Octopus Nine Presents: an Eclectic Evening at Astorino’s

It’s another hot Vancouver summer night, and the entrance to Astorino’s concert hall is flanked by teens clambering inside to see the evening’s show. A table sells the usual band CDs and T-shirts, but tonight those goods are blanked by pillowcases and mugs featuring octopi, and the stage is engulfed in blue light that’s eerily similar to the floor of an ocean. Tonight, it’s the debut concert of Octopus Nine, a group of youth promoters hailing from the Cultch’s youth panel.

The name “Octopus Nine” raises a few questions—specifically the “nine” part. Octopodes (usually) have eight tentacles, for one, and there are only 5 members of the group, so that theory is scrapped too.

I start to worry a little bit too much about the name. Is it a code? The Illuminati? Where is Nicholas Cage when I need him? Fortunately, A little bit of octopus research reveals that most of our tentacled friends have nine brains—mystery solved!

The next puzzle was the event’s eclectic lineup, which featured a range of acts ranging from She Dreams in Colour, a heavier alternative group, to Six Speed Swing, a sextet which plays what their name might suggest. Headlining the evening was Funk Schwey, a dangerously funky rock n’ roll outfit that we at Lotusland are very familiar and slightly in love with. Local muse Alyssa Baker was also scheduled to perform, but due to illness was replaced at the eleventh hour with Jeremy Hanion and the April Fools Childrenhood, both of Six Speed Swing. Just like its nine-brained namesake, Octopus Nine’s debut show stuck its tentacles in many a direction.

Fresh off of the Cultch’s IGNITE! festival, which they were heavily involved with, Octopus Nine assembled a lineup that was just as diverse as the entire week-long run of IGNITE!—and indeed, many of the evening’s guests were mainstays at this year’s festival. But unlike IGNITE!, which had the luxury of a whole week to schedule “themed” evenings, we had a myriad of different genres pushed into a mere four hours.

The evening began with The April Fools Childrenhood (David Cowling)  and Jeremy Hanion, who took the stage with only an acoustic guitar and his voice to play for a crowd that ranged from teenagers ready for moshing to people in their 30s or 40s, a task made especially daunting by the short notice the performers had to take the stage on. Cowling took the stage first, playing a brand of haunting, melancholic folk that sounded like Nine Inch Nails decided to go on an acoustic swing. Complemented by ambient blue lighting, Cowling was a menacing and dark start to the night that gave the whole crowd a set of goosebumps.

Jeremy Hanion took the stage next, playing a mix of pop covers and original material to satisfy every age range in the crowd. A talented vocalist and guitarist, Hanion’s only Achilles heel weakness was his attempted conversations with the crowd, which has served him well in previous shows (like the IGNITE! festival), but at Astorino’s sounded like that guy at the bus station who’s trying way too hard to chat up a girl. Nevertheless, the covers of Britney Spear’s “Baby One More Time” and TLC’s “No Scrubs” were just as enjoyable as they were unexpected.

Six Swing Speed took the stage next, fronted once again by Hanion. Despite the challenge of the back to back sets, Hanion transitioned seamlessly into smooth jazz singing without breaking a sweat with the help of the sextet’s league of talented soloists. The group had only recently formed, but the lack of practice wasn’t evident as they weaved through swing classics effortlessly. Hanion seemed much more in his element once he had a band behind him, leading the crowd as they snapped and cheered after each solo. The dancefloor was open, and the energy changed from melancholy to jazzy in minutes.

Following Six Speed Swing was the Surrey alt rock trio She Dreams in Colour, a firey all-female group that inspired just about the biggest shift in energy at a show we’ve ever seen. As the group warmed up with a partial rendition of Metric’s “Black Sheep”, a crowd had already begun to form in front of the stage.

“We had a chance earlier tonight to learn from some really amazing soloists” says lead singer and bassist Devyn Bohun casually. “We want you to forget all of that right about now.” Guitarist Ashleigh George slams a power chord on her black Gibson Les Paul, and the moshpit begins. Just like your average forest fire, it starts out as a wisp of smoke—a couple kids headbanging—and then grows into an inferno of thrasing bodies. She Dreams in Colour are consorts of the best kind of angst-ridden punk around, especially the crowd favourite “Dark Side of Me.” Despite their incredible confidence and energy onstage, the girls were surprisingly mellow when addressing the crowd, even giggling a bit when they introduced “We Are the Kids Your Parents Warned You About.” “We like to think we’re sassy,” Bohun explained. The band closed their set with “Smells like Teen Spirit,” which would have been cliche for an average garage band, but from them took on a life of its own.

The night ended under the funky guidance of Funk Schwey, who in the past year have become a staple not just at Astorino’s, but across the city. Lotusland was lucky enough to encounter the band eating a plate of samosas before the concert, and was surprised to find that new guitarist Ben Robertson would be replacing Marcus DeVerteuil, as he would soon be off to a slightly-less-funky life in Montreal. We asked how Robertson felt about replacing DeVerteuil:

“No one could replace Markie” Robertson said between samosa bites.

“Ben is adding, actually. He’s more” countered keyboardist Jacob Schwinghammer.

“He does way more protein shakes than Markie” added bassist and singer Isaiah Dobbs.

It’s unclear how much protein Robertson consumes or what his actual gains are, but what is certain is that he’s just as capable a guitarist as DeVerteuil, matching the tempo on every song seamlessly. Within seconds of them taking the stage with “Funk de Schwey,” the entire audience was on the dancefloor, grooving through band staple “Summertime.” Robertson showed off his guitar chops with an improvised jam that eventually segwayed into their single “Sh’qwelya,” which Robertson has revamped with a more psychedelic, distorted solo section.  The band then began a serious-but-not serious cover of the theme track from the cartoon “6Teen,” which resulted in Schwinghammer being crowd surfed around the small venue. After the crowd demanded an encore, “Levi’s House” was played to finish the show, leaving an audience sweaty, tired, and entirely satisfied.

Octopus Nine puts on an eclectic show, and many members of the audience were only there to see one of the night’s acts. But through a carefully arranged lineup that allowed the energy and volume to gradually rise throughout the night, the show ended on a perfect peak of incredible energy. Despite cancellations from scheduled performers, Octopus Nine put together a show that pushed boundaries, challenged listeners, dragged us into mosh pits and dance floors alike, and sent the entire room home happy.

Octopus Nine is an independant group putting together all-ages shows in Vancouver: 

The April Fool’s Childrenhood is an electrofolk project from David Cowling.

She Dreams in Colour is a Surrey-based all girl punk rock band.

Funk Schwey is the most protein-shake drinking band in existence.

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