Octopus Project, Humbert, Zombies! Organize!!, Electric Pizza Party
We rolled up to City Limits just as Humbert, the second band of the night (Emergency Pizza Party had the early slot), was about to play. The lights dropped as the boys were settling in near their instruments – giving Ferny (Humbert’s owl-eyed singer/keyboard player) a chance to do what he does best: talk dirty. “Thank you for setting the mood!” he said, his head shooting up from behind the keyboard, “I’ve always said, if you can’t fuck – at least have a good mood!” But that’s just Humbert. It’s a band composed of the filthiest minds of Hialeah, and when they all get together they make the sweetest, most adorablely catchy songs around; a feat that’s both perplexing and endearing. So when they started into their newest candy-coated melody with, “Bam, Shizam, you know I really missed you – Yes it’s true!” it’s easy to forget that these boys are as quick to talk about eating each other’s asses as they are to harmonies on “woo woo woos”. They played a short set with a lot of old stuff and two new songs; the 80 or so people who had gotten there so far went giddy for a fix of Hialeah’s finest.
When Zombies! Organize!! started playing (the band was slow to set up) they whipped through a barrage of jittery, mile-a-minute, hyper-caffeinated lyrics as they jumped from cute instrument to cuter in fashionable outfits. If your ears are sensitive to high-pitched voices beware: the glass holding my gin and tonic actually shattered in my hand as the singer rampaged through a chorus of gleeful squeals. (Alright, that didn’t happen – but it coulda.) And as Gravvy Train is to food, and Avenue D is to sex, Zombies! Organize!! is all about life as a resurrected corpse.
The main draw of the night was Octopus Project – a group I fell in crush with two SXSWs ago. The band is Austin-based and the music it makes is interpreted differently by everyone who hears it. For some, it’s meditative. For others, it’s what made them get that damn speeding ticket. For me it’s a spastic combination of classical/dance/noise/rock, and it’s what I imagine would be the soundtrack to a dream about underwater cartoon characters. But you have to see them live to appreciate their work ethic: They scamper around the stage busying themselves with different instruments, sometimes switching places up the three times per song making xylophones, keyboards, laptop-sampled slushy drumbeats, electric guitars, bass, drums, and a Theremin all fair game. And they went the extra mile on presentation by transforming their double-stacked amps into Japanese toy-inspired ghosts. First they covered the amps in a netting of Christmas lights, then they tossed over giant, puppet-like sheets, sewn together and given faces and fury ears. With so much going on visually and audibly, you would think that your eyes would constantly be searching the stage – in reality it’s tough not to focus on just Yvonne Lambert.
The lone woman in the band is dolled up like Audrey Hepburn and has hair like a plastic Fisher Price doll; she’s also a wizard on the Theremin. She’s self-taught (understandably, there simply aren’t that many accomplished Theremin players hanging out at bars, lookin’ for protégés), and told me that she learned “at home, you know, listening to Beethoven!” When the band is at rest in Austin, she takes her Theremin to children’s music classes and gives demonstrations. When they are on stage, she balances the masculinity of the music with violin-light, top layers of harmony on her trusty Moog.
Where other noise/rock groups fill space with vocals, Yvonne bends and twists the Theremin’s magnetic fields into hauntingly beautiful ghost wails, then rams into them like a gear shift so that racecar sounds build slowly, and finally karate chops them, filling the room with ray gun noises. The whole experience is layered, textural, and great to dance to. The hundred plus people who made it out to this special, Tuesday night, Honeycomb show were convulsing and twitching with joy by the set’s end. They had been caught in the Octopus’ tentacles. --Jamie Laughlin