Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Dylan Missed Out: The Octopus Project

by Ellie Julier


The first time I caught wind of Austin’s most beloved indie-experimental-electronic-happiness band was three years ago when I snuck a peek at an incoming text on my boyfriend’s phone, from his best friend.

“Octopus Project outside at Waterloo. Get here now.”

A few months later I saw them for the first time, somewhere on the Eastside that’s now probably a condo, on a raised circular stage underneath a white tent, the frenetic and dreamy multimedia accompaniment projected on the ceiling. I made a new friend and our curiosity took us around and around the stage together, feeling the sounds change. I don’t think my heels had ever bounced up and down so much. I don’t think I had ever witnessed anything like it.

I took Hexadecagon home over Christmas to play on the good speakers. Wrapping presents to the rollicking gait of “Glass Jungle,” my brother ran in to stand in the doorway and bob his head, his notice of approval.

“Mm. Yeah. That’s what I call a bass roll.”

My Mom stopped in, cocked her head to the side.

“Is that a theremin?”

Two years later and that same champion of Mom waited in line with me and my friends for an hour-plus to see them play the tiny Swan Dive stage, enduring Red River trailer food, a grating opening band, and standing on bad knees only for the mighty foursome to keep blowing out the pathetic soundsystem four or five times. (No one was mad. You can’t be mad at The Octopus Project.)
Last fall, with a sore heart and nothing else to do, I joined my best girlfriend to see Passion Pit at The Backyard at Bee Cave. While hordes of bros yammered under their backwards baseball caps, The Octopus Project courageously played on, happily, brightly, authentically, perhaps doing it all for me because I didn’t feel like I could.

So when, on Saturday night at The Mohawk at the release party for their fifth album, Fever Forms, Josh Lambert thanked everyone for being there to celebrate with his best friends and bandmates, and thanked everyone again, I experienced a bit of the stupefaction you feel when your best friend thanks you for being at his wedding or something. What? Of course! Are you crazy? Thank YOU. Of course we’re here. We’re here because you’re here! Because we are here. Because you are here!

This was such a party, such a celebration of a gem of a band that has been together for over 14 years. I mean, the place was literally toilet papered. The parents of Josh and Yvonne Lambert, Toto Miranda, and Ryan Figg cheerfully sold merch out of the booth (“Go meet our parents and guess which ones belong to whom!”) People cheered for anything and everything, when Yvonne smiled her gracious smile, when she swung the Moog theremin around 45 degrees. Cheer crowd!

And rightly they should, because this is an incredible band. The gleeful frenzy of their music, most of it instrumental, matches the 100 mile per hour slideshow of color, images, and vintage video projected on octagonal scrims, which matches the full-bodied heart and focus poured into their live performance. That sounds like a lot, and it is, and it is great. Their comfort working together on stage as they switch instruments, even in the middle of songs, borders on choreographed dance. It’s enrapturing. Yvonne, the muse, her graceful, rigid focus at the helm of the theremin, glides to pick up her next instrument the moment she cuts off the wavelengths. The boys coyly wear wholesome white button downs and skinny black ties but throw their whole bodies into making “Porno Disaster” sound as deviously hot as its title.

But it’s their relentless playfulness, gratitude, and commitment to positivity and comradery that makes The Octopus Project a dear favorite. Life-sized cartoon cutouts of ghosts with mouths open in a rar flanked the stage, with the primary colored octopus mascot at the center like a one-eyed beacon to outer space. Have you ever seen people moshing because they’re excessively, overwhelmingly happy? I think they played “Truck” because they knew that this would happen. My crappy Vine video will never do it justice. And Toto has asked that next time, we all snap instead of clap together. Could we do that? Could we just do that for him? Cheer crowd.

So, I really don’t know why they thanked us. It feels really meaningful and at the same time really silly when friends thank each other, doesn’t it? I hope they know how proud Austin is to have them as our own. Josh admitted that Fever Forms is their favorite album ever. Everyone who’s heard it already says it’s their best ever. Maybe we all really love it because they really love it. Whatever, who knows, I’m going to go crank “Whitby” and dance in my underwear with my imaginary martian cartoon blob-friends, because that’s what you do when you’re in love.

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