Helicopterbearshark is one talented dude.
When I say “he’s a one-man-band,” what do you think of? Maybe you imagine a guy on a kick drum with a banjo and a harmonica. Or maybe he has an accordion in hand and a cymbal hat on his back. Or maybe you think of this (you weirdo).
But whatever you imagine a one-man-band to look or sound like, Boulder musician Ryan O’Malley and his solo project Helicopterbearshark will change your one-man-band perceptions. And in this case, for the better. This guy rocks.
On the first Wednesday of every month, HBS has a residency at the Kitchen Next Door. You can see O’Malley setting up his collective of instruments near the wall across from the community table: a kick and a snare, an electric guitar, a saxophone, a keyboard, and a complex-looking loop pedal station.
I’ve seen O’Malley play with several Boulder bands like Whiskey Autumn, Natural Motives, & Fleedami. I even name-dropped him in this article a few months back. But in those capacities, he was always guest-spotting on saxophone. After watching just one Helicopterbearshark performance, I realized O’Malley is a sovereign of multiple instruments. Headphones on and eyes closed, O'Malley looped the start of a song with keyboard sounds and then slung his guitar over his shoulder to add a few chords into the mix, all before moving on to record vocal harmonies and tap out a snare beat. It's impossible not to be engaged in his every move.
O’Malley describes Helicopterbearshark’s sound as “ambient, jazz, electronic mishmash”. There are elements of these genres in his playing, but Helicopterbearshark is really a project that has to be seen to be best described. After all, O’Malley’s live performance is half the fun. Watching him move from instrument to instrument is entrancing, and the synchronized red light that illuminates his kick drum head with every beat pulls you in closer, like a hypnotizing heartbeat. Sure, it’s awesome to listen to HBS over your crispy garlic smashers, but actually watching O’Malley masterfully move from instrument to instrument is the real treat of the entire Helicopterbearshark experience.
So the next time you’re in the mood to watch one guy produce what sounds like a full band of jazzy, electronic awesomeness, catch a Helictoperbearkshark set. You can see where HBS plays next here. And listen to Helicopterbearshark here.
All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.