Sensory overload: Zoo Trippin' embraces shape-shifting sound at Fourth Street Bar & Grill

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

In the midst of Zoo Trippin's lively performance at Fourth Street Bar & Grill on a recent Thursday, frontman Tony Casa howled about traveling down the road, unsure of what direction he might take next. "Nobody knows which way we'll go," he sang.

The same could be said of the shape-shifting band's music, which incorporated elements of funk, blues-rock, dub-reggae and more. One thing that did remain consistent, however, was the collective energy of the players, and Casa and Co. remained in perpetual motion for the entirety of the 50-minute set, vibrating, colliding and bouncing together like popcorn kernels in a copper kettle set atop a live burner. At times, Casa, decked out in sunglasses, a bandana and a flannel shirt (which he discarded several songs in), came on like a would-be aerobics instructor, barking out commands to the gathered throng: "Let's pick it up!" "Let's all get down!" "Jump up on three!"

Opening with a cover of Mark Ronson's "Uptown Funk," the five-piece, augmented on a handful of cuts by a backup singer and a two-piece brass section, made its intentions immediately clear. "Dance like nobody's watching, because we're gonna do the same," Casa said introducing "Kansas City Shuffle." The song, which kicks off the band's five-song Kids These Days EP, sounded somehow dirtier and looser than its recorded version, building on shaggy funk guitar, limber bass and freewheeling brass blasts courtesy of two members of Skashank Redemption. A similar closing-time vibe bled into one Celtic drinking tune, where Casa sang about knocking back shots of whiskey as the music tottered and wobbled like a drunk perched precariously on a bar stool.

Elsewhere, songs veered from Sublime-like ska-punk outbursts to riff-heavy blues numbers to one song, titled "Protect and Serve," which came on like an alternate score to a chase scene from "Serpico."

Lyrically, dark days dominated, and there were mentions of the end of the world, weathering the storm and the inevitability of death. Even so, the music never wallowed, and these mounting clouds were frequently chased off by the relentlessly upbeat music. Even if the ship was going down, it appeared Zoo Trippin' was content to keep right on dancing.