Ominous Happy Feet
Ventura Theatre - Ventura, CA
November 29, 1997
First Appeared in The Music Box, February 1998, Volume 5, #2
Written by Mike Indgin
On November 29, I drove north from LA to the beautiful Ventura Theatre to see for myself if there is indeed another upstate New York band that deserves my undying admiration. This, of course, is the Ominous Seapods.
I started off this gorgeous Fall day with a trip to the waterfalls of Topanga State Park with my buddy Rob Hecker and his 14 year-old cousin. We had a blast scaling ropes and dangling from trees. They headed east to Hollywood, and I took off north along Pacific Coast Highway, jamming to a '96 Wetlands Ominous bootleg (to familarize myself with their songs) and watching the ominous seaclouds forming over the Pacific.
I arrived at the venue extremely early, so I went down to the beach and chowed on my veggie dinner and sipped hot chocolate from Carrows — a Ventura visit tradition. Then I sat in the parking lot and practiced my mandolin. I have a long way to go before I'm ready to join the Leftover String Salmon Cheese Flecktone Grisman Quartet Incident.
My friends Awesome Gary and his fiance Awesome Tiffany showed up and we went inside so they could set up their taping gear. The first two bands were Organix and Sea of Green. The former is a Hot Tuna ripoff band, while the latter is Barry Smolen's ripoff of The Doors. Both bands drove us screaming to the lobby where we met Max, the lead singer/guitarist for the Ominous Seapods. What a super nice guy! I talked to him for half an hour about moe. (they are old buddies, former neighbors, and tour buddies), the Dead, Plattsburg (where he went to school), and what it's like to tour the Northeast. He said he was glad to be playing smaller venues for a change.
He got his wish on this night: the holiday weekend created a tiny show of people. I'd estimate there were less than 100 people there. The band went on about 11:00, and I was the first one out on the dance floor. These guys know how to get you hopping. In fact, the strongest compliment I can give them is that their songs are ALL extremely danceable.
By the end of the night I had to be mopped off the floor. Max and Dana, the two guitarists, have chops to spare. Max's leads are similar to the slide guitar work of moe.'s Chuck Garvey. He jams with great speed and dexterity, and Dana plays a better funk rhythm than anyone I've seen. The fact that he looks like Stevie Ray Vaughan doesn't hurt either. The bass player Tom, keyboardist Brian and drummer Ted are all strong musicians as well.
Many fun and funky tunes later, they capped off the evening with a scorching version of their best song, Leaving the Monopole, which is a truly awesome anthem. Every Ominous Seapods song takes you to Happy Feet Land, which is not a bad place to find yourself in the post-Jerry era. I was happily surprised to find that the band's latest disc Jet Smooth Ride, not only captures their live essence, but shows a broader side to their songwriting than was first detected when we skimmed the surface at this first Southern California incident. This disc is available through the Ominous Seapods' web site.
After the show we went backstage and found out that each band member was nicer than the next. I received a poster autographed by the boys and had a long talk with the Ted. I even gave them each a polished gemstone for good luck on their journey home, a fifty hour bus ride to New York. Max gave me the guitar pick he used on the entire tour! What a great guy. I promised for their next appearance we'd have a much better turnout.
So put on your dancing shoes and catch them when they come to your town. Tell 'em the guy with the rocks and the Tigger sweatshirt at Ventura sent you.
Copyright © 1998 The Music Box