I listened to some samples on Facebook, and they sounded nice. Yesterday was the end of a pretty hellish week, and I thought that maybe a concert was just what I needed. And the Of Montreal show was sold out. I asked Janet to push me over the edge, and she sent me an mp3 and a YouTube link and said she'd buy me a drink. I gave the songs a listen and decided that, come on, seeing friend's brother's bands is what life's all about.
The show was at the Boom Boom Room, by Fillmore and Geary. It was a very small venue, comprising a few yards of tables-narrow walking space-bar that led up to the small dance floor and stage. The stage, however, did have a red curtain, so points for that. I had no trouble finding Janet since there were very few people there, and she was sitting at the table closest to the stage. She thanked me for coming; she was glad I came. Colin had arrived before me. No, not that Colin, but one of her NASA co-workers, a British guy with a lisp. We were later joined by Jess. No, not that Jess, but a friend of hers from...school? And then there was Emily, a friend from...something else. It was funny; she knew us all from different things. (And, bizarrely, as I discovered from Facebook, she knew Ryan from some conference.)
Hey Ocean! tuned up onstage. Janet's brother was the bassist, Dave. The guitarist/singer was also named Dave, so he was called Dave-o. In the back was Danny on drums. And the lead singer was a cute blonde girl named Ashleigh. We discovered that the table next to ours was a table of Ashleigh's supporters, led by a woman named, wouldn't you know, Jessica. She said that if we had any more people coming, they would make room for us and smush. I love when bands aren't superhuge and the fans all band together.
Janet introduced me to Danny, who had a neat hat, and Dave, who sat down with us for a bit. He read my shirt: "'I listen to bands that don't even exist yet.' That's great." A member of a band liked my shirt about bands! Cool! He started writing the setlist.
The show finally started a little before 10, an hour after I arrived. I was not surprised that the band was quite good. After the first couple songs, I decided they reminded me of the Hush Sound, and not just in member composition. A groovier, piano-less Hush Sound. Or perhaps, to use one of the linked posts above as guidance, a more upbeat Morcheeba? A funkier Norah Jones? It was jazzy, funk-influenced indie pop, with prominent bass (go Dave) and a lot of rhythm. In fact, they sort of reminded me of Rachel's brother's band, but with a girl. And, like Jake, Ashleigh would sometimes burst into a flurry of impressive white girl rap. Live, Ashleigh sang sort of like the lead singer of Moloko, though her voice is a little more subdued in the studio.
Some highlights from the set:
- Ashleigh played a glockenspiel in the beginning. She also had a tambourine. And she played the triangle with a spoon. I mused that, not having to deal with a stringed instrument around her neck, she could be a Jill-of-all-trades, even if she wasn't playing very difficult instruments. Then at the end of one song, she busted out with a flute. That's right, girl was a flautist. It was as if she had heard my thoughts and wanted to challenge my assumption that she couldn't play a musical instrument, only sing. She engaged in some pretty funky fluting. And I think she'd been in a marching band or something because later on, she did a few marching band-esque maneuvers like holding her flute out from her body with both hands. I think the flute is Hey Ocean!'s secret weapon, like Flobots' viola.
- In the middle of one song, the two Daves grabbed a couple drums from offstage and then, unexpectedly, there was this awesome percussion breakdown, with all three guys drumming. And then Ashleigh joined in with a fucking cowbell. It was awesome. Janet said that when they play in their hometown of Vancouver, they get this Afro-funk band to join them and they jam for twenty minutes.
- During "The Beat Boxer Who Broke My Heart," Dave-o beatboxed with his right hand, but there was still a guitar line to be played, dammit! Dave the bassist came over and stood behind him, and while Dave-o continued to work the frets with his left hand, Dave strummed the strings from behind. It was so cool.
- Before "Fish," the band asked if we were up for some audience participation. They did not have horns with them, so they needed us to fill in the horn part. Dave said, "So if you're feeling...horn-y." "Wooo!" I cried, not because I was feeling horny but because I heart bad puns.
