Blue October Live at Koko, London

Been looking forward to this one for a long time… An epic three days of live music that had started with Amon Amarth, then caught Mott The Hoople was brought to a close by an evening in the company of one of my favourite bands, in an awesome venue that somehow I’d never managed to visit until now.

Blue October pretty much operate under the musical radar. They are one of those bands who have a substantial, and utterly devoted, following built on the back of very little mainstream exposure, and the announcement of a short run of UK dates was something not to be missed. Since I first saw the band in 2009 I’ve set up CackBlabbath and got into gig photography in a big way, so the months leading up to the gig were a flurry of activity as I tried desperately to find out who was handling press requests for the band.

As it turned out (after an email chain that went round the globe) the PR was being handled by a great little company in the UK that we’ve worked with before, and a photopass was duly sorted.

Justin Furstenfeld getting inked

Prior to the gig itself there was the small matter of interviewing main-man Justin Furstinfeld. Not saying I was nervous about that prospect but I may have nipped into the pub for a quick drink beforehand. Never meet your heroes they say, but in the end the interview was something special, I don’t think I’ve ever done better, and chatting to Justin while he was getting inked is something I won’t soon forget…

Anyway… the gig.

London’s grand Koko venue was packed to capacity as the band’s stage time approached, and there was a real sense of excitement in the room which you only seem to get when there is a genuine connection between the musicians and the audience.

The band arrived onstage and the room erupted, another thing about the aforementioned fanatical fanbase is that most people in the room know ALL the words to ALL the songs, and from the opening strains of set opener Sway this was a massive sing-along. From down in the photo pit the noise coming from the audience seemed just about as loud as the one coming from the PA…

Justin Furstenfeld Blue October Koko

Justin is a commanding presence on stage, whether he’s behind the mic or standing right on the edge of the stage looking the audience right in the eye. The last time I saw the band live the intensity was quite unsettling at times, but you can tell this is a new, more settled and at ease with himself Justin as he channels a no less intense but much happier vibe.

Ryan Delahoussaye Blue October KokoBlue October are a close knit group, with Justin’s brother Jeremy on drums and his schoolfriend Ryan Delahoussaye on Piano, and Mandolin, and Violin and.. oh you get the picture… he’s a talented chap. It’s always interesting watching Ryan play, switching between instruments throughout the set. His “lead” violin sound in particular is an integral part of what Blue October are, as Justin said in another interview, “It gives us the Blue in Blue October”.

Can’t argue with that.

Emotional, involving and musically faultless, This was one of those rare gigs where it’s nigh-on impossible to pick out any particular highlights from, because the whole evening was one long highlight. For me Bleed Out (from the new album) had an extra poignancy given what Justin told me about the meanings behind the song, and of course Into The Ocean and Hate Me never, ever, fail to elicit a fantastic response.

Jeremy Furstenfeld Blue October Koko (1)And the biggest cheer of the evening? Well that was reserved for the line “I’m doing fine and I got plenty of friends around” from Worry List. And that’s what sums up a Blue October gig, more than any other I’ve been to, Blue October are not just playing to fans, there’s a real atmosphere of them being among friends.

I’ve been to some great gigs this year, hell I’d been to two great gigs the two nights before this. Well, you just know when you’ve been involved in something a bit special, and I really can’t imagine anything wrestling my “gig of the year” title away from Blue October.

It really was THAT good, and as a musical event it was as close to perfect as you can get.