The Octopus Project, Tele Novella, Chin Xaou Ti Won Concert Review Arcade Fire, eat your heart out. A new generation of indie electronic rock is upon us. The first act was a two-guy duo called Chin Xaou Ti Won. A mustachioed DJ keyboardist and his zany sidekick made up the group and their music reflected their image. About six different instruments in total were played at one time creating a wall of sound, at times painful but mostly sheer fun to listen to.

Chin Xaou Ti Won played around four songs in total, starting from 8:45 and ending around 30 minutes later. One song had an 80’s vibe to it- almost like they were channeling Journey’s spirit in their work.

Their amateur appearance and lack of real crowd engagement was a little disappointing, but to counteract this image, they ended with a bang. More accurately, the curly-haired keyboardist departed the stage at the end of “Foundation” ( a song they dedicated to ABBA) and re-emerged on stage, smashing a trash can lid with a mallet. “Beat that thing,” cheered the crowd as the trash can lid doubling as a impromptu gong rang again and again discordantly. Then the intrepid keyboardist split open a bag of gravel on the lid, spewing the rocks in a glorious explosion everywhere and ending their show.

Good times.

About fifteen minutes afterward, the first real band of the night started playing. Tele Novella, indie pop from Austin, took a little while to warm up to the reception they were getting, but thoroughly impressed once they had a firm hold on the eyes of the audience. “We eat at the same Ethiopian restaurant sometimes. I think that’s why [The Octopus Project] invited us”, joked Natalie Gordon, lead singer and guitarist for the band. A few false starts didn’t deter Tele Novella from launching themselves into their expansive set list. Minor keys and brooding pop ballads dominated the set list, but animated fretwork and footwork was focus of the playing.

Tele Novella borrowed from all elements of pop music. They seemed to be heavily inspired by The Beatles’ melodic chord changes in A Hard Days Night, and furthermore, their bassist moved and looked like a modern-day George Harrison. Their sound was a synthesis of preceding elements. Their technical skill in playing instruments, in crowd interaction and in theatricality gives me hope that they may one day create new sound out of the pieces that they have heard.

At 11:00 it was finally time for The Octopus Project. I can’t imagine a band more representative of the city of Austin in all of its weirdness.

First, the band members wore business casual dress. Not too unusual for a 90’s boy bad, but for co-ed indie electronic rock , an attention grabber. Each male band member wore black slacks with leather shoes or converse, a white collared top and a green tie. Yvonne Lambert, female keyboardist and theremin master, wore a neo-Golden Age curled hairstyle and a red sparkling dress.

Note: (If you don’t know what a theremin is, click here.)

Second, everyone was multi-talented, and switched instruments between songs. All members played guitar at some point, Josh Lambert and Toto Miranda switched roles as drummer, and Ryan Figg played a secondary handheld theremin during a song to support Yvonne’s main theremin soloing. Band members are:

  • Josh Lambert: guitar, bass, keyboards
  • Toto Miranda: drums, guitar, bass
  • Yvonne Lambert: samplers, keyboards, theremin, glockenspiel, guitar
  • Ryan Figg: guitar, bass, keyboards

The visuals were neat. The Octopus Project is known for their creative short films that they worked on for the Alamo Drafthouse Theater, and they ought to be given credit for their own music videos and background layers they use in concert. During one song, the visuals were of a classroom of students whose heads were replaced by colored shapes.

The sound was radical. Not many bands have the chops to mix electronic beats and live music as well as The Octopus Project does. Sharpteeth was a great example. The main synth role was played with a sample pad and monitored by Toto, but the rest- the guitars- were played live and loud.

The energy was just constant. The drummer worked himself into a sweat on the very first song he played and kept the feverish pace throughout the sets, somehow. The other members were always jumping around or swaying- except for Yvonne, who was an oasis of calm and control in front of the group. That dynamic- chaos and order- is at the very center of The Octopus Project and is one of their finest points, demonstrated in their energetic solos and the often harsh sounds they like to throw at listeners in the midst of pleasant melody structures.

Acoustics were just great. The lighting was nothing to write about, because The Octopus Project requested that not as much light be shone on them while onstage.

Overall I would highly recommend seeing any of the acts that were at Fitzgerald’s on Friday, Dec. 5 2013. 5/5 stars.

Nicholas Randall

I play video games, go to concerts, ride my bike, and post what I think about it all on this blog.

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