After the set, I hit the merch table. A bystander said I should buy both CDs. Both, eh? "You have twenty bucks, right?" As a matter of fact, I did. I looked at both CDs, Stop Looking Like Music and It's Easier to Be Somebody Else, both available for more than ten bucks each on the delightful and lovable CD Baby. There were songs I liked from the set on both discs, so I got them both because how else could I share them with you? I promised Janet I would tell America about this great Canadian band. So here, have some free music, you guys. According to CD Baby, it "[i]nspires thoughts of beaches, sunny days and good times." Don't we need that right now?
From Stop Looking Like Music:
"The Beat Boxer Who Broke My Heart": One of Janet's favorite songs, it is exactly as fun as it sounds.
"Eskimo Kisses": An Eskimo man, and an Eskimo missus / I'll cover you in Eskimo kisses. ADORABLE!
"Warning": And one where Dave-o sings lead so you can get an idea for his voice and the harmony of the two voices.
From It's Easier to Be Somebody Else:
"A Song About California": It's fun and jaunty! This is the one Janet sent me to convince me to come, and it's totally a favorite.
"Fish": I am a fish, I am a fish and I need water. Definitely one of my favorites.
"Liar": Again, a Dave-o song with nice harmonies.
Janet was happy I'd gotten the CDs, as they were basically all she'd been listening to for the last year. We saw Ashleigh emerging from the back. "Do you want to meet her?" asked Janet. Sure!
In the words of Kevin Barnes and Dwight Schrute: This is where the story gets interesting.
What catastrophe is about to befall me? Or is it not a catastrophe but, in fact, the opposite? A dogastrophe? Continue, gentle reader, and find out.
The venue was now packed for the headliner, the Pimps of Joytime, who had a pretty awesome name but I wasn't really interested in. I had only come for the opening band, which I hadn't done since I went to see Visqueen open for the Muffs at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. Now, moving around at all was hard.
As Janet got Ashleigh's attention, we made room for a waitress to squeeze through us as she held a tray of drinks above her head. Before Ashleigh had a chance to introduce herself, I felt something wet on my head. Very wet.
A drink had just fallen on my fucking head.
I didn't move. I didn't even know how to react. As far as I could tell, my shirt was still dry. But my hair was very wet.
"You still have ice in your hair!" said Ashleigh, picking it off for me.
"Are you okay?" asked Janet. I was okay. It didn't seem like the glass had fallen off the tray; it must have just spilled on me from up high. Right on my head, where the liquid collected. A direct hit. The waitress apologized and went to get a rag. Everyone asked if I was okay, multiple times. It wasn't like I'd had acid spilled on me! I was okay!
Until I moved my head forward and some of the liquid fell into my eye. AUGH! MY EYE! THE GLASSES DO NOTHING! Alcohol burns! That's what it does!
The dear catastrophe waitress returned with the rag, and I dried off my hair and wiped my eye. She apologized again, and I said it was understandable, it was difficult to navigate. I guess I should have been angrier? Probably? If the drink had spilled on my shirt, I would have been pissed, but it was just my hair. It was a week for having things in my hair, really. On Wednesday, I had come home with ceiling in my hair from helping a high school teacher install an LCD projector.
"What are you wearing?" inquired Emily. It took me a second to get her meaning.
"What am I wearing?" I asked the waitress.
She replied, "You were wearing a Stoli and soda."
"Stoli," I said to Emily. "That's vodka?" So I had heard. She assented. "So I got vodka in my eye. Awesome. And I've got vodka in my hair." (Vodka in My Hair is my new band name.)
Colin thought it was worth a free drink, at the least. But I don't drink, and Janet had already bought me a Coke (although I suspected it had been Diet Coke). Janet thought they should refund my cover. I would be up for that. But I'm not assertive, and I'm not That Guy. So I got a drink spilled on me. Does that really entitle me to ask for my money back? It's not like I paid eighteen dollars to see a band and not get a drink spilled on me. That wasn't specifically guaranteed in the fine print!
Janet understood if I wanted to go home, but I shrugged it off. "This is life!" I said. I had made it all through college without getting a drink spilled on me; this was a rite of passage long overdue. I would have to leave soon to catch the last BART, but Colin was driving back in my direction and dropping off Jess and could take me back as well. So the story could go on.
