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Published: 2016/05/02
by Heather Farr

Zach Deputy, Martyrs’, Chicago, IL- 4/8

Photo by Kristine Condon

It’s true that Zach Deputy hasn’t released an album in several years, but that didn’t stop a loyal crew from gathering at Chicago’s Martyrs’ – a dim, small capacity bar-slash-music venue whose previous performers include everyone from Beck, Bill Kreutzmann and the Black Keys to Jack Johnson and Wilco. A multi-instrumentalist and loop master who has solidified his spot in the jam scene through late-night festival dance parties, Deputy brought his unique island-influenced, acoustic guitar- and drum-drenched rhythm and blues to the Windy City for the commencement of his U.S. spring/summer tour.

Propped in front of an impressive display of mics, cords, pedals and instruments, Deputy donned an infectious grin behind his full beard and an understated tropical shirt on his broad frame. From the onset, he captivated the crowd with his calculated-yet-fluid movement, taking on a persona that was equal parts mad scientist and free-wheeling painter as he set up the intricate parts of each song. In an apparent attempt to use the agreeable Chicago crowd as his guinea pigs, Deputy started with several unreleased tunes, including one that even he “hasn’t quite figured out yet.”

After a head-bobbing, knee-knocking track about Deputy’s rambling ways and a funky, beat-box heavy song on which Deputy solicited sloppy background vocals from the crowd, the one-man-band eased into the light-yet-passionate “Sweet Renee” from 2011’s Another Day. While the love song is well-known among Deputy die-hards, it takes on a new form when performed live, highlighting the versatility of Deputy’s signature sound, the depth of his guitar talent and the range of his distinct voice.

When not blissfully lost in his own funky world, Deputy checked in on his energetic crowd with call-and-response interludes and various versions of “how you feeling?” Perhaps the most impressive part of his performance was his ability to effortlessly transition from soulful love songs and acoustic jams to calypso beats and reggae-flavored tunes, like the impossibly upbeat and dance-inducing “Twisty Twisty,” which culminated in a crowd-backed version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

While his free-form beats and spontaneous jams stole the show, Deputy shined on “Into the Morning,” a lengthy tune that begins with a gnarly series of picking before transitioning into a hip-hop beat-backed jam session, and a slightly stripped down version of the feel-good, full-bodied “Home” from 2008’s Out of the Water. He also slipped in his version of “Just the Tip,” which juxtaposed its questionable lyrics with a healthy helping of harmonica. “My name is Zach Deputy and I love you. I haven’t put a record out in three years but I’m going to do two in the next few months,” Deputy promised the crowd, before launching into one of his signature dance parties and an encore that switched from folk/country jam to hip-hop in a way that only Zach Deputy can.

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