Friday, November 16, 2007

October Project

The summer of 1994 was a pivotal time in my life. I was on the verge of my senior year, tasting the first small bits of true freedom: a driver's license, a reasonable curfew, a car at my disposal, a job which provided good money and a decent amount of free time, and the undeniable invincibility that comes at the magical age of 17. I reflect on that summer with the filter of hindsight, and though I'm sure there were times when I felt life was unfair, I remember having the clarity, even then, to savor what I had- one of the most precious memories I have in my mental scrapbook is slipping out of my parents' house early in the morning and driving down to the lakeshore to watch the sun rise over Lake Michigan. I parked as close to the sand as I could, and using the doorframe as a ladder, I climbed up onto the roof of my car and watched the sky diffuse with light of a hundred colors. I felt my hair wind into knots as the lake breeze lifted it away from my shoulders. I sat with my chin on my knee, folded into a ball with my arms wrapped around my shins. It was as close to a perfect moment as anyone could ever expect in their life.

That summer was filled with summer school, cruising Lake Michigan, a garage sale to raise money for the drama club theatre trip to New York over Thanksgiving, and the warm, hazy feeling that the world was my oyster.

'Twas also the summer of October Project.

In a fit of late-summer discretionary spending, my friends and I bought tickets to the Sarah McLachlan concert. This was Sarah's first major tour- we had 3rd row tickets at the Navy Pier amphitheatre, which seated maybe 10,000 people. Far cry from stadium tours and pre-Lilith Fair. As was custom for teenagers from my hometown, we took the train downtown (because God no, you don't drive downtown no no!) and cabbed over to the Pier for the concert.

Amy, Dan and I arrived in plenty of time to watch the opening act- this little band called October Project. In advance of the concert, I'd picked up their CD- I figured it would be good to at least have an idea of their music before we saw the concert.

It never left my CD player...I dubbed it to tape so I could listen to it in my car.

I've always appreciated a good lyric- I've never been one to deny a good turn of phrase set to a tune. The wonderful thing about OP's lyrics are that they are soulful without trying. Using tight prose and careful rhyme, they grasp the themes of their songs without pounding ridiculous symbolism or metaphor into the listener. At the same time they are far from vapid. Examples:

you rise like a wave in the ocean
and you fall gently back to the sea
now I want to know how to hold you
return to me

you shine like the moon over water
and you darken the sky when you leave
now I want to know how to keep you
return to me

-Return to Me

Take me as I am, I may disappear
Fade into the night, Lighter than your thoughts
Take me while you can, Never knowing who or what you are until you're
Living with the unfamiliar

-Take Me As I Am

Cover the madness, Cover the fear
No one will ever know you were here
A figure in the hallway light returning like a ghost
Something that was left behind, something in a child's mind

-Bury My Lovely

Mary Fahl's voice haunted me for the first time that summer...and as an aspiring vocalist, I could only hope to achieve half the sound she produces through those magnificent pipes. I liked (still like) the fact that her voice is deep, soulful, unconventional, high and dark at the same time. Her tone can best be described as rich. It's the sound a Hershey's Special Dark chocolate bar would make as it was melted and poured into the batter of your mom's flourless chocolate cake.

I recently rediscovered OP, and am in the process of digging out the same CD I bought during that summer...13 years and change ago. OP has since disbanded or gone into exile, but if I ever hear they are playing anywhere in my vicinity...I'm there.

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