Seeing Portland phenom Adrian Orange
perform live for the first time is more than memorable; it's unshakable. His performances are so raw, so risky, that they stay with you, no matter how times in 10 years of Portland shows you've seen Orange play solo as Thanksgiving or with his rotating roster of backing bands. Below are the memories from friends, fellow musicians, and musical collaborators about the first time they saw the now 21-year-old make music. (Read more about Orange in this week's
Curtis Knapp, co-founder of Marriage Records and piano player with Orange in The Watery Graves ofPortland
Location: A house show in 2001 or 2002
The first time I saw Adrian play was at a house show in North Portland. It was a band that was sort of Adrian's and but [everyone] took turns playing the lead. I am pretty sure it was my friend Davis who took me the place. But I knew that Adrian was going to be there, but we hadn't met yet, but people wanted us to meet, and they were excited about us meeting.
So when we met, it was a big deal for us. Cause our friends had been talking about us to each for a long time. For years. And I had just moved back into town. I came in in the middle of the show, I saw like three songs, and we sat outside and smoked cigarettes together. It was really—it was a lot like falling in love.
Davis Hooker, bass player in The Watery Graves of Portland and former sole member of A John Henry Memorial
Location: 17 Nautical Miles (since closed down) in 1998 or 1999
The first time I remember seeing him play music was him and another one of his 11 year old friends. They were both like completely androgynous and I had no idea what was going on. It was at 17 Nautical Miles. And it was weird math rock. That was the first memory.
But the first time I saw him doing his thing was at my house. We threw this show, and it was awesome, because Adrian played keyboard, played guitar—I don't think he played bass that night, be he had all kinds of stuff laying around, and he was just picking it up. One the things I remember really vividly about the show is that he ate a chip in the middle of his song, while he was playing. A chip was on his keyboard, so he just picked it up and ate it. No one knew where the chip came from or how long it had been there. I thought that was pretty, you know, endearing.
Phil Elverum, former sole member of the Microphones who now performs under the name Mount Eerie
Location: Meow Meow (since closed down) in 2000
I used to play a lot at the Meow Meow, before they closed down and before they moved. I remember being there and maybe playing with [Orange] and also Curtis showing up to shows and knowing they were affiliated. And there was kind of this excitement about what's he gonna do now, what's he gonna do next. He was really into music and just devoting his life to it. But I didn't know him very well or pay much attention to his music at that point.
But then one of the nights, I guess it was in 2002, we went out for pancakes after one of the shows at the International Hotcake House. I drove separate, and when I got there they had already gotten there in Curtis' minivan. And they had the side door open and they were just parked in front the place blasting this tape and some song that was on that they didn't want to miss the end of. So they were just parked there with the door open—them and just five people in this van, blasting this song, with the car running. And it was pretty exciting.
Todd Patrick, former owner of 17 Nautical Miles who now puts on shows in NYC
Location: 17 Nautical Miles, 1997 or 1998
He started coming to the shows out of nowhere and was the absolute youngest person that ever set foot in 17 Nautical Miles. About a week after he started coming—he came every three days or so—he asks if he can start working for the club. I totally thought he was a little girl, because he had long blonde hair down to his ass, and was most androgynous kid you'd ever seen In your life at that point. I was like, ‘Little girl, where's your mother? Are you sure it's okay for you to be here?' And he opens the door and says, ‘No, it's fine, it's fine,' and he points and his mother is parked directly in front of the club in the car, with her engine running, and waves at me. And she stays there the whole night while he works the door and stamps hands.
Then we started having micro shows every month or every other month, where we'd set up a backline of guitar, bass keyboards and everything a band would need to play. And we'd let everyone single band in town come in and play one song on the equipment. Adrian showed up with his step-dad, and had just cut off his hair—this was maybe six months after I'd met him—and he got up there and totally rocked out on guitar with his step-dad and a couple of his middle-aged friends, playing this kind of math rock stuff, that was kind of complex, prog-y, guitar interplay stuff. And I was like, ‘Oh my god, this 11-year-old, this ten-year old can play.'
Calvin Johnson, founder of Olympia's K Records, which just released Orange's new album
Location: Meow Meow in 2002
There is band that has several albums out on K records called Little Wings
. And there was a Little Wings record release party at Meow Meow. And instead of Little Wings performing, other people were performing the songs. And so Adrian did a song, and that's when I saw him. I heard about him before then, but I never saw him. His performances were very exuberant. It was a few years back [but] when I was first saw him play, he just seemed like an enthusiastic person who was a little younger than most of the other people performing.
Nilina Mason-Campbell, runs the blog www.notontheguestlist.com and went to da Vinci Arts Middle School with Orange
Location: School dance in 1998
The first time I ever saw Adrian Orange play live was at da Vinci Arts Middle School's Valentine's Day Dance in the seventh grade. He took to the stage wearing an orange dress with a faint white flower print, backed by Menagerie's [Orange's middle school band] two other members. Their short, short, short and chaotic set had been hyped around school forever and just as soon as they started they seemed to be over and the DJ returned to spinning Top 40 hits. He was maybe 12.
The first time I ever met him he was sitting in the grass at recess wearing a black Kurt Cobain shirt. At the time he was going through a phase where he wouldn't answer to 'Adrian,' only to 'Kurt.' On our eighth grade field trip to Canada, Adrian had a portable CD player and a CD with one song. With this, he threw a party in his dorm room. It was the party of the trip. Everyone wanted to go and everyone came.
Adrian Orange and Her Band play a record release show at the Artistery at 8 pm on Friday, Sept. 21. $6. Check out LocalCut.com for Cut of the Days from Adrian Orange this week.