All aboard the “Zhu Choo”

During the pandemic, ZHU, an electronic dance musician and Grammy-nominated recording artist, has made it a mission to “bring people to a place where they’ve never been.” He’s streamed from the mountains of western Japan, the sand dunes of southwestern Utah, and now Central Montana’s Charlie Russell Chew Choo. 

In the 49-minute video called “Billings Locomotive” – part of the Tito’s Vodka Made to Order virtual concert series – ZHU turned the Chew Choo into an electrifying backdrop for a high-energy concert. It was a vision come to life.

According to ZHU executive assistant Kristin Schaeffer, renting out the Charlie Russell Chew Choo was a concept that came completely from the artist. He found it online and wanted to jump on the opportunity.

“He loves Montana and he loves trains,” she said.

ZHU checking out the central Montana scenery while preparing for the shoot

On September 30, ZHU and his crew arrived at the Charlie Russell Chew Choo, where director Joey Vitalari, drone operators, a full band and others got set up for a four-hour ride to and from Denton. This was no typical ride, as the band recorded a 10-song set along the way, which included remixes of some of ZHU’s standout tunes such as “Faded” and “My Life.” It also included a yet-to-be-released track.

 This modern Western was more than just an escape from L.A. for ZHU and company. It also served a higher purpose: to bring attention and drive donations to the non-profit World Central Kitchen, an organization focused on creating smart solutions to hunger and poverty. It particularly emphasizes helping those affected by natural disasters.

Although ZHU is the focus of the video, the stream is also packed with incredible drone footage of the Charlie Russell train, breathtaking scenery and a gorgeous sunset, providing many unfamiliar with the area with an excellent introduction to Russell country.

ZHU and his crew certainly felt that way, as many expressed gratitude for the chance to travel during the pandemic, to perform on a moving train and to be part of this out-of-the-ordinary experience. It was a pleasure for ZHU, as well, who looks forward to performing in more off-the-grid locations.

“We’ve got to keep live music going somehow,” he said.

Check out the video here.

(As published in the Lewistown News-Argus)

About CharliesTrail

Originally from Indianapolis, Denison is a writer and musician who has picked up culture and influences from eccentrics all over the U.S. and overseas. He is a University of Kentucky Journalism School grad and an award-winning Montana journalist. Through the years he's had work published by "Chicken Soup From the Soul," DVD Netflix, Montana Quarterly Magazine, NUVO and Americana Highways. He has a solo album, "Whispers of the Lonely," and continues to chip away at his first novel. Currently Denison is the editor of The Boulder Monitor in Boulder, Montana, where he lives with his wife.
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