The Backspace Cafe is at NW 5th & Couch in Downtown Portland, just a little ways past Old Town/Chinatown but just before you enter the Pearl District.  Combination coffee bar, actual bar, arcade, shirt retailer, internet cafe, and bandstand, it’s got pretty much everything someone would want.  But on Tuesday February 12th, a bizarre fusion took place under its roof.  Portland’s indie music crowd suddenly found themselves co-mingling Bronies, Pegasisters, and all-around fanboys/girls when partaking in their usual Tuesday night music experience.

Why?  The headlining band that evening was Hey Ocean!, a jazz/poppy surf rock indie band from Vancouver, British Columbia.  And who’s their lead singer?  Ashleigh Ball, who is also a popular voice actress in animation.



And who is she most well known for voicing?

That’s right, Rainbow Dash and Applejack’s actress was coming to Portland!  And me, Devi Ever, and Charlotte Pierce were going to check her out!  So many worlds were colliding tonight!

Tuesday itself was already pretty crazy for me.  That morning I had gotten a super important phone call during a different super important appointment which I won’t go into detail now (my future may be in the balance, and I don’t need to bore you with that), and then I had to race to the Southeast side for my IPRC shift before racing back to the Northwest side for the show.  I discovered in the morning I had burned off five pounds from this day alone because of all the activity on my bicycle.  Had to down a few fatty meals to even everything out again (never thought I’d say THAT).

But anyway…

Fortunately, when I got to the Backspace the doors hadn’t opened yet, so I sat around and chilled with the other gathering of patrons before the bands got done with their sound-check and they let us in.

"Gathering?  I'd say we're more of a 'smattering'."

“Gathering? I’d say we’re more of a ‘smattering’, or even a ‘corralling’ or ‘co-mingling.'”

Devi and Charlotte were a little late getting out of the house, thinking the doors opened at 8PM and not 7PM and thus racing to meet me in time.  While waiting for the first band I tucked myself in the back with the arcade machines, where I had my ass soundly handing to me by “House of the Dead 4”.  The new semi-automatic control scheme they had set up was a long way from the manual firing I had done a stupid amount of times with the original “House of the Dead” machine at the Loews Cineplex Odeon formerly set-up in my hometown when I was in middle school.  Devi and Charlotte didn’t have much better luck when they arrived and we took turns at it, since Charlotte in particular is the gun nut between the three of us, that really says something.

"Walking Dead" this is not.

“Walking Dead” this is not.

We spent most of our time in the back area chatting, sharing pints, and plotting world domination like we always do.  I found time to do quick doodles of them between heading back to the front to check out the opening bands periodically.  I admit we weren’t terribly interested, but that being said, they were all actually pretty good.  I’ve been to plenty of indie gigs where the singers sound like meerkats barking into a broken megaphone, and somehow three droning, out-of-tune guitars sound like one, but there was none of that tonight.  All of the bands were tight, in-tune, and on-key.  Pictures of them are below.  They’re called The Ecstatics, The Low Haunts, and Sad Little Men respectfully if you want to check them out.





But finally their set ends and Hey Ocean! takes the stage.  I can scarcely describe not just how cute Ashleigh Ball is in person, but how talented she is too, not just singing beautifully but providing great accompaniment on flute and xylophone here and there as well.  Her bandmates, David Beckingham on guitar /vocals and David Vertesi on bass/vocals respectively (joined by Devon Lougheed on second guitar and Johnny Andrews on drums) were no slouches either, and it was the three-part harmonies this trio shared that made the performances and spectacular as they were.  Oddly, as great as Ashleigh herself is, it was a song sung by Beckingham that was my favorite, the tender acoustic ballad “Islands” (and I got to tell him as much after the show).





Snuck this one really fast during "Make A New Dance Up".

Snuck this one really fast during “Make A New Dance Up”.  Thankfully Ashleigh didn’t seem to mind.

As the show closed, Ashleigh addressed the crowd and said they wanted to get their new album out so badly they were basically setting up a “whatever you got” trade policy for anyone who was interested.  This played perfectly into what I was hoping.  I had brought a copy of my “My Little Pony meets Azumanga Daioh” print for Ashleigh as a gift (ironic that on my birthday I’M the one giving out gifts).  That print had been a huge hit for me the previous year at C2E2 and Anime Central, so in an odd way, I had felt grateful.



Ashleigh herself really enjoyed it (“You drew this?!” she exclaimed), and all I asked in return was an autographed copy of the band’s new album “Is”, and a picture with her that Charlotte herself was kind enough to take.  Like a dope, I had neglected to think to get Ashleigh to get a picture WITH the print, but whatever, I got a pic with the girl herself and a copy of the album, which is freaking awesome and you should totally buy.





Devi later said it was adorable to see me indulge in such blatant fan-boy squee.  It had been a while.  I was pent up.

So much happening in one day.  So many worlds colliding.  And so much coming together…