State College band Obvious Pocket to make Broken Axe debut

State College band Obvious Pocket will perform Saturday at the Broken Axe Brew House in Lock Haven.
State College band Obvious Pocket will perform Saturday at the Broken Axe Brew House in Lock Haven. Photo provided

A few years ago, a crew of local musicians got together and filled a sizable gap in the Centre County music scene: inventive, high energy and improvisational rock music.

Lots of bands claim all three qualities, and why not? They are practically platonic ideals, even Jungian archetypes in the music-making world. But few bands actually pull it off, and State College’s Obvious Pocket is one of those few bands, bringing their blend of awesome to Lock Haven’s Broken Axe Brew House on Saturday, starting at 8 p.m.

“My guilty pleasure is to bring great music to us,” Broken Axe owner Nick Hawrylchak wrote in an email. “While we do try to keep our crowd favorites regularly scheduled, we always love bring new talent into the mix. Obvious Pocket is a great example of one of the greatest things about many people in the music scene, they love great music.”

The Broken Axe is a sweet place to perform and experience live music in Lock Haven. The food is excellent, the beer selection is local and diverse, and it’s become a destination for local and regional musicians. While Hawrylchak keeps his crowd favorites regularly scheduled, he also leaves space for wonder — for groups he hasn’t heard of — and that’s a gift to local musicians and fans. Obvious Pocket is just the latest example of a group that is benefiting from Hawrylchak’s progressive approach.

“We are really looking forward to playing at the Broken Axe,” Obvious Pocket guitarist Dipak Sahoo wrote in an email. “I’ve had their food and beer before and they were spectacular. There are really nice people there too.”

Obvious Pocket is an exciting band, both because the guys in the band are a whole lot of fun to be around, and because they play great, great music. Superficially, you could say Obvious Pocket is a jam band, but that’s not enough, as it rarely is when describing bands that are inventive and like to improvise a lot. Obvious Pocket is tasteful, deliberate and just really thoughtful about the music.

“Our style of playing definitely fluctuates,” Sahoo wrote. “We have blues, alternative, classic rock, jazz and folk influences that take our music in different directions. I think it always comes back to how the venue and audience is where we are playing. Feeding off of the people is something we enjoy greatly, and it could change the feel of a song tremendously.”

Using a crowd-oriented approach, at least energetically, Obvious Pocket dances forward with songs from the mystical American songbook, including their own. It’s the perpetual musical underground, and I don’t mean an underground that is somehow subversive, or that is filled with some kind of angst or anger or vibrational edginess. I mean an underground that is alive and vibrant, and thriving off a live music scene that has nothing to do with the Bryce Jordan Center, $200 tickets or marketing nonsense. It’s a scene that exists on its own, by the hearts and hands of road-worthy musicians who support more than compete with each other. It’s the Delfest scene, the Northwest String Summit scene, the Telluride and Gray Fox and Merlefest bluegrass festival scene. It’s Obvious Pocket’s scene and, by extension, the Broken Axe’s scene.

“My wife and I love live music,” Hawrylchak said. “Being right in the middle of State College and Williamsport, this area is packed with great musicians and it is sometimes challenging to narrow down potential musical acts.”

Hawrylchak and his wife have a heartfelt approach to their business. You can feel it when you walk in the Broken Axe. It’s earthy and it feels like home. It has not so quietly grown into the premier place to hear music in Lock Haven, and for good reason: it’s just a really nice place with great food and beer that embraces the beauty of our local music scene.

“We have had a lot of amazing people play throughout the last three years,” Hawrylchak said. “The main focus should always be, ‘is this going to be a good experience for our customers, and does it complement the feel/vibe of the restaurant.’ We also don’t charge a cover charge for our live music. We do have a tip jar available and during set breaks do a passing of the hat.”

Obvious Pocket is clearly the perfect match.

“What’s driving us now is the enjoyment we get out of playing,” Sahoo said. “It’s really that simple. Every time we get together we really have fun bouncing ideas off each other and hearing how our sound is evolving. We know there’s a sound and tightness we’re trying to achieve, without flying too close to the sun, of course.”

Kevin Briggs is a musician, writer and teacher who performs at venues throughout central Pennsylvania. Contact him at KevinTBriggs@gmail.com.