I’ve been to the Bottom of the Hill on a weekend, arrived in time for the first band and had the venue be practically empty. That wasn’t the case last night for East Bay band Okay. When I arrived at 9pm, the venue already had a good number of people in it and it just filled up more throughout the set until there was a crowd that would have been respectable for a headliner at the end.
Okay’s a band that’s been around for a few years but I only heard of them a month or so ago when KZSU got in their most recent album, Huggable Dust, out on Absolutely Kosher. It’s caught my ear and perhaps more importantly, I’m intrigued by it. But more on the music a little later.
Okay is Marty Anderson but he was joined on stage by four more: keyboards, drums, bass and a multi-instrumentalist (on glockenspiel, teardrop mandolin and possibly others.) He launched into their first song and the band quickly joined him. Okay’s music is difficult to describe: each song seems to be easy to describe but from song-to-song they can be quite different. There’s straight up folk, freak-folk, orchestral pop. All of them are colored by Marty’s guitar playing whether it’s fingerpicked or strummed and strained vocals.
There are songs that seem simple but are really quite complex and there are songs that seem simple that are actually quite simple. And there are complex, layered songs. On the album, especially, I’ve found the effect of this was that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and the show was similar.
Marty isn’t exactly one for stage presence. He plays well, but the doesn’t banter and he sang most of the show with his eyes closed. There were some really technical and tight parts of the show, but there were some sloppy parts too. If I have one more complaint, it’s that Marty’s too prolific–I know dozen and a half songs on Huggable Dust but I only recognized a few from his set. Overall it was a good set. As it sinks in and as I think about it, it’s growing on me more and more. Other people obviously took to it very quickly: after the band finished they were enthusiastically cheered on to one more song.
Besides the (wonderful) people I already knew were going to be there, I also ran into a couple people:
- Cory Brown, the label head of Absolutely Kosher–this is a label I’ve been following since the end of high school. I remember almost ordered the alter kocker indie rocker shirt in 1999 or 2000 (but I didn’t because I was a poor college student).
- Jay Pellicci was the drummer for Okay. He was also the very cool and competent engineer for Or, the Whale when they recorded at Tiny Telephone.
I stayed for a few songs of Tim Fite, but I wasn’t in the mood for his theatrics that night and with an alarm set for far too early waiting for me at home, I headed out.
 I just realized yesterday that there are three pretty common but pretty different styles of mandolins: tear drop (A-style), violin/ f-hole (F-style) and bowl back. Yup, I’m an instrument nerd.