The final No Zu show was always going to be an epic affair. Over the 15 or so years of it’s existence it has morphed, transformed, grown and blossomed under the leadership of Nicolaas Oogjes who formed the group in 2007. The reputation of the band as an unstoppable live act ensured that the last ever No Zu performance at The Night Cat in Fitzroy sold out almost immediately, a second last show hastily added a few days earlier. I arrived to the final note of Shove’s set, and the room was slowly filling up. Our Carlson were up next, surprising me with an eclectic blend of dub, electro and jungle – all with a stream of conscious-like very Australian voice ranting over the beats. Songs about epilepsy, bullshit, ableism, and ideology ensued and by the end I was actually quite taken by the assault. With their blend of body moving musicality and Australianness it was a perfect choice as support.
The room continued to fill, DJ Milo Eastwood keeping the mood going until finally around midnight, the multi-headed hydra of No Zu emerged from the pit and took the stage. The Night Cat layout was perfect for this show, the central stage with 360 viewing allowed the crowd to spread comfortably around the room, the stage seemed like an arena, the spiritual colosseum in which the legacy of Heat Beat was about to be enshrined. The set fired off and the room became one with the ethereal heat beat grinding into the airwaves. As always at a No Zu show, Naomune Anzai’s masterful mixing behind the desk unearthed and enhanced the dubby psychedelia of each track, expanding the extended breakdowns into timeless psychedelic expanses. The set was sprinkled with songs across the Zu catalogue, and members old and new graced the stage at various points of the night. Oogjes whipped the crowd and band into a frenzy, and we all went along for the journey.
As each track ended the crowd was able to gather its breath for a moment before being launched into another extended rendition of a heat beat classic. Spirit, body, and mind were fused, and inhibitions were abandoned as the band and the crowd oozed into one amorphous being. The pinnacle of the night came with a moving tribute to the profoundly missed Daphne Camf, whose delightfully mischievous spirit could be felt in the spaces between the notes and in the gaps between the bodies on the dancefloor. “When I look into the sky a voice calls to me – Daphne” Oogjes chanted, whipping the crown into yet another frenzy of heat beat in tribute to his fallen friend. Daphne’s legacy remains with the music.
The penultimate Zu track was their reworking of Hunters and Collectors’ Talking To A Stanger, which was given the full Zu expanded and enhanced treatment. Moments of delicacy exploded into euphoric exhalations, Oogjes commanding the crowd once again. The final song was Raw Vision, a crowd favourite from the 2016 LP Afterlife. Mitch McGregor drilled the percussion line for what seemed an age as Oogjes circled the stage, demanding each and every member of the audience was clapping along to the beat in a final celebration of spirit, body and mind. Finally, the band dropped into the song proper and the air was thick with emotion mixing through the sweat and joy emanating from every person in the room. When the song finally rang to its conclusion the audience seemed spent, the fever of heat beat engulfing each of us in what was an event to be remembered. It was a very special night, a celebration of song in the most uplifting way. The memory of Daphne Camf enriched into the ether as the multi headed No Zu stepped from the stage. Undoubtedly they will emerge from the embers like a phoenix at some point, when the time is right, but this was a fitting way to draw a line under the legacy of a great band who knows how to have a good time, and to bring everyone along with them. I felt honoured to be able to witness this show. You should have been there.