Have you ever lost something of value, like a ring or even an import only, out of print collector’s item of an album, which magically appears one day? The feeling is sheer delight, especially after believing that your treasured item was gone forever.
For many Black Black Ocean fans such as me, that day came when rumors of another show were floating about on the Internet that BBO was having a REAL final show (hey, if it works for Cher, so why not?).
It was a year ago when lead singer/guitarist Ryan Eason decided it was time to grow up a bit and head back to college to get his masters at Washington University…in St. Louis (huh?). Basically, the band was done.
That was a sad day for the music scene in Denver, and many thought that August 2 of 2004 was the last time we would experience one of the best live bands in Denver. So within the dark confines of the now homeless collective, Revoluciones, they ripped it up and out in their usual fashion, complete with their personal video professional doing his unique, special effects trickery with the camera, flipping it at every angle.
But it was a Monday from what I recall, and not as huge of a fanfare as one would have hoped.
It looks like they felt the same way.
Stephen Till, the band’s lead guitarist, made the announcement on MySpace, stating that Eason was returning to Denver to do it up right one last time. Till had quit the band he played after BBO, Roper, and he had a free summer. “That last show, it was just our third to the last show,” Till explains with a sarcastic tone. “More than anything, we were all available.”
The second to the last show was the “secret” show as BBO went undercover, playing as the Hott Knights at the Hi-Dive a few weeks back with Monofog and The Symptoms. It was amazing to see them throw down as though they’d never left each other’s side; that it had not been year since they had played together. But in reality, Eason had been back in town a whopping six hours and the band went straight into practice mode when he landed.
“We went to Stephen’s house and played the entire set, but I didn’t sing because I knew that my voice would go out in like, 30 seconds,” Eason says, laughing, sitting on the concrete wall outside the Hi-Dive after the set. His vocal chords have not been getting the workout they once did, he explains. “I’ve just been playing out by myself.”
Till and drummer Jared Black had also joined in the conversation, and Till couldn’t resist a poke as he added, “Playing with yourself?”
Eason grins and goes with it, “Yes, masturbation AND acoustic guitar playing.”
The BBO guys have never shied away from the opportunity for a joke, big or small, which usually appear in their articles after they’ve messed with whomever was interviewing them at the time. But in Salt Lake City’s Red Magazine, it was another member of a co-touring band, Dan Thomas from Tolchock Trio, who got one in on Eason, stating that it was the lead singer’s good looks that was contributing to their destiny for greatness.
The band has also used their time on stage to do double duty with their creative minds and sarcastic wit: playing the hell out of their instruments until you think the whole place is going to implode, and producing a show filled with theatrics and gimmicks that broke the boundaries of what most of us see at the venues around town.
Case in point: a year ago at Rock Island they came out on stage, each switching positions so everyone was “fake” playing someone else’s instruments. I don’t exactly remember who was doing what, but I do remember Black standing at the helm, lip synching the lead vocals to their opening track with all the gusto of someone on the Vegas Strip. It took a few seconds for the fans in the crowd to see that the band was fucking with them, and when they did, the whole place erupted with both laughter and screams to egg him on. And when they actually completed their real set, BBO threw on a remix of one of their tracks and everyone got on the dancefloor like it was Lipgloss at around 12 midnight.
Eason is also infamous for going into the crowd at least once during the show, screaming his songs into people’s faces, and he kept that tradition going at the show at Hi-Dive that night. For him, just thinking about coming back for one last time was a mixture of excitement and a bit of melancholy.
“It’s going to be extraordinarily sad. The whole night I want tears,” he jokes, sort of. “I was sad the last time I thought it was our last show. I had this whole mourning thing, and then I got over it. I was looking back on the whole thing and there were happy memories. And now I have to do it all over again, you fuckers,” he says, glancing at his band mates, but with a smile. “It’s like pushing over a pop machine. You can’t do it in one fell swoop; you gotta rock it back and forth. I would love to keep the band going, but I had to get a JOB,” he states, as if his mom has just asked him to take out the garbage for the 10th time.
Black adds in, “Well, he is pushing 40.”
Eason shoots him a look, “I’m pushing t-w-e-n-t-y-s-e-v-e-n. I AM the oldest one.” Then, gazing for a second at Till who has clean shaven his typical bearded facial style, making him look like he needs a chaperone to an R rated movie, “He’s like, 11!”
Somehow we got on the subject of mainstream bands like My Chemical Romance and The Killers, and how popular they are with the kids these days. When speaking of The Killers, Eason gets into analytical, “It’s like this David Bowie thing, because [Brandon Flowers] has this like feminine, eye shadow thing going on and maybe even has this face paint, because he looks very effeminate. He’s very pseudo woman and the girls fucking love it,” he states, pondering for a moment and looking at his mates. Then, as if a light bulb just went off, “That’s why we failed! Because we’re SO masculine. I think I just figured it all out!”
Black adds, “Yep. It’s your wicked facial hair,” stroking Eason’s face. Hey, at least he doesn’t have ear hair…yet.
After this last blowout Black will go back to cutting up fish at a Ft. Collins sushi place “with guys that are two feet shorter than me,” and for Till, he’s got a full time job as a husband with a full plate of garbage take out duties and mowing of the lawn. When he’s able to sneak out of the house for “poker night” he plays with a new project called quite simply, Nathan and Stephen.
As for Eason, his head may be in the books but his hands and heart haven’t left his beloved songwriting. He has a series of 11 solo tracks available for free in MP3 on his site, www.ryaneason.com. Just going for the first two, “Cain and Abel” and “From Our House,” they are raw in spirit and allow you see other sides of Eason’s musical personality, lyrical prose, and penchant for the preschool xylophone.
So tonight is the night at Rock Island again, where fans have danced, shrieked and shaken themselves silly to “Sigmund City,” “Sucio” or “Pass the Vikes.” Black Black Ocean have invited bands they’ve played with in the past, including So Many Dynamos (which Till says states are “super talented” and have appeared in Spin magazine, for all you subscribers), The Coma Recovery, and Monofog.
This time around, since it really is the final, final show, the foursome plan to upstage everything we’ve done in the past. The theme will be funeral attire with the possibility of a face painting booth and an old man to lead the procession in a priestly type fashion. I know it’s hard for all of us, but find something black to wear.
As the metrosexual of the group, Black has some fashion advice, “You don’t wear girl’s jeans and a Blood Brothers T-shirt to a funeral.”
Bassist Quintin Schermerhorn wandered about during the entire interview, so Till, Black and Eason took the opportunity to fill me in about the mass amounts of hair on their bassist chest, his fundamental belief that he will not own a cell phone, but has a habit of wanting to borrow everyone else’s, and that he said he had a girlfriend, but they believe it is the imaginary kind. “I think it’s more like Rosy Palm and her five sisters,” Black adds, bringing the topic back around to the beginning of our conversation.