Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

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    Pop & punk & prog

    Octopus Literary Salon plays host to genre-bending — and genre-blending — local bands

    By Shane Frink

    It was a pleasant warm night and on the edges of the First Friday festivities of Oakland’s downtown.

    At the Octopus Literary Salon, a band called Catchlight struck a slow and solid tempo with their first song, with pretty melodic guitar melodies in between the dynamic singing of the verses.

    The band’s vibe and the atmosphere inside the venue matched the warm weather outside.

    Local band Catchlight performs at the Octopus Literary Salon in Oakland, Calif., on Friday, May 5, 2017, as episode six of television drama Twin Peaks plays on a projector behind them. (Kevin Foote)

    Laney student Sarah Carpenter kept that mood going as the band’s singer. Most of the audience had a relaxed look while seeming intent on paying close attention to the music that she and her bandmates were laying down.

    Like being part of a conversation where the person listening pays close attention, the audience clearly didn’t want to miss anything.

    There were also many smiles in the audience, paying attention but having fun at the same time.

    Three bands played that night, Catchlight, Milk, and Greater Sirens. Catchlight itself has five members in all, including Carpenter. Gracie Malley plays drums, Samantha Benedetti is on bass, and the six-string guitar players are Clint Chandra and Michael Crabtree.

    Catchlight’s catchy songs catch the listener off-guard. The breaks in the pop sounds feel like ocean waves instantly changing size and then going back to normal suddenly.

    “I get a lot of enjoyment out of playing our songs.” Malley said. “We have a friendship connection that translates into a music connection.”

    That definitely translated through to the audience during the gig.

    “Our band’s internal nickname is ‘Friendship Band,’” Carpenter said.

    Indeed, there was a friendly atmosphere and good energy for the entire gig.

    Chopped-Up Pop

    The venue where Catchlight played is more commonly known by the name on the big sign above the front doors, The Octopus.

    It’s at 2101 Webster right on the corner of 22nd.They’ve been doing shows seven nights a week for two years.

    The cordial doorman with a mohawk said that business has picked up a lot since 2017 began. He also said that customers do buy the books that surround the dining room.

    Those book sales help them stay open as an all-ages concert venue. It opened on April 1 2015, as the only all-ages venue in downtown Oakland.

    In fact, people of all ages were at the show. A couple of teenagers in attendance did a mellow pogo in appreciation of Catchlight’s second song, which picked up the tempo. Carpenter’s singing sped up, while the guitar melodies were effect-laden.

    One Catchlight song was reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s classic sound, the heaviness of the rhythm matched by the heavy guitar chords with a pretty melody on top.

    On the third song, which began with a cool deep bass riff, the reasons why this band is called “prog pop” became clearer.

    “Prog” is short for progressive, and although Catchlight’s songs are poppy due to their catchy quality, their breaks often are choppy, like when the waves of the ocean instantly change size and then go back to normal suddenly.

    Parts of Catchlight’s songs are like that, catching the listener off guard. Catchlight does this in an original way.

    Musically, they’re similar to Echo and the Bunnymen on that band’s “Crocodiles” record, widely considered a progressive post punk new wave classic.

    Catchlight also had a tune towards the end that was akin to Led Zeppelin’s prime. It was reminiscent of their classic sound due to the heaviness of the rhythm matched by the heavy guitar chords that had a pretty melody on top.

    The audience matched Catchlight’s energy with their shouts of approving encouragement when the final song ended.

    After this song, Carpenter announced that they had run out of time and had to quit so the final band would be able to play their entire set.

    Still, the band did play one more song and that delighted the audience because it was even better than the five previous numbers.

    The band had produced an energy that had slowly risen with each song, and the audience matched the energy with their shouts of approving encouragement when the song ended.

    Pop Punk Prog

    Before Carpenter and Catchlight went onstage, Milk opened up the evening as a fun local punk rock trio.

    Each band member took part in singing all the songs. That’s not easy, especially since their music is influenced by Fugazi and the Minutemen, two bands that have very complex rhythms and song structure.

    Musician Loren Risley of band Milk shows off his punchy vocals during their set, which kicked off the show at the Octopus Literary Lounge in Oakland, Calif., Friday, May 5, 2017. (Kevin Foote)

    And singing while playing drums on songs that have fast progressive changes is difficult. The members of Milk pulled it off very well.

    Jamie Bianchi, one of the drummers, said he and his two bandmates loved both of the other bands that played that night.

    Greater Sirens also played at the end of the night. What set that band apart was that they had two bass players.

    Their songs were polished new-wave pop that sounded very radio-friendly. Their debut EP, called “The Birds,” came out in 2012. Their first full length album, “Unnatural Causes” should be out towards the end of 2017.

    Student Spotlight

    Catchlight is a young band, and hopefully Laney’s very own Carpenter, along with her bandmates, will keep up the original art they’re currently making. They have songs on Bandcamp, and will be recording their first full length album soon.

    Catchlight is a wonderful example of local, young musician-students that help make Oakland a more colorful, vibrant and happening place.

    If you’re a Peralta student who plays in a local band, please contact the Laney Tower at [email protected].

    Shane Frink is a Tower staff writer. Contact him at theboyexplodes(at)

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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