At the heart of the music created by Campfire OK is an all-consuming commitment to the crescendo. Tension reigns over the band's debut LP, Strange Like We Are - tension for the moment when the six-piece will explode, and every knot and tangle that has lived in your muscles will melt away. Until those moments, though, Campfire OK relishes that tension, manipulating it masterfully over 12 percussive tunes that make full use of every instrument and member within the band.
Campfire OK frontman Mychal Cohen is very quick to correct me when I describe his band as folk. While it's true that Campfire OK plays acoustic music, what the band's really doing is taking the long way around to making expansive pop music - building to these cathartic and occasionally cacophonous moments in as honest a way as possible. It's like street magic - slight-of-hand - in this way, buoyed though it is by the band's sheer numbers.
"Once you see us live, you'll see that we aren't a folk band," says Cohen. "We use instrumentation that is associated with folk music, like acoustic guitars and we have a lot of harmonies, and stuff like that. But we're a pretty percussive band, and we like to dance quite a lot. ... The songs start off in a folk atmosphere, because it's just me with a guitar, but then the band comes in and it gets pulled in different directions, and rarely does it land on folk music."
The band formed as many bands do, with Cohen beginning to record an album of lush songs on his own, and then recruiting others to join when it came time to perform them live. Bolstering Cohen and his guitar are now five other performers, accompanied by banjo, bass, drums, and endless enthusiasm. They've gelled together, and soon will be heading into the studio to record the band's second album.
Another benefit of having a large group of talented musicians is the live show - something Campfire OK prides itself on.
"Putting on a good live show is the most important thing to us," says Cohen. "If you can't connect with someone in a live performance, then it's going to be difficult to connect with them on a record. Everyone in the band really likes to see energetic shows, therefore we like to create energetic shows. We like to have something that's different and engaging, because we want to feel engaged as well. We like to move onstage. We like to get sweaty and talk to the audience. To be loud and be quiet and be in between."
Saturday, Campfire OK will perform at The Space, a gorgeous venue in Opera Alley. Behind the band members will be a floor-to-ceiling window facing out over Industrial Tacoma, glowing as it does with alien orange, as steam rises slowly from buildings.
There are few other venues and few other performers that are capable of creating the kind of magic that Campfire OK and The Space will generate right before your eyes.
with Kris Orlowski, Tony Kevin Jr.
Saturday, Sept. 24, 8:30 p.m., $8
The Space, 729 Court C, Tacoma