Just as any small town, a variety of transient bards are bound for Monterey County every year. Some cross the ocean from Australia (such as Natalie D-Napoleon) and most simply trace the coast from LA or SF. And always delighted should we be to welcome such guests whose stylizations might enrichen our music scene that hinges on surf, punk-fusions, and indie-rock. Surf and punk and indie can and often are fantastic, but can just as easily make one weary. The Monterey scene went somewhat stale for a short time, as shows were happening, but it was the same shows, the same bands, and even when not, the same people. While there are a myriad of talents in this town, some deserve more recognition than others receive. Granted I reserve a certain spectacular bluegrass ensemble known as Songs Hotbox Harry Taught Us for to contradict such a notion in my following post. So the reader might imagine my enthrallment as genres scarcely performed or attempted were stumbled upon today in hybrid form. They were preparing their equipment while I walked Lighthouse Avenue during Pacific Grove’s Good Ol Days festival. Besides the occasional big-city busker minstreling unfed hours away, lonesomely so in some resonative capsule of the city, like a subway or an old plaza, it is rare that I happen across a person who happens to have undertaken jazz as their primary musical pursuit, and applied that undertaking as well. I love jazz. Though I am no historian on the genre as many fans are, I truly love jazz, only slightly moreso than I love technical composition - the ability to harness and masterfully execute the techniques yet provided with which to play an instrument - that is applied in progrock and progmetal. Space Hoodie does jazz, and naturally they are quite partial to technical composition, trading many conventions of their craft for the lucrative products of [even more] contemporary music [than jazz].
I saw there before the antique-store, in the shade beneath a retro gas-station pavilion, now decommissioned and jade-hued with succulent bushes, a Jordan Peele doppleganger, who rocked back and forth on his feet, conversing with the audio engineer, while he fiddled a baritone saxophone’s buttons. A crimson Gretsch drumkit was mounted by a man who looked like he was at once shirtless and desperate in his cargo-shorts, before he jumped a radioactive Peruvian flute band and tried on all of their exotic shirts, before he settled appropriately on the neon-green one. Then there was a Jew-fro, more like a Celt-fro, if that’s a thing, and beneath it, a skinny man in sweats resting his arms over his fretless bass-guitar. To cap it off, some dude was on the keyboard wearing a striped polo and khakis and all-together bearing semblance of another new version of good Ryan from Wilfred, this time in suburban Germany. The sidewalks were aglow with the hazy sun under which I had been strolling for some time amidst my thoughts, and the crowd gathering round the band seemed like one that was not intent on staying themselves when the music began and the youngins filtered in. Thus was my curiosity captured, and thus I sat myself down and watched.
Michael Booker, the saxophonist, pushed his sunglasses up the bridge of his nose and approached his pedalboard and leaned into the microphone. “Hey everyone,” he said, his voice light and grassy, “um, I hope you’re all havin a nice day, out here today, enjoying this, eh, wonderful day. It’s so cool to be here in Monterey, playin for you guys. We want to start off with somethin chill today, so, uh, here goes. Enjoy.” That was it, and then they started playing. Ryan Scott Long, the rather professional drummer whose rhythm was tighter than his ride cymbal was loose (he kept knocking it off its stand), enraptured the band immediately to a substantiation of his sound, so voluminous in the scape it created that there were no tracts too small upon which to develop. A jazzy exploitation of progressive music with soundscapes intermittent. That was cool as fuck - Ryan is a drummer whose percussion is, altogether, best described as ‘cool-as-fuck’, even for what he did to those Peruvian panflute players. However, it seemed Booker tried to retract the rodentine anxiety harbored as he first spoke to the audience. The music that resulted in his tenseness was a sonic experiment of slow, repetitive progressions and ambiences that seemed like they should have worked, but did not. It was uncanny, and I was almost inclined to stand and continue walking.
