Oka makes heady music for the moment 

Oz trio plays GLC on Saturday

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Oka's a trip, man, and you will find yourself at some point during their performance a little disoriented and wondering if someone has slipped something in your drink. Let's pretend this is not the case. Instead you will calmly collect yourself, smirking at the fact that these heady Australians, with their electrified didgeridoo and reverb-heavy slide guitar, have thrown you for such a loop

And if that's your experience Oka's done its job. Yes, such is the goal of any great jam band, building on the legacy of the Grateful Dead, to mystify the crowd's senses while inducing a little hip-wiggling or two-stepping across the dance floor.

And like any jam band, the music that's being played is straight of the moment, for the moment, and depending on how it connects with the crowd it's often the seed of a new song.

"There are always jams that happen (at our shows)," says vocalist Stuart Fergie. "Improv stuff. It can start from any idea, from a little beat to a little melody line or something that happens instantaneously. If something happens that's really nice we try to recreate it again and kind of improve it until it becomes a song."

He says they try to create soundtracks to their sun-drenched home lives. The results are heady, roots-based psychedelic jams rife with the eclectic instrumentation of Chris Lane's guitars, flutes and tenor saxophone, Charles "Zappa" Wall's percussion and the band's trademark of sorts, that electrified didgeridoo, handled by Fergie himself, who is better known as "DidgereeStu."

Their music plays like the soundtrack to a mushroom excursion beneath a cluster of palm trees on a beach island at dusk.

Fergie and Lane met while on tour with another band on an across-Canada tour nine years ago. Once they returned home they arranged a jam session in Fergie's parent's living room. Three days later they had their first album written, and it's been non-stop gigging and globe-trippin' ever since -in the streets, at small festivals, at clubs in -32-degree Canadian cities.

They have a steady underground following back home, similar to what Sublime had going for it in the early 1990s on Long Beach, and while both bands have a knack for evoking beach-side jam sessions, Oka has veered away from the pop-song formula. It' trimmed down its nine-minute cuts to three-minute radio edits but Oka will likely never be confused with the Kinks.

"We try to be business like," Fergie says. "You need to play the game a little bit, in terms of trying to get people to listen to your music and that helps you get different festivals and that sort of thing. We try to be a little smart but... in terms of the music, the goal is to put on a beautiful show and to really enjoy that time we get to share our music. We try to create music just the way that we have, in the moment."

He's talking to Pique from a pit stop in "freezing" Edmonton. It's a long way from their home in Australia's Sunshine Coast, and certainly a lot colder. In the past, Oka has only visited Canada to escape the Australian winters - to live an "endless summer."

Not this time - though the band is likely to be a treat for the Canadian crowds, stone cold in the dead of winter, for Oka's vibe will whisk it somewhere much warmer, to lose itself at Coolum Beach perhaps, for a couple of hours at least.

 

 

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