I had unwrapped my CDs. "I feel like I should get these signed," I sad to Janet. Because I like getting things signed to commemorate the experience. We walked back to the merch table to see Ashleigh.
"Hi, I'm Ashleigh," she said.
"Hi, I'm Sunil, and I have vodka in my hair," I said.
"I cannot believe that happened," she said. She was so distraught on my behalf. It was cute. She told the merch girl what had happened, having been an eyewitness. "Do you want a shirt?" asked Ashleigh. Sure! How could I refuse? Another way to promote the band, right? "White or blue?" Blue, as I had a lot of white shirts. She looked at me and guessed, "Medium?" I asked for a large. The blue shirt had a little phone on it, like I was calling the ocean and saying, "Hey ocean!" I put it on over my Threadless shirt and the long-sleeve shirt underneath. The graphic was down at my bottom right. Ashleigh said I could get a medium instead if it was too big, but I stuck with the large. It was American Apparel, so it would shrink a lot.
Janet told her I wanted my CDs signed, but Ashleigh didn't have a Sharpie. Janet went to find a pen. "That borrowed dress looks good on you," I said to Ashleigh. The band had been through SF a week or so ago, and someone had broken into the van and stolen all her clothes. So the dress she was wearing was someone's mom's. She told me more of the story. She was obviously sad about her stolen clothes, but it was still cool that this girl's mom had rummaged through her closet and found clothes for her to wear. "That's life," I said. "It makes a good story to tell, like getting vodka in your hair."
The pen was not the best thing to sign an album cover with, but it had to do. "Hey Sunil!" she wrote over the "Hey Ocean!" on the cover of one CD after asking me to spell my name for her. She attempted to write a "Thanks for supporting us" message but gave up and powered through the signature. She signed the other one too, the ink not coming out for every piece of every letter but the pen still making the impression.
The Pimps of Joytime took the stage. They were good, but not my thing. I don't go for straight-up funk, only funk-influenced stuff, like old-school Incubus. Points for the chick bassist, however. "I don't think I'm cool enough for this band," said Janet. She noted that a lot of people, including the lead singer, were wearing hats. "He's protecting himself," I said.
Janet and Jess and Colin stood on the booth; Emily had had to go home. I was stuck in between a crowd and some chairs. There didn't appear to be room on the booth, and I couldn't make it there anyway. It was hard enough for me to pull out a chair so I could sit down. And then Janet sat down. "I can't let my friend sit alone," she said. Aw. Jess and Colin joined me in sitting for a bit. After a bit, though, I was able to get onto the booth, and the four of us danced on our narrow ledge, I trying not to kick any drinks onto my jacket.
I was wearing three layers of clothing and thus very hot in this room full of people. Janet suggested I take one off. It was more awkward than expected, but I got the Hey Ocean! shirt off and then the Threadless shirt off. I put the Hey Ocean! shirt back on, as it was very thin. I felt a lot better. I stuffed my shirt into my jacket sleeve. And by my jacket sleeve, I mean someone else's jacket sleeve. What, it was dark. Luckily, I realized it wasn't my jacket pretty quickly and put my shirt in the right jacket.
Thankfully, we went outside for some fresh air. It felt great outside. Outside, too, Janet noticed everyone was wearing hats. Lots of fedoras. One guy had a Robin Hood hat. I thought that maybe since the lead Pimp wore a hat, it was a symbol of Pimps of Joytime fandom. They all had their pimp hats. Janet thought it was a hipster thing.
Janet told us the story of the name "Hey Ocean!" Dave-o and Ashleigh had begun writing songs when they were in Costa Rica, and the weather was really bad, so they couldn't go and have fun on the beach. Every morning, then, all they could do is be all, "Hey, ocean!" And tell it to be better. But it would not. Probably. Aw, cute band name origin story.
