Octopus Project, Analog Rebellion
November 12, 2011
The Kessler Theater
Better Than: Having Octopus Project play at your house party and having to clean up the mess.
If limited to a single word regarding the live performance of Austin's Octopus Project, that word would have to be exuberance. Its definition, "joyously unrestrained and enthusiastic," really hits the nail on the head for what this Austin-based musical treasure consistently brings to the stage. Saturday night at The Kessler was no exception as the band played a crisp hour-long set to an very happy audience.
The evening started with the band hanging out in front of the theater, chatting with the friends and fans they have accumulated in Dallas over their years of local performances. Always friendly and accessible, the members never seem less than genuine and genuinely appreciative of their fans.
The band took to the stage at close to 11 p.m. The audience was a little light, filling a bit more than half of the theater's capacity. I'd like to think this could be attributed to the attendance-worthy ArtConspiracy 7 charity event, which took place across town on the same night. The upside was that the normal intimacy of the space, combined with a less than crowded room and crazy good party music made for a fun and tension-free evening.
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All three guy bandmates sported white shirts and skinny ties and theremin-wielding Yvonne Lambert looking like June Cleaver-meets-Jane Jetson in her glammy dress and trademark up-flipped 'do. With a brief welcome, the band kicked off their set combining wacked-out video with razor-sharp music. Seeing the band live always drives home the point that, although they are often thought of in terms of synths and the theremin, the band's live sound is really fueled as much by guitars and propulsive drumming as synths. All four members of the band were playing guitars at various points of the evening.
This is a band that pays as much attention to the visual as the sonic. A collage of cartoon graphics, psychedelic pop-art images, short videos and photographs provided a visual backdrop to the stage that were very much additive to the performance experience. As a whole, the music and visuals made more than one concert-goer kind of wish they'd indulged in some 'shrooms for the evening. Even without such chemical enhancements it was a hypnotic sensation that saturated the senses.
The set drew from across the band's catalog, with each song drawing equal enthusiasm from the crowd. There were some new songs blended easily with old crowd favorites. A short pause after the band's set led to an encore, kicked off with guitarist Josh Lambert leading the audience in a shout-out to local producer (and rising legend) John Congleton, with whom the band has collaborated in the past. They kicked into "Fuguefat," the lead song from last years opus Hexadecagon.
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With the set completed, the band retired to the lobby to meet and greet a deep line of fans that had formed at the merchandise table. Drenched in sweat and broadly smiling, the band was once again meeting new friends and old.
Opening the evening was Analog Rebellion. Presenting a set that was largely sequenced music with live accents, the two-piece band that is the musical vision of Daniel Hunter, the songs crossed the vocal stylings of Death Cab For Cutie with the instrumental bombast of Muse. Interesting, but not particularly entertaining.
Personal Bias: I really appreciate bands that take as much care for a visual performance as musical, all the better to entertain their audience. In my opinion the only band that comes close to what Octopus Project does with their video projection is Black Moth Super Rainbow.
By The Way: Those visuals Octopus Project presents? They are the product of the band and their friend and visual collaborator Wylie Wiggins, whom you may have first encountered in his starring role in the classic movie Dazed and Confused.