Various Artists – The Orange Spot Sessions: Indy Music Showcase, Vol. 3

Various Artists
The Orange Spot Sessions: Indy Music Showcase, Vol. 3

This album was recorded at the live Orange Spot festival July 22 and 23 of 2000. And it brings back a lot of memories. Washington, DC had festivals several times a year, usually right in the streets of the city with three or four stages of entertainment, truckloads of beer, and hosts of people wearing skimpy outfits and crammed into the city streets for the long haul, no one trying to think about the crowded metro ride home. In addition to a few radio favorites of the time, the entertainment would rely heavily on local rock acts, and those were the ones we really went to see. There’s nothing quite like standing before an open-air stage as some band rocks out, sweating heavily in the summer heat, and the crowd dances in the street as the sun begins to go down. There’s nothing quite like hanging on to a light pole or standing on a garbage can to get a better view. It’s almost magical.

I know very little about The Orange Spot, but this album does nothing to evoke the magical nature of those all-day city street festivals. The bands on here are so innocuous and trying to hard to please with a style of slightly funky mainstream rock that is so popular these days, apparently. And while some obviously have talent and contribute some catchy, fun songs, few offer anything new or exciting. The point of these festivals is to get a great mix of music, and if you don’t like one band, there are two or three other stages to move on to. Here, you can’t move on except for skipping to the next track, but you get the sense you never leave the main, highly promoted stage.

Sugar Spun start off with a completely inoffensive Gin Blossoms sound-alike song, “Lonely,” which does come across better live than on their album. Iguana Jive’s “More Than Meets the Eye” is unique, one of those bands that come out to jam all day and get a host of loyal fans despite never making it on the radio. I have to admire that, and I have to admire the jamming guitar licks. The Condors have a slightly Cramps-like punk song that’s amusing but not inspiring, and Drist’s “Isn’t It Something” is a rather lame attempt to sound like a cross between Creed and Soundgarden. Nuclear Saturday’s “Better Days” is downright terrible, and Cell Block 5’s “Two Fist” is a pretty loose, run-of-the-mill punk song with lots of shouting at each other. At least Simon Stinger changes things up, contributing a fairly inoffensive rock song with female vocals and keyboards that remind me of Chrissie Hynde. This is, although not very unique, the best song here.

Let’s get through the second half. Creamsickle’s “Connie” isn’t bad, sounding slightly gothic and as if it’s about to break into metal at any second but never doing so. Sloppy Meateaters have a fun but not especially unique pop-punk song that was likely great to hear live. Debris try the same style of song on “I’m Broke” but fail so miserably I have yet to make it through this entire song. Some bands should never play live. Love, Daria on the other hand are very tight live, even if their song “So Far” isn’t the best song ever, it’s still a gem compared to its companions here. So then we have Sand, who have another very good track, full of heavy bass and moody guitar blasts. I like this one a lot, but it’s followed by Eugene’s “July 7th,” which is just a sped-up, riff-heavy rock song that sounds terrible live, especially as you can’t understand a word the vocalist spits out. Finally (finally!) Calamingo finishes things off with “Girl Gone to Idaho,” a rather typical fast paced rock/punk song that, not surprisingly, fails at being either good punk or good rock.

I bet this was a fun show, a nice two-day summer festival of independent artists and rock stars sweating in the sun and playing good ol’ rock and roll. The best thing is, if you don’t like a band, they’re off in 20 minutes. On album, though, these songs sound tired and trite, very few coming across well recorded live and fewer worth hearing. Show up at next year’s festival, but skip the album.