Brendan Kergin, Arts & Entertainment Editor Ω
After seven years in the industry, Hey Ocean is riding a swell of popularity and rolled into Kamloops on a big blue wave of positive buzz. For the show at the Blue Grotto Tuesday night (Sept. 18) they brought along new friends, Family of the Year.
Family of the Year sounded pretty local, starting its set with a series of country/folk-tinged pieces and drifted into the more straight-forward indie five-piece sound. Despite the local sound, Family of the Year is based out of Los Angeles.
Playing a few tracks in a row, Family of the Year didn’t open up to the crowd right away. The sound got a surprising number of people out on the floor and dancing, though. And some were really dancing, with hands around hips and on shoulders. As the band continued it opened up to the audience. The drummer, on a short break from the set, ran out into the crowd and gave a couple of young ladies his tambourines, dashed back to his skins for the rest of the song and then caught the instruments, which were returned with a heave from the dance floor.
With great harmonies and a very enthusiastic rhythm section, Family of the Year will benefit from an introductory tour to Canada.
Hey Ocean is one of the faster rising acts in Canadian indie. With the release of the long-awaited third studio album Is, Hey Ocean has launched across the country, starting just a couple weeks ago. Kamloops is the first club show they’ve played on this tour.
The trio arrived with a couple of friends to play drums and rhythm guitar and keys. Ashleigh Ball, lead vocalist, flautist and xylophone player, David Beckingham, guitarist, and David Vertesi, bassist, took the stage with 220 people piled in the Grotto.
While most Hey Ocean songs are lead by Ball, the band does switch it up a bit. Beckingham does plenty of backing and harmonies with the rest of the band pitching in. Beckingham also took the lead on a couple of songs and Vertesi even cracked into Jolene (not the country song, but their own work, which Vertesi normally sings).
Highlight of the night had to be “Make a New Dance Up” off of Is. It changed the entire vibe of the room, knocking everybody’s energy up notches. The song is a perfect indie-pop gem and Hey Ocean realizes it has something special. As it seemed to close, the drummer kept a beat going while the others took off around the stage, dancing around, eventually grabbing drumsticks, grouping around the kit and pounding out some pop-like tribal beats. Then Ball played a clown whistle of sorts.
“How does Kamloops feel about crazy dance parties?” Vertesi asked after.
Also of note was how excited the back-up guitarist was for his awesome solo. He didn’t get much time front-and-centre, but it was well-taken. Ball also headed a great version of “Big Blue Wave,” an earworm of a song and first single from Is.
Ball is a strong front-woman, despite her small stature. While her musical ability on the flute is appreciated as a different auditory element, she’s also entertaining, dancing and bouncing around the stage. If only they could mike the flute for mobility.
Musically, the band drifted across styles with influences from straight-forward rock, 1960s pop and some jazz-like vocals at times. After seven years they’ve learned and experimented a lot, but the fusion they’ve got going will keep crowds bouncing.