Somebody buy an Octa#grape album. The band makes well crafted, high energy indie rock songs, yet the lead singer can’t afford a guitar strap. It looked painfully uncomfortable yet curiously playful as singer/guitarist Glen Galloway leaned forward and upward into an overhead microphone with a strapless guitar rested on his knee that rolled down a lifted leg supported by the house PA monitor. An avid guitarist will know the potential of limits to this type of behavior, yet it tried true again and again as the music played and the guitarist showed off his skills by playing riffs blindly from behind his back and above his neck. Everyone wants a gimmick but few get to pull it off onstage for others to enjoy
Octa#grape aren’t reinventing any genres, but their songs have a hodgepodge mix of Pixies meets Starlight Mints. With an ear leaning into today’s ADHD generation, Octa#grape’s songs fit well into short concise bursts of energy involving short bridges/verses/chorus structures that continuously led into musical parts that no one can foresee coming. And we can’t forget to mention drummer Ely Moyal was high energy all night and steered the rhythm the entire set-list.
At one point during the set, Galloway with his un-strapped guitar, leaped into the audience and grabbed something off of a table, then returned to stage without missing a beat. The bassist lured the non moving Phoenix crowd forward and closer to the stage, and the folks that followed were happier for it.
Sebadoh’s members have changed hats through-out the course of their on-again off-again musical career. Both Lou Barlow and Jason Loewenstein have switched parts of lead singer, guitarist and bass player with every permutation in between, while newcomer drummer Bob D’Amico (taking spot of original drummer/multi-instrumentalist Eric Gaffney) has powerfully taking the reigns as the musical bus driver powerfully laying down the rhythm… or in Sebadohs case, a mini van which was made evident during the show when a fan screamed out “Let me come with you!” Barlows response was “we only have three seats in the van, we can’t take you.”
Barlow started out as a founding member of Dinosaur Jr. along with J Mascis and drummer Murph through their classic album period of Dinosaur (1985), You’re Living All Over Me (1987) and Bug (1988) before setting off for less tensioned musical pastures with Loewenstein and Gaffney in Sebadoh.
Sebadoh opened with three songs(“Magnet’s Coil,” “Skull,” “Rebound) off their most well received album, 1994’s Bakesale. These are songs almost 20 years into creation, so it was an obvious shift in energy when Barlow played songs of their upcoming album Defend Yourself due out September 17th.
Defend Yourself serves as an attempt at reinventing the Sebadoh sound, as during the recording stages the band openly admitted to isolating themselves in order to record without outside influences. These new songs represented Sebadoh in a more polished side of their original garage band sound. Even the tonality of their set was subtly botched and muddled, more the fault of the sound engineer than the players, yet complimented the DIY essence of the band’s earliest recordings.
While capable of aging rocker caustic biting sarcasm, Barlow and Loewenstein were authentic about where they were and what they were playing, as there was an element of the same chemistry between these band mates that started decades prior. While playing vox and guitar, Barlow’s guitar strap broke mid song as he continued on singing lyrics with his guitar upright, by his side. A light bulb went off and Barlow followed suit as Galloway did earlier, playing along with this guitar nuzzled under his arm pit. After the song finish Barlow commented ’”That was easier than it looks.”
Sebadoh was playful and secure with the indifference they met with the mixed age Phoenix crowd. Loewenstein made the comment “We get a little of everything tonight, I see three people woo hooing and three people yawing.” While later on in the set Barlow leant into the crowd and invited a concert goer named Jeff on stage for a most original and sonically destructive version of “Happy Birthday.”
The encore was a begrudged obligatory experience, and they weren’t putting on any airs. After about twenty minutes of tuning, bantering with the audience and then returning, Sebadoh ended their set with about five minutes of music. They didn’t put on a horrible show and they didn’t put out on a spectacular show. Instead Sebadoh played a good show that was as honest as they were through the course of a musical career, and that is more than noteworthy in itself.