By their own account, Elise Okusami and Oceantor have been on the road for seven separate tours this calendar year. That’s a LOT of touring. Sharing the stage with such diverse acts as Pedro The Lion, PUP, Jeff Rosenstock, Laura Jane Grace and Tim Kashner to name just a few. They also toured the UK for their first time along with criss-crossing the States way more than any human should within one set of 365 days.
This hectic and sometimes chaotic touring schedule finally came to a close last Saturday night with Oceanator’s headline homecoming gig at The Broadway. Support for this tour closing show came from the likes of Philadelphia’s Queen of Jeans who’d been on the road with Oceanator the last few weeks as well as added guest, Georgia Maq of Camp Cope who was passing through New York City on the way back to Australia from the UK. Oh, and on top of all of this Oceanator released a killer album in 2022 called Nothing’s Ever Fine, on Polyvinyl Records which I’m sure will land on numerous best of lists this year (It’s firmly embedded in mine, that’s for sure).
As I’ve stated in the past, Oceanator is one of those enigmatic bands which just seems to get better and better every time you see them. Saturday night was certainly no exception to this standard. Opening the set up with the shoegazey instrumental from Nothing’s Ever Fine, “Morning,” Okusami and the rest of Oceantor (Dylan Lapointe on bass and Lou Hanman on drums) took what was already a piece which builds momentum and energy from start to finish to a whole other level, building it into a sonic crescendo which might have had ears bleeding upon its completion.
Sticking to material from the new album, the next five songs were all from NEF, albeit not in the same sequence as they were presented on the LP. When the band kicked into the fuzzed out guitar intro of “The Last Summer” followed by Okusami’s breakneck recitation of the opening lines
Neon signs, flashing by me and a
Cherry coke and crumpled bag of french fries lying
on the passenger seat
Where you used to be
One hand out the window
watching Light play
across the hood of my car
from the streetlights passing by
One couldn’t help but reminisce about those teenage summer nights just driving around killing time looking for something to do. It was almost Springstonian in the song’s ability to capture that kind of moment.
It wouldn’t be until well into the set when we’d get the slow burner “January 21” from the 2020 debut album, Things Never Said. Next up we were treated to a relatively rare song called “Average Joe” which was released on a Sub Pop compilation called The Eleventh Hour: Songs for Climate Justice followed by “Bad Brain Daze” from the new one. This song with Okusami ’s powerful staccato guitar strums filled in with Hanman’s pounding drum beat had the filled room jumping up and down right on cue.
The evening would close out with a demonic like sludgy demolition of my ear drums version of “In the Van” with its “Star Spangled Banner” guitar riffs and bottom heavy chugging rhythm backbone. Appropriately followed by the waltz like “Evening” with its translucent imagery of a hot humid summer’s night and the cicadas humming in the trees. And with that peaceful image in our heads the night was over only for us to soon be slapped back to the reality of the freezing cold winter’s air and the clanging of the M train as it passed over Broadway.
Of course, there was more to the evening than Oceanator’s set. The last minute addition of Georgia Maq to the bill was a tremendous surprise to which I was elated to hear as Maq doesn’t make it to these parts very often. She did have a solo gig scheduled for the Spring of 2020 over at Trans-Pecos but we all know how that panned out. So having a chance to see her solo was truly an added treat. Being self admittedly jet lagged, sleep deprived and hung over, she treated us to a five song set of all new material interspersed with candid stories and tales which would certainly make most of our mother’s blush if they were to have heard them. All of that being said, the new songs were wonderful, especially “Brooklyn, Not This One,” “Neighbors” (about her lockdown friendship, wink wink, with her neighbor) and “They’ll Never Dance Like Us” (about her short lived relationship with an anti-vaxxer). NOTE:` As these were new songs, I am guessing at the song titles and probably have gotten them wrong. My apologies to Georgia for any inaccuracies.
Following Maq’s set was the Philadelphia band, Queen Of Jeans. Another band that I’d heard of but was not familiar with their actual material. (Who can keep track of all these Philly bands these days anyway?) They opened up their set with the title track off of this year’s EP, Hiding In Place. As I would soon discover, played live, the band’s material comes off much more aggresive and loud than it dows on the poppier recorded versions. And truth be told, this was fine by me. Queen’s set was a nice mix of songs from the aforementioned EP as well as their 2019 LP, If You’re Not Afraid, I’m Not Afraid. The band itself, composed of Miri Devora on lead vocals and guitar, Matti Glass on background vocals and lead guitar, Lou Hanman on bass and background vocals (is there any band that Lou doesn’t play with?) and Andrew Nitz on drums sounded great especially on “Only ObviousTo You,” a love gone wrong song, which started out slowly with Devora quietly singing in her waif-like style only to build into the climactic chorus of “love will always fuck you over” complete with Glass’ screeching guitar all the while flipping the audience the bird.
All in all, I have to say that this was one of those special nights where all three acts were truly a pleasure to watch and hear as they performed not only heartfelt but vividly emotional story songs complete with fantastic musical accompaniment.
Scroll down for pics of the show (photos by Ray Rusinak)
QUEEN OF JEANS