There were many people hanging around outside. One of these was a very cute girl with short, curly hair and some sort of pink frills or ribbons on the side. She wore a black dress and black shoes and a radiant smile. She looked like a flapper right out the '20s. And she was very happy, doing little poses and smiling for her friends. I wanted to tell her she looked amazing, that there should be photographs and magazine covers and everything. She looked completely adorable, the kind of girl you want to put in your pocket and take home. This wasn't a BART train, so I thought the venue was more conducive to random compliments. I waited for an opening. Once she walked over to the curb, and I heard a clicking sound. I thought it was a lighter, but it was lipstick. She used the side mirror of a van to reapply. Adorable!
Janet asked us what we thought of her hair. "I think it's awesome," I said. Janet was considering ye olde symbolic haircutting after her Ph.D. defense in a couple weeks and was looking for ideas.
Finally, the girl was near us and alone at the same time, so I took the opportunity to tap her on the shoulder. "I have to say, you look amazing." She smiled and thanked me. Janet added that we were just talking about her great hair. I said, "The hair, the dress, the shoes, the whole thing." Janet explained about her impending haircut, and the girl said she'd had long hair until she'd cut it short, and then it had gotten curly. Or something like that. She showed off the frilly red skirt thing at the bottom of her dress, which I hadn't noticed until she pulled it up. "It's a great look for you," I said.
Janet asked her if she knew about the hats, and the girl said it was part of the scene. You can get them at Urban Outfitters now. So it was a hipster thing!
A couple times, the girl made like she needed to leave, but then she kept on talking with us. Halfway through the conversation, in fact, she gave us the "Nice to meet you" and asked for our names. I had to say mine a couple times; she leaned in to hear better. Her name was Alexandra.
She was here for her sister's birthday. It was really exciting since they were at the age where they'd really become friends, not just sisters, and their friends had become friends, and this was their first big night out together. She asked whether we had come to see the Pimps. Janet said we'd come for Hey Ocean! and I pointed to my shirt. Alexandra had thought they were really good. I asked if she'd been out on the dance floor, but she said she'd stayed on the side. I remembered seeing her. Hearing the music from inside, she couldn't help but want to dance. "Funk is so great!" she said. Janet agreed that you couldn't not dance to funk.
Someone mentioned New York, and Alexandra said she wanted to go there. She was an actress, and she wanted to go and be in the scene, immerse herself. Even if she failed the first time, she just wanted to do it. We all agreed that getting your foot in the door, just starting, was the important part. Right now, she was finishing junior college or something, and she wanted to make sure her credits counted when she transferred, I think.
She asked where we were from. I said that Janet was going to be leaving soon, but I was from Oakland. So was Alexandra! She was very excited and filled with Oakland pride. And then, to my surprise, Jess: "Actually, so am I." Go Oakland! Alexandra was friends with an Oakland band called the Tornado [Something]s. She asked Colin where he was from, and he said that he was from England, in case it was not evident from his accent. I asked Alexandra where in Oakland she lived. She was over by Lakeshore; that was a nice area. I told her where I was...and it turned out Jess lived, like, four blocks away from me. Weird! Jess recommended a nice cafe in Alexandra's area. Alexandra asked me again where I lived, and I explained more of the area and the landmarks until it clicked. "With that little donut place!" Yeah, that's it! She asked if I lived in the place with the curvy roof. I wasn't sure which building she was referring to, but no, I didn't.
Finally, she really did have to leave. She went through our names again. And hers was Alexandra.
"She was really sweet," said Janet.
"I should have gotten her number," I did not say out loud. I don't need more random Chinese dudes in my life, but I could always use more cute girls in my life. My kingdom for a pen.
We hung out and talked for a little bit longer, but Colin had to drive to Davis, and it was already half past midnight. Janet thanked us for coming out and gave us hugs.
As we walked to Colin's car, I said that since Jess lived right by me, Colin could drop me off at Macarthur BART, and I could take her home. Jess said it was okay, she only lived a few blocks from the station. "But you don't want to walk down Telegraph at this hour." She admitted that she'd done it many times, foolish as it is. "But you shouldn't have to," I said. Colin jumped in, noting that she had two people with cars here. She caved.
I helped navigate us out of the city and into Oakland. I dropped Jess off and made it home around 1:30. On the BART ride into town, I'd almost fallen asleep, but yet I'd managed to make it through the night with no problem. Guess having fun keeps you awake!