Then people began to leave, and a group of hipsters sat down in their stead. With this exchange came their second song. It was interluded with yet more awkward inklings of the sax-player’s mind dispatched to the new audience, some rather funny (he later mentioned that his ulterior endeavor is stand-up comedy, which permeates into every public interaction), and all rather amusing. Now, that anxiety which oppressed him so in the first song became fuel for the second. The drumbeats, almost metallic but somehow genuinely bebop all the same, were beat into the flat concrete scape before them, and that rigid, bearded face over the toms bit his lips and smiled maniacally and laughed in similar humors, as he drew the schematics of the song with precision enough to translate them to real schematics that might build a rocket. I swear to everything pleasurable on God’s Green Earth, you could build a fucking rocketship and blast it to Proxima Centauri with this man’s talent (that link sees him playing hardcore metal or something you can’t hear cause it’s POV). The bassist, Riley Hagan, struck synthetical waves of aura into the music that, though prudently funky, imbued a somehow refreshingly modern vein of electronica into the song, which was stitched quite subtly between the amalgamate music, and he did it without frets, so that was cool too. All the while, he hosted small-talk with the drummer during their songs and was grinning warmly and swaying and swiveling from the shoulders and hips. The keyboardist, Nick O’Connor, most reminded me, both in appearance and style, of the keyboardist from Vulfpeck, with hardly a correction to be made on his part, as he watched intently the constituents that guided his hands, weaving silk from the keys of his instrument. I wondered where all his cyborg bastard children were sitting in the audience waiting to strike, because he did some seriously sexual things to that keyboard, and I loved nothing more than when his solo arrived.
And of course there was Jordan, and this time, though still warming himself up and thereby climbing scales up and down for many of the iffier moments, he displayed the force that could reconcile the ensemble’s disparities. The man was swimming through the air with his baritone sax and he skipped and rocked and even twirled at a slight with the contortions of his sound. However, it was the dancing that his saxophone did which most mystified me. It was one of those peculiar instances in which I could not have been more delighted at my disproving, and the more he straddled harmony and dissonance, the more he cauterized the seams between each transition, the more he made reconcile the likes of jazz and funk and trip-hop and prog-rock and all the other shit I heard amongst his tooting, and the more I wanted not to leave.
Alas, leave I did, for I had a novel-trilogy to edit (yeah, I know - I’m looking forward to starvation, mind you), and when I was done with that, I wrote this, because I could not pry it from my mind. Jordan Peele, er, shit, I mean Michael Booker imposed some fantastic improvisation, not only in the bebop hoorah that highlighted his playing, but in his ability to turn heel and render the band all within the same crucible no matter his ambitions. A cover of the song "Dare" by The Gorillaz, a Paul Simon-inspired hymn, and an impromptu exchange from some fresh original content to a funky rendition of 2pac, mid-song, all proved the bandmates’ versatility. For the thirty minutes that I was attending and observing this group, I was pleasured with watching their many expressions of communication or of gratification manifest on their bearded faces. I was treated quite diversely, from chill and simple to energized and intricate, and the treat was satin smooth and satiating. For that, I offer my sincerest gratitude. And atop this all, upon my shouted inquest of “Where’s yer band from?” Michael, who had already been working the youth amongst the crowd and ingraining his charisma into our memories, responded with honest thanks (he had forgotten this detail in their introduction) and radiant humor, infectious as it smiled from his face and those of his bandmates.
Oakland, basically, but moreover they hail from “...just, the whole, uh, general, like, eastern Bay region,” so if you’re ever around Oakland or Hayward or Fremont, keep an eye out for Space Hoodie, cause my day was damned made by their spectacle.
Thanks again for reading my first posting in quite some time. I have been uninspired and not attending many shows as of late, save for those of bands of whom I have already written, so I was waiting for the write moment. That moment arrived when I came to know Stories Hotbox Harry Taught Us, but as I witnessed them, I thought that Space Hoodie was too imaginative and too fresh to pass up, so have my quick article and be happy with it. If you wish to contact me for some reason, hit up my e-mailbox: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you want to check out Space Hoodie, watch some Youtube videos of them going ham. Then, they also have a Facebook from which is also linked their drummer’s professional webpage and many cool Youtube videos of him and the sax-player in action.