Have you ever pondered the inside of a bouncy ball? Imagined peering through the cheery color schemes while losing all orientation of the room? Although the Octopus Project can’t put you in a bouncy ball, they can give the experience a soundtrack. Austin’s successful (and well done) local indie magazine Soundcheck threw their first concert at Emo’s on June 29, 2007. The line up was eclectic and included Peachcake, Murder by Death and Ian Cooke, to name a few. Before the Octopi surfaced, there was Clap! Clap!, who are just now making a name for themselves in Austin. At a San Marcos, TX show in 2005, Clap! Clap! seemed loose and un-practiced. However, on stage at the Soundcheck party, their sound had grown immensely and their lyrics had matured. In all their songs, there is just the right amount of guitar to play against their electronic tendencies (especially on tracks like “Dr. Doctor”, which I’ve been singing to myself for the past three days now).
The Octopus Project’s shows are like some warped Sesame Street episode, with amps sporting fuzzy horn logos and a projector displaying lost footage of monkeys riding bicycles. Without lyrics and exploring all things whimsical and loud, their visually driven performance works to their advantage. The first song, “Crying at the Aquarium” was accompanied by long slender balloons for the crowd to wave in the air until prompted to let go. Balloons were passed out and in came the wall of sound and foot long balloons swayed in the air. When told to, the crowd let go of the balloons and a rainbow of deflating tubes rocketed into the rafters. The Octopus graciously let us in on four new tracks from the unnamed new album due out in October. The new piece “Hello Avalanche” served up a magnified guitar audible over the full-toned keyboard. Another current track, “The Way Things Go”, features raucous yelps from every band member’s instrumental parts, including a hefty, surprisingly funky bass line.
Yvonne Lambert is the resident theremin virtuoso. “Rorol” features the wavy, spooky sound of the theremin, accompanied by Chris Isaak strokes of crying guitar, one of those most baffling combinations that the Project pulls off gracefully. A fan favorite, “Tuxedo Hat”, (also played regularly on their MySpace page), got the audience moving more, though from the get-go the crowd kept a trained eye on every move the members made, inevitably getting caught up in the light, projections, and persona of the band, and sometimes forgetting to dance.
For instance, there was a small mass of prepubescent boys at the center of the stage following every move Yvonne made, only slightly swaggering to the music. The boys of the band had their followers too. I noticed this when I nearly got pummeled trying to take a picture of Josh Lambert wielding neon lit tambourines. The equally-pined-for Toto Miranda on drums remained the invisible backbone, playing up to the synthetic beats while making sure to be heard loud and clear. The unsung motto of the Project, “Music is happiness”, was the evening’s closing anthem, one that left everyone satisfied and counting the days until they return to Austin, which isn’t until November.
I hereby dedicate October “Octopus October”, in honor of the Project’s new album, due out that month, when our imaginations will be set into a tizzy and our bodies sent into booms and kicks and other uncontrollable body movements. On July 8th, Austin will be lending our tentacled friends to Brooklyn, New York’s McCarren Park Pool for a free show and to play some Marco Polo as well.