Oona
Photos by: Anna Gazdowicz

OONA kicked off an East Bay artists' dance party at the Independent Friday night with full band in tow. Oona Garthwaite has been honing her act around the Bay for a few years now, and it shows.

Oona's music incorporates a broad palette of styles - soul, funk, latin and bouncy early 80's-style synth-pop - into a distinct groove. While much of the music on her recordings comes from the mind and machines of collaborator Dave Tweedie, she wisely adapts it to a more organic band setting live. Her musicians play tight and hard and match Oona's hard working, bombshell-next-door persona with energy of their own.

Oona

[audio: http://oonamusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/01-tore-my-heart-snippet.mp3]
OONA - "Tore My Heart" (snippet)

Oona's pliable, slightly gritty voice shows traces of Bette Midler (with whom she seems somewhat temperamentally linked as well), Toni Basil, Dale Bozzio, and, it must be said, even Madonna. Likewise, her songs and her audacious performing style suggests some of the tightly-wound post new-wave pop of those artists, while still doing what all dance musicians aspire to onstage: transcend genre.

More than anything, Oona and band showed great awareness that their main duties were making a connection with the audience and getting the party started. Gold stars on both fronts!

Oona

Points go also to the DJs, and my apologies for failing to write down their names. They kept the ample and energetic crowd happy with an ambitious mix featuring some vintage Simian, Kate Bush and a snappy Animal Collective remix.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper. is the brainchild of Oakland funkster Eric Frederic, who created the project as an outlet for his boogie, booze and lady-obsessed alter ego Ricky Reed. Kind of like an artier, downtown NYC Morris Day circa 1984, Reed/Wallpaper have released a series of satirical odes to booze ("I Got Soul, I'm So Wasted"), partying ("Gettin Drip") and, uh, ladies ("Text Me Your Love"), wrapped up in a pretty deft George Clinton/Prince style funk. They've got the elastic synthesizers and vintage Roland drum machine sound down. The question was, especially after Oona set the bar so high, how would they pull it off live?

[audio:http://www.thebaybridged.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/03-I-Got-Soul-Im-So-Wasted.mp3]
Wallpaper. - "I Got Soul, I'm So Wasted"

Reed took the stage in a natty gray two-piece. His partner in Wallpaper., drummer Arjun Singh, was his sole live company, while taped backing handled the rest. The crowd, many sporting paper birthday hats and clearly familiar with the material, signaled their enthusiastic approval.

Reed, like Oona, has clear skills in crowd manipulation. He wisely played it straight, letting the humor in the music speak for itself. He just concentrated on living the part and keeping the energy high. It's a clever formula to augment the canned music with live drums, and Singh's patterns were more inventive and deft than one might expect for the job. In fact, he was my favorite thing about them. Their videos, which cannibalized 80's aerobic footage and old educational films like "How to Make Your Party a Success," were also excellent.

Reed added occasional keyboard and guitar to the mix, but their effect was more visual than musical. This was a personality set, two parts funk to one part performance art. Judging by the crowd's response, Wallpaper. has enough personality to cement an ongoing place in the hearts of club mavens for some time to come.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper

Wallpaper

Wallpaper

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