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The Onyx Humms: A Story from the Stage

Photo Courtesy of Michael David Garcia of Die Happy Productions

Photo Courtesy of Michael David Garcia of Die Happy Productions

An Onyx Humms performance usually goes a little something like this i.e. bulleted stream-of-consciousness thoughts from an ambiguous band member
  • ________ (usually a pedal, sometimes an amp) is broken. “Fabulous. Alright, let’s rig this thing so it’s at least kind of working.”
  • “Why did I wear this?”
  • Looks around. “Is ___________ (enter name of boy here) going to show up? Probably not… cool. I’m going to try and act like I don’t care about that.”
  • (Melanie, clearly out of tune) “Ugh, I’m still out of tune. I really need to buy that tuning pedal.”
  • ____________(any one of us) is missing _____________(something). “Shit. Think everyone. Can borrow it from someone?” Frantic texting.
  • “I’m so awkward.” Awkward stage banter.
  • A few songs into the set, “Huh. Our music is pretty good.”
  • Some songs later, “Goodnight, everybody.”

Composed of Jessica Hutchins (drums), Andrea Santillan (guitar, backup vocals), Danica Tello (vocals) and little ol’ me (violin and guitar, vocals when the time is right), The Onyx Humms have been together in our final form for about a year now, but have been jamming for much longer than that. We practice two or three days a week for a few weeks before a show in the basement of a church. It’s an underground space where a little church named The Well meets under an existing larger street-level church. The Well was gracious enough to share the space with Die Happy Productions and friends for whatever use we saw fit. We saw fit to turn off all the lights, dance around and play loud music for an audience of empty pews.

The Humms don’t take much aside from our lyrics too seriously (Danica Tello has to be one of the most talented lyricists I have ever gotten to work with). Some may consider that frivolous, but we like to think it’s endearing.


Most recently, The Humms played at Limelight this past Sunday with Storm Calysta and Good Graeff. The lineup was female fronted – ladies night, if you will. Storm Calysta took the stage first with a guitar and a huge red fur coat she joked was akin to a murdered Chewbacca. Her voice is strong and I enjoyed the acoustic renditions of her pop-mixed tracks.

The talented twin sisters from Florida, Good Graeff, headlined the show and were insanely good. Brooke on guitar, Brit on cello and two gentlemen - one on bass and one on drums created a nostalgic, pop-punk vibe that brought me straight back to my early college years. Their lyrics are clever and catchy. One of their memorables, “Topeka,” has audible hints of Courtney Barnett. My other favorite, “Wiki Was” lies somewhere between Blink 182’s “I Miss You” and “Adam’s Song.”

 

Playing a show is like slaying a dragon. It’s intricate and ever-changing and you’re under a lot of pressure to look cool the whole time while something is going wrong. My pedal wasn’t working at Limelight and the pegs on my violin kept slipping so two of my four strings were shot, but I found a lower key, did some jazz-inspired improv and went on. The Humms have faced sound completely blowing on us, amps dying, not being able to hear Danica's lead vocal and have chalked it up to experience. Professionalism in music is part performance and part gracious handling of crappy situations.   

I applaud everyone who is able to make a living from it, everyone who tries and the extremely talented and down-to-earth bands like Good Graeff, who are both humble and encouraging toward bands like mine.