It was a disappointing crowd turnout for the electronica pop outfit Octopus Project at the Rhythm Room in Phoenix but it didn’t affect the band’s mindset in providing quality despite the small quantity in attendance. The band has put in the work, winning a “Moog Award” for musical innovation and subbing in for wounded guitarist Bob Mothersbaugh of Devo at the Moog Music Festival in 2010. They have spent years touring as the opening act with Explosions in the Sky, Man or Astroman and even valley locals the Limbic System, and it was a shame to see such a strong band appreciated by so few in the blues room venue.
The band was seen pre-set mingling with fans, grabbing a beer or two from the bar and enjoying opening act Paper Tigers from the floor and front of stage. After the Paper Tigers set, members Josh Lambert, Toto Miranda and Ryan Figg emerged in their uniforms of black pants, white dress shirts and skinny black ties. Yvonne Lambert the female element of this powerful quartet emerged in her deviant china doll get-up. The band gave no quarter as they exploded sonically with a slow progression that started out with loud and catchy pop earworms and then slowly leant into their more chaotic and original blend of art rock. Yvonne at the fore-front of the stage seemed to speak sign language to her Moog Theremin, layering melody over melody as Miranda played drums with unbelievable intensity. Lambert and Figg were seen at opposite ends of the stage feverishly working their stringed instruments and despite the small crowd, the band played with everything that they had.
The Octopus Project also brought visual elements to the show, creating a show that was more of a multimedia experience. Projectors set at far ends of the stage were played on white projector screens and the white shirts of the band members. Stock footage circa 1950 projected eerie yet childlike images, while hypnotic and multicolored shapes layered over the stock footage that blended in tempo with the music.
Set banter with the audience was not the band’s strong point and it was minimal. Most breaks between songs were continuation of a wall of noise from previous compositions as it played a fitting backdrop for each multi-instrumentalist band-member who ran a gauntlet of switching places, switching instruments, tuning beaten guitars, tweeking knobs then coming together on cue for another explosive song. As the set progressed the band seemed to fall further into the true essence of their musical chemistry.
After playing an explosive set, the Octopus Project returned to the stage for a one song encore. In response to a tweet the band had gotten pre show, a mostly MIDI triggered rendition of the song “Porno Disaster” was all the Phoenix crowd got. There were a few “one more song” chants but the lacking of numbers, slowed any intensity that would call for a longer encore.