For those of us who love to people watch, half the amusement of going to a show is watching your fellow crowd members. I mean, they are,give or take, half the show. The band sets up the vibe and the crowd carries it to the end. But it’s especially amusing to watch a crowd react to a band that you, yourself, aren’t sure how to react to when you’re alone with your headphones: As I have been whenever I’ve listened to The Octopus Project, until now.
I’m not knocking them when I say that. Their continuously shifting song structures, the often unpredictable builds and reliefs, and eerie noise derivatives of the theremin and glockenspiel just don’t make for easy dance music. They’re also not the easiest to tag with a genre. You can use umbrella terminology and call them indie electronica but if you’re looking for something a little less ambiguous it becomes difficult. Disco-punk? Electro-noise? Nintendocore? I assumed seeing them live would be equally subjective: Everyone reacting in their own way. There was a little of that, but for the most part, I saw the workings of a mob mentality.
Octopus Project were responsible for swaying the masses. From the moment they got up on stage, ear-to-ear smiles and frantically enthusiasm waved over a shoulder-to-shoulder audience. The band was dressed to impress too. All the gents were in black pants, white shirt, black tie—super Beatle-y except for their au courant hairdos. Then there was Yvonne Lambert in her signature ’60s-style knee-length dress. Eager, amped, and primped, they seemed as gripping, and maybe as novel, as any band on American Bandstand.
A Spector wall of sound then hit with guitars, bass, drums, keyboards and samplers—but this is where the ’60s motif ends. The Octopus Project’s sound is uniquely new when heard live. The soundwaves came in bursts and in all different lengths and intensities. Songs climaxed at unexpected times and bold electronic textures permeated without distinguishable patterns, building to a storm of ear-stimulation. Two hexagons hanging on each end of the stage featured images and patterns oscillating throughout the set. For some, it was too good an opportunity not to light up. Briefly in the back of the room, the smell of weed was unmistakable.
But the kinetic energy coming from the audience was the kind not usually found in someone who’s indulged in a joint or two. People were literally shaking, boogying, contorting their bodies any way the wall of sound hit them. They snapped their fingers and clapped their hands over their head—something I haven’t seen since early high school pop-punk stuff. At one point, Octopus Project asked the crowd if they liked experiments. The experiment was this: during a lull in the song, everyone would crouch down to the beer-stained scuffy floor and jump up and dance once the music picked back up. I don’t think I’m the only one who’s mortified to do something like this at a show, but everyone except of a handful of folks got down to the floor, got up, and went crazy. The Octopus Project definitely hypnotized everyone with their full-face grins and supernormal theremin.