 2011 Summer’s Best Music Fest. After passing through the various street vendors and stopping into McLanahan’s for an iced-tea, I took my seat in front of the Allen Street stage. With Jack Johnson streaming through the speakers, the Zak Sobel Duo was tuning their guitars and warming up in preparation for their set. Zak, dressed in relaxed jeans and flip-flops, and lead guitar Isaac Bishop, sporting a “Sublime” t-shirt, seemed ready for a laid-back jam session.
The duo began their set to a light crowd, but it didn’t take long for the pair to draw in listeners. “Voodoo Women,” off Sobel’s latest album Barcelona was great to see live. As Zak and Isaac played this undeniably catchy folk song, the sincerity of Sobel’s writing became increasingly more evident as I saw the earnestness with which he performed it. His soothing voice gave way to his gift of songwriting and soon the seats around me were filled with listeners who were equally as enthralled with the music that filled Allen Street.
Sobel soon broke out his harmonica and went right into another song from Barcelona: “Hard Times.” As Sobel played and sang with remarkable ease, one song easily flowed into the next, and the laid-back folk vibe was dripping from the stage. However, the duo didn’t have a ton of chemistry together. While their music gelled, there wasn’t much interplay between the two and for much of the set, Bishop showed virtually no emotion. Sobel, however, demonstrated a great amount of showmanship. He joked about his musical genre of choice in terms of performance saying that people often ask, “Why do you sing country music? You’re from Long Island. There’s no country there.” Sobel’s comfort within his musical style is evident, but after giving no explanation it does make you wonder how a boy from Long Island fell into strumming a guitar rather than spinning house records.
“Queen” was one of my favorite songs from the set. With the lyric “I’m just a pawn, the subservient one, you’re my Queen make your move,” I was reminded yet again of the wit that Sobel puts into his lyrics. While it could easily move toward cliché, there is something so endearing about the music. After re-tuning, the duo rounded out their set with “Make Me Change My Mind” and “Travelin’ Alone,” during which two adorable Sobel fans, who couldn’t have been more than three-years-old, wandered up to the stage to dance along with the summery music.
Sobel also premiered his song “Who Will Take Me In” that he wrote for a film which is still in production in Budapest. It was a beautiful song, with something almost heartbreaking about it.
As I sat listening to the final moments of the concert, I could hear the group next to me murmuring about the different songs they were glad he had chosen to play. As an artist, it is important to play music that people want to hear and among the crowd there were definitely people waiting to hear their favorite Zak Sobel originals. This was truly the greatest testament to the kind of music that Sobel writes and performs. He produces lyrics and melodies that listeners crave, and this listener will certainly be back for more.
Author: Samantha Hatfield
Bio: Samantha is currently a senior double majoring in Broadcast Journalism and Theater. She is a perfectionist with a penchant for writing, video production and music. Ever since seeing Weezer live at the then “Tweeter” Center at the ripe old age of 12, she has been hooked on live music and developed a voracious appetite for new albums and bands. Some of Samantha’s favorite bands include: Bon Iver, The Raconteurs, Florence + The Machine, Band of Horses, Cage the Elephant, Ray LaMontagne and the list goes on.
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