Live Review: Ojai, Ione at fabulous O’Leaver’s; Color Green, The Dirts, Chew, Size Queen tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 8:30 am March 18, 2024

Ojai at O’Leaver’s, March 16, 2024.

By Tim McMahan,

Just getting to O’Leaver’s has become something of a nightmare with all the friggin’ road construction. Once through the maze of barricades along Leavenworth and Saddle Creek Saturday night, I found a parking lot chock full on both sides of the volleyball courts and almost expected to be turned back at the door. Inside, O’Leaver’s was comfortably filled but not cram packed (So where were all those people who own all those cars?). 

Ione at O’Leaver’s, March 16, 2024.

Ione was already halfway through her set playing in front of a woman-heavy crowd (a rarity for O’Leaver’s). Fronting a three-piece band, Ione stood alone with microphone in hand, a true pop crooner. There’s no denying she has a killer voice, polished and radio-friendly with all the familiar nuances heard on modern pop records, and I have no doubt if she keeps at it we’ll be seeing her on television one day singing a style of pop music that isn’t my cup of tea.

Interestingly, “Ione” has second persona — a side-act called Safe Space, which is a duo with her guitarist whose songs border on modern indie music a la Phoebe but not quite. She appears to be trying to cover all the bases with Safe Space, which is admirable and curious considering how much time she’s invested in her Ione brand. I was told months ago Ione was moving to Chicago. Better see her while you still can — her and he band are opening for Wyrmwood March 29 at Benson Theater. 

No doubt a large portion of the crowd Saturday was there for Ione as the place thinned out for Ojai. A trio fronted by guitarist / songwriter Michael Hulstein, their set was marred by an audio mix that put the bass way out front above all else. Bassist Micah Renner indeed has awesome bass-playing chops but I doubt even he would want his bass to be so prominent in the mix – it overpowered everything on stage. 

Meanwhile, Tanner Rogerson has one of the lightest touches of any drummer I’ve heard behind a kit. I kept checking to see if he was playing with brushes. Hulstein’s chiming, surf-style guitar parts were kind of great when you could hear them above the bass. His approachable vocal style is right on for songs I think I’m going to like when I hear them recorded and properly mixed. In fact, he said much of his set consisted of material from an upcoming EP. I was reminded me of Dave Doughman of Swearing at Motorists, a band I’m sure no one remembers or has even heard of, and a band that’s a lot weirder than Ojai. 

Long story short, I need to see Ojai again when they don’t sound like they’re playing in a bass competition. As for O’Leaver’s — it was hot, it was smelly, it was just as I remember it from the last time I was there. Here’s hoping it never changes. 

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A reminder about tonight’s shows, which I covered in detail last Friday

At Reverb Lounge tonight LA band Color Green (Noah Kohll and Co.) headlines with The Dirts and Heavy Clippings. $15, 8 p.m. 

Meanwhile, down the street at The Sydney, Atlanta psych/electronic band Chew headlines with the Omaha debut of LinOma band Size Queen. 8 p.m., $10.

I’ll see you tonight in Benson…

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2024 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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