On Friday night, as venues across the city got ready to host CMJ events, it was the start of an ordinary weekend for bands and clubs that weren’t involved. Not that that’s a bad thing.
At Lincoln Park Tavern, a newish bar in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, the members of Oh Halo lugged their equipment up to the small stage. The platform could barely hold the band and the instruments at the same time — a theremin was relegated to a spot on the floor — but the group wasn’t too bent out of shape about it. Nor, for that matter, were they upset about not being part of the music festival going on all around them.
“This club approached us before we knew it was the same time as CMJ,” said Julie Dicterow, the lead singer and creative force behind Oh Halo. “So we’re just going to have a relaxed fun night, a no-pressure kind of night.”
Besides, Dicterow explained, a little more time to build up a following would be helpful before the band dives into large-scale events. Dicterow and Marcy Hokama (on keyboard) formed Oh Halo in Los Angeles, where they recorded an album about two years ago. Right after the album came out, they moved to New York, picked up new band members and pretty much started from scratch in the fan department. It’s an ongoing process, helped by monthly shows and music-friendly day jobs. Dicterow is happy about the decision to switch coasts: “Here, people want to hear music, they’re inclined to go out, and it’s just more receptive.”
The few dozen people who showed up at the tavern, a pleasant and low-lit spot, were testament to that belief. Some were friends of the band, but a nice chunk of the audience — including a young woman who, by the encore, was dancing alone by the edge of the stage — was unknown to Dicterow. The mixing problems so common to bands in bars were happily absent, and the group moved comfortably through a long set of originals and covers (MGMT, Massive Attack and more).
The idea, of course, is that each show and each new listener will lead to the next. “We’re still trying to get our bearings and get a big enough following to be considered,” Dicterow said of the band’s hopes for next year’s festival.
For now, it’s one step at a time. New York? Check. Buzz? On its way. And a stage big enough for all their stuff? Next year, they hope, at CMJ.