Honolulu’s Oil in the Alley to Rock the Hideout
Hawaiian trio takes the Downtown stage for an improv-fueled joyride
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
1:15PM, Thu. Nov. 14, 2019
It’s not every improv rock band – we’re sure there must be thousands of them out there, right? – that flies in from their longtime digs in Honolulu to play a show on the Hideout Theatre’s storied Downtown Austin stage, but that’s what’s happening this Saturday night.
The musical trio of spontaneous sonic combustion known to lesser mortals as Oil in the Alley is prepared to overwhelm, with their faded-yet-defiant rockstar antics, the 8:30pm slot in the venue’s Saturday lineup of improvised comedy.
Former Austinite Sean T.C. O’Malley (lead guitar, vocals), R. Kevin Doyle-Garcia (vocals), and Brian X (bass), having bid a temporary aloha to Hawai'i’s fabled islands, will be conjuring songs on-the-spot from audience suggestion and treating citizens to the sort of endearing showmanship that had them filling massive arenas in the Nineties, and – no, wait, that’s the fake backstory, right? That Oil in the Alley was a megaband of fame and fortune back in the day and are now trying to ride the meager dribbles left of star-power momentum into the sunset (and the sunset’s been painted on a cut-rate backdrop by someone’s unemployed nephew)?
Ask that ever-youthful O’Malley what brings Oil in the Alley all the way to the ATX for a gig, and you get two different responses – one from Sean T.C. O’Malley, Improvisor … and one from Sean T.C. O’Malley, Rock Hero / Guitar God / Charismatic Vocalist of Oil in the Alley. It’s a mite unnerving, at times: How is so much incandescent power, such cosmic might, contained within a single human? Dear God, he’s like a turducken made from Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Lee, and Freddie Mercury!
Austin Chronicle: It's been so long since you performed in Austin. What is it that brings you and your cohorts all the way from Hawai‘i to rock a stage in downtown ATX?
Sean T.C. O’Malley, Improvisor: Our improvised rockshow has been playing in Honolulu for nearly 10 years now, and in the last couple of years we’ve started doing mini-tours to festivals and improv venues across the USA, performing in NYC, DC, Seattle, and Hollywood.
Sean T.C. O’Malley, Rock Hero / Guitar God / Charismatic Vocalist for Oil In The Alley: Austin is the homeland of songwriter’s rock&roll – it’s been too long, and we just couldn’t make our superfans wait any longer. Plus, I think I have a couple of kids that live here.
Austin Chronicle: Why the Hideout in particular?
Sean T.C. O’Malley, Improvisor: The talented folks at The Hideout (shout out to Roy Janik, Kaci Beeler, Kareem Badr, and Valerie Ward) have brought several fabulous shows to Honolulu’s Improvaganza Festival as Parallelogramophonograph, so we thought of them right away.
Sean T.C. O’Malley, RH/GG/CVOITA: And I’m pretty sure we hid out there for a week in the Nineties. Fan mobs can get intense.
Austin Chronicle: So that deal y'all were working with the Erwin Center – that never, ah, that never panned out?
Sean T.C. O’Malley, RH/GG/CVOITA: Turns out it wasn’t for sale after all. So, yeah, no.
Sean T.C. O’Malley, Improvisor: …
Austin Chronicle: And what kind of set can we look forward to this Saturday night? An intimate singer-songwriter sort of situation? A spectacular harking-back to OITA's glory days?
Sean T.C. O’Malley, RH/GG/CVOITA: WE ARE GONNA ROCK YOUR SWEET LITTLE HEARTS UNTIL THEY BLEED WITH PAIN, BURST WITH LOVE, AND COME TO A COMPLETE STOP!
Sean T.C. O’Malley, Improvisor: Actually, while the characters we play onstage are superstar rock’n’rollers, and we do play electric guitar and bass live, the drums are tracked so we can play theatre spaces — so you won’t need earplugs. But the energy of a rock show onstage and in the audience is real! Oil in the Alley’s songs are all original rock music, and fresh lyrics are improvised live every show.
Austin Chronicle: Is there anything about the Island(s) that reminds you of – or makes you miss– the Austin you remember from more than two decades ago?
Sean T.C. O’Malley, RH/GG/CVOITA: No.
Sean T.C. O’Malley, Improvisor: Hawai‘i has a really vibrant music scene, with its own annual awards and artists writing in English and Hawaiian who perform at large and small venues catering to tourists and residents alike. The feeling of a community of creative musicians is similar to the vibe I felt in 1991 Austin; my fond memories of Austin then are of writing theatre music for The Vortex, doing the acoustic singer-songwriter thing at open mics at the Chicago House and the Cactus Cafe, and catching shows by legends like David Rodriguez, Mark Luke Daniels, Dan Hardick, Betty Elders, Sara Hickman, David Halley, Darden Smith, Twang Twang Shock-A-Boom, and Poi Dog Pondering (a Honolulu band!).
Austin Chronicle: Dan Hardick of Fingerpistol? Whoa, yes – now there’s a legend! With influences like that, we reckon Saturday’s Oil in the Alley performance will be one helluva show.