Love letter to dudes and their guitars (or ukuleles)

There might not be anything better than an indie rock setting for the sartorial aspect of a holiday party: sparkly dresses, exciting (potentially hazardous) footwear, and a panoply of red hued sweaters flooded the Columbia City Theater for the “Imaginary” holiday lineup on December 16. The real sparkly aspects of the show however, all glam notwithstanding, were the two solo acts of the evening.

That is not to say that the full bands that played the Three Imaginary Girls’ Holiday Party at Columbia City Theater didn’t put on one hell of show, as it was a stellar lineup the whole night through. A band sans name that put on a charming set as their second ever performance with a jazzy backup with a piano replacing the stalwart rock guitar and Mal De Mer followed with their synth charged indie rock. But certainly the boys with their guitars (Chris Otepka of Heligoats and Eef Barzelay formerly of Clem Snide) stole the show.

And it’s easy to see why. The one thing you need the most when you forgo a backup band is solid songwriting and lyrics. It also doesn’t hurt to be a little bit folksy, as to compliment by the expectations of the crowd (and music audience at large). It is that little window to the secrets of the Americana zeitgeist that make Barzelay and Otepka completely engaging to watch in a similar way even if their songwriting style differs.

Like true country infused heroes, their songs tell us stories, which they sometimes elaborate on in their charming banter because, let’s face it, crowds really appreciate clever and entertaining snippets while the tuning takes place. The comment of the evening came from Barzelay himself when he said, “I’m going to play a bunch of songs tonight,” pause, applause, “with an apocalyptic subtext.” It doesn’t seem an easy task, but it’s sure endearing when they manage it. At one point during the story behind a song he wrote about his mother dying of cancer, Barzelay commented that his story was taking too long, though you might venture to say that not a single soul in the audience agreed, as the small crowd, though not grand in stature, hung on his every word.

Otepka may have been vaguely more easy-going in his banter, but his set seemed too short, as tends to be the case for opening acts. Though Heligoats performed tonight as a one-man band, Otepka has appeared with a band in the past. Perhaps he appeared without backup for the ever-important sandwich quality of the evening: he appeared solo, as a perfect complimentary to the end of the evening’s Barzelay, who brought out his ukulele from backstage toward the end of the set.

But we must really thank the Three Imaginary Girls for their lineup because what show, rocked by Americana Indie rock, is complete without a hipster Santa, who sat in the front room and provided picture opportunities to all the grown-up kids last Friday evening.