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Zak Sobel Band at Arts Fest 2011

Posted by Samantha Hatfield on 07/22 at 12:15 PM

When I said I would be back for more, I meant it.  After seeing local musician Zak Sobel perform at Summer’s Best Music Fest, I was anxious to see him again.  This past Arts Fest weekend, I attended another live show by Zak Sobel. However, this time he brought a band with him.  It was a six man band equipped with drums, keys, electric guitar, bass, and sax with Zak on acoustic guitar.  The band was prepped to play to a full crowd on Allen Street on the Saturday of the Festival.

With seating limited, a few friends and I set ourselves cleverly next to the mist machine, catching the occasional watery refresh that floated through the air.  I was glad to be back to see Sobel play another set with more power behind him.  Again Zak presented his laid-back demeanor, sipping casually from a red solo cup as the band had a quick sound check.  Finally Zak stepped up to the old-school crooner mic placed before him and started to sing.

The band broke out into “Cares Float Away,” a track off their latest album Barcelona. This was a song that Sobel played in his “duo” set and it was amazing to see in its full form.  It started out slower and by the first verse took off running.  The whole sound seemed much less labored than the previous performance I had seen. With all of the backing instrumentation, the music was able to bloom into the perfect summer music combination, full and joyous. Sobel also threw one of my personal favorites into the mix with “Voodoo Woman,” too.  The band really hit their groove, every member gelling together.

Hard Times,” a friend remarked to me, bears a striking resemblance to Van Morisson’s “Crazy Love.”  The crowd was swaying along to the beat and couldn’t help but fall in love with Sobel’s perfectly constructed tunes.  This is another song that Sobel played in the “duo” set, and this time harmonies were added bringing a greater depth to the music.  The sound became fuller and warmer and the story of the song became alive. “It’s hard to be a man without a woman by your side,” that lyric coming from Sobel’s sultry baritone would make any girl swoon.  The band continued on into a great cover of Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel.”

With this cover, the band’s infectious energy was never-ending in the summer heat and even had passers-by singing along as they cruised the streets of Arts Fest.

As I stood in the heat of the summer sun, my Irish skin baking in the hot rays, I couldn’t help but feel like I was swimming when the band broke out “Clay Sun,” a song off their album Songs Joanna Likes.  It was slow, energetic, and crisp. It read on the faces of the crowd that they felt the same refreshing nature wash over them as the band played.  “When the Green River Flows” was my final favorite of the set.  It spoke to the musical heart in everyone and, performed with the full band, it emanated over the State College streets leaving all those within earshot feeling just a little bit happier.

If I could set the two Sobel concerts I saw side-by-side and was forced to choose one, I would take the Zak Sobel Band any day of the week. The entire performance had more pep, enthusiasm, and spark. The band was completely in tune with each other, weaving the music together effortlessly. While the duo left me with more to be desired from Sobel, after experiencing the music fully, I’ll take the band, please.

If you would like to purchase music from the Zak Sobel Band, CLICK HERE and name your price!

Songs Joanna Likes is also available on

{name} 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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