This year's OJ All Day Festival is coming up June 19th and 20th, and yesterday Olive Juice threw a kick-off barbecue in the back yard (back shed?) at Goodbye Blue Monday. People started showing up a little after four, and at first it seemed as if we might have needed to call in a specialist to get the barbecue lit. At one point Susan Hwang asked: "How many hipsters does it take to light a barbecue?" I know it takes at least two, one to light the charcoal and another to make a video documentary about it. In fact there was more than one video crew on hand. Justin Remer is making a promotional video about OJ All Day for YouTube, and a local Brooklyn Cable Access program was there shooting a piece on Goodbye Blue Monday. In any event, with a little help from Goodbye Blue Monday's proprietor, Steve, two grills got going, one for veggie dogs and another for the fully meated variety.
By about 7 Matt Roth called things to order and after a brief bit of introduction got some performances going. First up was a group I was unfamiliar with called either Birth Control or Wooden Ghost. I am under the impression that Toby Goodshank normally plays with them, but he was not on hand yesterday. The group centered on a guy/girl duo and was supplemented for a few songs by Brer Brian on trumpet and by a bass player. My memory is going to be fuzzy on a lot of the particular songs played last night but I enjoyed these guys. At one point somehow a plume of smoke was dramatically released in front of the stage. I know I didn't imagine this because I have a photo, but I still don't know where the smoke came from.
Next up were The Wowz, or at least two-thirds of them, in the person of Sam and Simon. They sat side by side and Wowd us with their harmonies and cool-sounding songs.
Rachel Trachtenburg played two songs, one about a black cat and one about a pigeon (if I remember correctly). Rachel played one song at the keyboard and on the other played ukelele and was accompanied by Chris Brodeur on air violin (Chris hummed along while miming the violin playing--it was a kind of charming effect, actually).
Rachel was followed by her dad Jason who played some of his recent hits...I seem to remember "I don't want to tempt.....time." That catchy sensation.
Then Schwervon! rocked the place. It's always amazing to me what these folks can do with just the two of them. It's one of those things where it's hard to pin down exactly what makes it work, but somehow the sum of their voices and playing adds up to more than the parts.
Finally, Ching Chong Song. Every time I see these guys I am more impressed. The stuff they come up with is stunning, really. The songs that Julie and Dan write are so different and original. It's hard to see how they come up with these ideas that seem so off the charts from anything else out there. But then they have continued to develop them in performance, and now with Susan Hwang woven in on vocals and accordion they are more musical and moving than you could imagine. On one song Susan played this traditional Korean drum and somehow it worked beautifully, even though it was a kind of funny (i.e. humorous) song. They also had a bass player for the first time that I've seen, a guy who played stand-up and contributed a percussive element that helped give the songs a frame and form in which to sit.
Throughout the night, between acts, Matt continued to talk about the elements of OJ All Day--the haircuts and massages that will be available, the crafts booths and vendors, etc. etc. on top of all that great music. Something like 40 perfomances are scheduled.
One of the things that has impressed me about OJ All Day is that, although Matt is clearly at the helm of it, the endeavor brings out a community of folks who all pitch in to pull it off. It's interesting how the OJ community stems from and overlaps with the Sidewalk gang but then also has gone off in its own direction. Aside from all the fun music, it was nice to hang out with these folks last night. I'm looking forward to the Festival in June for more music and hanging and community and fun stuff. See you there.