Like so many throughout the Boston nightlife community right now, I am super excited for the 2014 Boston Fashion Awards, happening on Sunday 11/30 at Bijou Lounge. To me, this is a hell of an opportunity to show some of the more well-known fashion capitals of the world – New York, Paris, London, L.A., I am looking at you guys – that the 617 has a disciplined & creative approach to style & fashion all its own. Boston is a fashion leader in its own right; I have personally had the distinct privilege of helping to oversee some of our city’s fashion presentations in the past, including a summer series held at the old Splash Ultra Lounge and a runway show held at Royale a couple of years back, a fall fashion show presented by Bebe. I also worked the 1s & 2s during Boston Fashion Week in 2012, and served as host for the ABNDN clothing & jewelry line’s launch party earlier this year at T.T. the Bear’s Place. Not a bad perch to be on when bearing witness to the ladies who honor us by beautifying our hometown.
So, with all of this anticipation for the Boston Fashion Awards coming to a boil, it got me thinking about the extraordinary relationship fashion has with music. It’s been there since the days of early 20th Century pop, you guys: back when Frank Sinatra was driving ladies in bobby socks insane & leaving their fellas wanting to BE Ol’ Blue Eyes. On the boys’ side, you had kids wanting to emulate the mop tops of the Beatles & begging their moms to buy them KISS Your Face Makeup kits to look like the Hottest Band In the World; from a nine-year-old Sterling Golden desperately wanting Run-D.M.C. style high tops to boys lifting the grungy look worn by Kurt Cobain (OK. I hear you making Pitbull jokes. Stop. JUST. STAHP). Of course, the biggest female recording stars of all time have also served as fashion icons. Diana. Cher. Donna Summer. Deborah Harry. Madonna. Siouxsie. Shirley Manson. Gwen Stefani. Britney. Kylie. Rihanna. Beyonce. Katy. The list goes on & on, and all of them have served to inspire women worldwide who were already gorgeous to borrow ideas from their favorite performers.
All that said: if we are going to discuss fashion & music and how it relates to Boston, I am of the opinion that nobody in this area marries these two worlds quite like an out-of-this-world alien being who came to earth to rock the violin and change the way you think about music & fashion alike: her name is Mei Ohara.
Courtesy Jessie May Ammons & Casey Desmond, ABNDN (http://abndn.us/)
My first encounter with Mei Ohara occured in the fall of 2013. I was in attendance at Brighton Music Hall to see a performance by Streight Angular, another Boston music act who dares to be different on the music and fashion fronts. That night, I was upstairs in VIP along with my homegirl Katie Coriander of Earth Heart and a longtime supporter of our community, Colin St. John. All props due to Colin for doing a hell of a sales job on me when it came to Mei; I was super intrigued by the idea of a recording artist who tagged up electronic beats with the precision performance of a classically trained violinist. Still, despite all of the hyperbole, I was not quite prepared for who eventually walked into the room. I am a sucker for an artist who has a unique sound and look all their own; remember, it was KISS who got me started on this lifelong music obsession. So when Mei walked in, I was instantly drawn to this celestial being. The strange part was, it wasn’t in a “hey what’s good baby” kind of way. It was more like “Okay, I am completely fascinated right now”; she came off charismatic, well-spoken, and eager to get herself known.
Needless to say, I was prepared to do my musical research, ready to get acquainted with as much of her work as I could, and eventually offer up a live interview on the old Sterlingtology Radio show. She appeared on the show in November 2013 (and also later appeared on the followup show, SterlingSinn Radio); her interview was one of the best we ever presented on the show. Mei – a biracial dual citizen of the United States and Japan – spoke of her background as an MIT scientific research assistant who works with audio experimentation, with a great interest in electronic music made by the all-time greats (her favorite act of all time is Depeche Mode), and video game soundtracks. Yes, some of this info was readily available on Mei’s personal website (http://meiohara.com/); still, it’s one thing to read a bio. It’s another when the artist personally takes time out to share his/her/their story with the masses. Not only a tremendous musician and a unique fashionista, Mei Ohara also has a flair for personal storytelling. It made for a wonderful interview experience. I don’t believe I ever told Mei that last one face to face; so there you go.
In addition to her debut EP Antimatter, Mei also has a standout full-length effort out there titled Inverse Energy. Released a month after her Sterlingtology Radio interview, Inverse Energy is a seven-track tour de force of cutting-edge, space-age music, featuring the signature melding of electronic sounds with Mei Ohara expertly shredding “Vindice”, the name given to her prized violin. This, family, was one of the most underrated Boston music releases of 2013, and makes for some truly great listening. In particular, seek out the album’s final track (and Mr. Golden’s personal favorite): “Seducing Your Fire”. I will say no more about it. Just find it, push play, close your eyes, and be prepared. Remember, at the end of the day, it’s the MUSIC, mane.
Recently, Mei was kind enough to bring her celestial sensibilities to Dirty Water News’ Boston VIPs Show. I don’t believe the Dirty Water family knew what was quite in store for them when she came through The Greatest Bar that evening. I just know the homie SJ Torres (our regular host) was immediately taken by the very qualities that first stood out to me when I met her at Brighton Music Hall last year. Her brilliant performance on the show was something you don’t see every week on Boston VIPs, and truly made her stand out like no other. This is what defines Mei Ohara, in my opinion: her take on all things music and fashion is truly one of a kind, and sets her in a class not of this earth. If this all sounds like one big PR piece, well, GOOD. Artists in our city like this one deserve all the props they can get.
As Mei Ohara’s ascension among the ranks in the Boston liberal arts community continues, I can’t help but cheer her on. It sounds like ass-kissing, but there’s no need for that when the truth is strong enough to stand on its own. Mei represents so much of what I love about music, art, style, and fashion, and does it with grace and talent. No discussion of music & fashion in the city of Boston is complete without Mei Ohara.