Gig Review: Ocean Alley

The adventure began one afternoon earlier this year, when Hamish and I realised Ocean Alley’s UK leg of their European tour would coincide with our imminent 10-day stint in London. Of course, we had our dates well and truly locked in by the time we figured out that we were going to miss their London show by a matter of days. Not to fear, I said, a 4 hour bus ride courtesy of National Express could get us to their Exeter show on our last night in England.

July came around, and so did the final few days of our trip. An 8 hour round-trip either side of a brilliant, free gig and 50 quid spent on transport later, we sat in our Victoria flat still buzzing from a night I know I’ll have noted down in the books forever. 

Within minutes of arriving in Exeter, our couch surfing host Ed was straight to the obscure ice-breakers, chatting away about surfing in the Arctic temperatures in England and his love for the Polish and their awesome hospitality. After a few beers we convinced him to come to the gig, although he and the rest of Exeter had no idea who these 6 guys from Sydney were and what they were all about. The Old Firehouse, where the band was set to play, was his local pub (a 2-minute walk away coincidentally), and he spent a fair amount of time explaining to us how their wood-fired pizzas were about to change our lives. 

My friend Rose, who I met late January in Cambodia, trekked down from Bristol too after I harassed her with links to tunes 'Lemonworld' and 'Yellow Mellow’ for weeks. We all reunited in the venue reminiscent of a medieval ski-lodge dungeon, and indulged in the extensive list of ciders on offer. As we waited for the huge (huuuuge) pizza to arrive, Ed went off to chat to the band. He had no idea what they looked like, but thanks to a little intuition it didn’t take long to figure out. With long locks and durries in hand, dressed to the nines in chucks and patterned button-ups, the band of blokes looked like many of our mates from back home, and nothing at all like any of the Brits in the room. 

It was refreshing to hear Aussie lingo from a bunch of true Aussie icons, and even more so once they hit the stage and effortlessly began taking the piss out of the venue’s lack of hospitality and some of the audience members' questionable dance moves. They were true groovers and we enjoyed live versions of all their music as much as the studio versions we’d been blasting in the week leading up to the night. Frankly, they just killed it. On stage for a huge 2-part, 3 hour long set, they endeavoured through a relatively unresponsive crowd (except us) with soul and tonnes of laughs, and put on a wicked show for our little fan club of 4. 

Even after losing his voice, lead-singer Baden was happy to pass the mic over to Hamish - a moment we all wish we were more prepared for. It was a great laugh, nonetheless, and something we both agreed would never have happened amongst an audience back home. We danced and we sang, and I felt liberated amongst a room of people who must not have been digging the psychedelic reggae vibes quite as much as we were. For a free gig, the Ocean Alley boys 100% delivered. It was worth every dollar spent getting there and more. In fact as a free gig, it was a night that rivalled any other band I've paid to see. A night of lighting all these fires in my heart again

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Written by Elli Webb
Photographs by Hamish Litster and Elli Webb

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