In May of 2014, I went to The Knitting Factory in Williamsburg to see a little band from Seattle called Odesza. The venue, still one of my favorites, holds roughly 300 people, and the show cost $12. It was a fun evening with a friend I don’t see super often. The band was great; the music was ethereal and poppy; the crowd dancing but well-mannered.
18 months later, Odesza sold out a 3-night run at Terminal 5, a space that holds 3,000 people. I considered myself lucky to get a ticket and was somewhat in awe of what this little duo had become.
It is now 3 years after my first Odesza show, and they just announced a concert later this year at the Barclays Center, a stadium that holds 18,000 people. There is no doubt in my mind that it will sell out. Odesza has officially arrived.
I have strange feelings about this. I don’t resent the band’s success, because they deserve it. Their music is light and fun and extremely catchy. If you’re able to stand up close during live performances, both members (Harrison and Clay) drum live which is really exciting. Yet it just feels so crazy to me. I have never been the hipster who discovers the cool new music before everyone else (I’m still not; I was invited to my first Odesza show by my friend Natalie – so if you want to know who the next huge band is, check with her).
This past weekend I attended Electric Forest, my favorite music festival, where Odesza was scheduled to headline on the second night. Though there are 6 major stages (and a few minor ones) at Forest with constant music playing, it felt like everyone was planning on hitting this set. Out of curiosity, I checked the festival app, where you could see how many people had added any given act to their personal schedule. Bassnectar, an act so popular that Electric Forest has given him a permanent residency, had 21,000 people scheduled. Odesza, by contrast, had 22,000.
I was running late for Odesza’s Forest set, so by the time I arrived it was so crowded I had to stand so far back I was “in another state basically,” as I texted a friend who was trying to meet me. I finally settled in, and while I couldn’t see Harrison or Clay, I could see the giant stage setup and intense lights that are only afforded to a major festival’s closing acts. My view looked like this:
While Odesza is only two people, this show, and I imagine many of their other shows these days, now feature “The Odesza Horns” and “The Odesza Drumline.”
This teeny little band that I saw in 2014 at a teeny little venue now has a drumline. A drumline with a formal name. Absolute insanity.
I know a lot of people who are truly moved by music, but to be totally honest, there’s not a lot of music that really stirs my soul. I love music, of course, but the really emotional moments for me have typically been the connections I’ve made with people at music events more than the music itself.
Yet this time, as I stood alone watching this set progress, I was touched. By the end of the set, I realized that I was standing with my hands pressed together underneath my nose, in a stance of pure overwhelmedness (it’s a word; I say so). There were tears in my eyes, and I had no idea why. I couldn’t have told you if I was happy or sad or surprised or afraid; I was just emotional. The music was beautiful, the lights were majestic, and there was something, just something, about the horns that really tied it all together for me. And all I could think about was this little band from Seattle in this little venue in Brooklyn, and how far they’ve come. 50,000 people attend Electric Forest; it seemed like 40,000 of them were there at the Ranch Arena stage that night.
I was almost out of range when I realized Odesza was performing an encore, so I turned around to catch the end of the set and was able to see the full crowd from the side. There were totems and glow outfits as far as the eye could see and I managed to record a few seconds of the song that was playing, which ironically is not an actual Odesza song and is way more intense than their usual sound. Yet it felt big and important in that moment (it’s the horns, I tell you).
I’m curious as to where Odesza will go from here. As a band that has found an intense fan base that spans both the mainstream music world and the little electro-corner of the universe I reside in, it feels like they’re on the path to even more mega stardom. I feel oddly humbled just to even be a witness to their skyrocketing to greatness. “This is so surreal for us,” they said at the end of their Forest set. So I imagine they’re pretty humbled too. And there are a lot of us out there who are looking forward to whatever is next for these 2 guys from Seattle, who probably never saw any of this coming.