Three bottles of liquid awaited each member of Australia’s beloved surf band, Ocean Alley on the stage at Vancouver’s Commodore ballroom last Friday. A bottle of Corona, a bottle of 33 Acres of Life, and a bottle of water. I’m dying to know what they thought of the local brew; even though I haven’t tried it myself, I have it on good authority it’s a star among Vancouver’s excellent craft beer selections.
But I digress… back to music related things.
Just last week I was pondering over whether Vancouver’s music scene had a specific “vibe”. Certainly, the Aussie musicians I’ve seen in the last few years have had a distinguishable flavor to them. They have included the Maes, Xavier Rudd, Cat’s Empire and now Ocean Alley. Elements of folk, tribal, reggae and world beats seem to flow in and out of all these fine ensembles.
Listening to Ocean Alley made me feel like I was chilling at a beach in late summer with a bunch of friends around a campfire, watching the sunset. They kind of have this funky, jam band vibe with reggae undertones and a little jazz thrown in for good measure. But it all blends together very well and I guess that’s why everyone likes to refer to them as a fusion band.
Ocean Alley is a band on the rise. Even though they only have two full length albums under their belts, they have managed to sell out approximately half of their shows on their current North American Tour. In fact, they had originally booked the Imperial, but due to popular demand, decided to move the party to the much larger Commodore Ballroom in order to accommodate a larger audience.
They started the evening off with a trio of songs from their hugely successful second album, Chiaroscuro. Judging from the social media posts from previous shows, this was a considerably more subdued affair. It certainly didn’t seem subdued by Vancouver standards. The crowd, which was mostly large groups of Australians, sang and danced and drank the night away, while the six band members worked their way through the set.
“Partner in Crime”, a track from their debut album, Lost Tropics was a highlight. “Baby Come Back” also stood out as a fan favourite, and certainly one of the more jazz influenced songs of the evening. I think “Lemonworld” might have been the song I most enjoyed experiencing live.
Considering Ocean Alley played a total of four shows in Southern BC on this tour, and to somewhere close to twice as many people as they did just one year ago, Vancouver can rest easy knowing they will likely pass this way again. Word to the wise… get your tickets early, these lads sell out fast.
I must give a shout out to the Morning Yells for opening the show. Much like Ocean Alley, they make having cool, mellow, beach-y vibe work for them. I wish we could have had a little better sound on lead singer Phil Stancil’s vocals because I just love the smoky tone in his voice and that didn’t translate live for some reason.
They are worth checking out on Soundcloud, especially if you like American folk-rock bands, and I hope we see them up here again, soon too.