On first arriving at The Observatory in Santa Ana on Friday 30th October I will admit to being slightly non-plussed – from the outside it looked like an unassuming, small warehouse type building in the midst of a business park made up of small office blocks and a few fast food restaurants.
Thankfully, upon stepping inside for Tiger Army’s seventh Octoberflame event the venue presented itself as having some genuine character and this only grew as it gradually filled to capacity.
The night started out with some punchy punkabilly from Phoenix, Arizona’s The Limit Club. The four-piece all stood at the front of the stage, yes even the drummer, and each brought their own personality to a performance that grabbed from the off and at points even got me singing along despite the fact I hadn’t even heard their name before tonight. Guitarist and vocalist Nick Feratu was as energetic as they come throughout and, along with drummer Juan Carlos was enormously engaging throughout.
Feratu’s guitar combined with NickDave’s upright bass to add a real psychobilly sense to their sound that was augmented by the punky guitar of Monty O’Blivion, along with occasional bursts from his saxophone, that gave the band a link back to the history of rock ‘n’ roll they shared with both other acts on the bill.
For the whole set the band got a great reaction from the growing audience with a highlight of the set being original Wild Birds and, while the band may not have done anything too new or inventive, what they did, they did excellently and are certainly worth catching if you have the chance.
Things took something of a side step next as veteran performer James Intveld led his band onto the stage for an hour of straight up country rock. While somewhat self consciously ‘not another psychobilly band’, Intveld and co proved that here that didn’t matter one bit as they were well received throughout – though I’m sure Intveld’s work on the headliner’s Nick 13’s country album helped with that too. Combining modern country rock with a sense of the genres roots Intveld came across like a slightly more mainstream Hank Williams III but with everything that makes real country and roots so good.
Invtveld crooned and strummed his way through the performance with a real style while his rhythm section kept things on a tight and solid path. Electric guitar player Storm Rhode was a highlight of the set (along with Intveld’s songs) as he made his Telecaster sing and really showed how the space between the notes can be as important as the notes themselves.
While mostly at the lighter end of Americana, Intveld still showed he could deal with the darker stuff on a few occasions and with a set stealing bit of business involving some two man guitar playing from the main man and Rhode. The crowd may not have been as into this as they were The Limit Club but Intveld provided some fine highlights and a nice contrast bridging the sounds between the night’s headliners and other support act. Of course the band the sold out crowd was here to see was Tiger Army and, after a slightly protracted break, they stepped onto the stage to a thunderous welcome.
From the off the small floor area was a writhing mass as the pit seemed to rarely stop for the best part of two hours while further back every song and utterance from Nick 13 was greeted with a genuinely felt positivity.
The set drew on all four of the bands previous albums and showed the diversity and development they have had since they formed in the late 90s.
Despite the increased volume and particularly enormous bass sound, every aspect of each song could be heard which showed off 13’s musicality excellent as he lead the charge as a consummate and engaging frontman as well.
Along with many fan favourites from their back catalogue, Tiger Army debuted a new song from their long awaited new album which showed a continuing development of melody within the psychobilly framework and went down very well, while being the only song not sung back in its entirety. Following a short break the three-piece were joined by James Intveld on electric guitar for first Hechizo De Amour, which saw 13 get up close and personal with the audience, and then In The Orchard where he took up an acoustic guitar for a slightly country diversion.
With the crowd reaching an even more ecstatic point Tiger Army rounded off the first night of their seventh Octoberflame Halloween special with what has become one of the signature songs, Never Die, complete with sincere and heartfelt introduction.
This alongside Santa Carla Twilight, FTW and Rose of the Devil’s Garden were just a few highlights for me in a celebratory set which left the crowd wanting more and saw the band appear revitalised and renewed following some recent ups and downs, hopefully hinting at more good things to come from them and soon – Ghost Tigers Rise indeed!