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  • How I Nearly Died From Having My Throat Ripped Out by a Demon Before Our Gig on Saturday…True Story

    Posted on September 17th, 2012 Jeff No comments

    He was there, for sure, but he had already feasted on some drummer, so he left me alone…for now.

    There are lots of things that can interfere with getting to a gig. There’s rain. Check. There’s figuring out which car you and your girlfriend are going to take and how that’s going to work. Check. There’s forgetting cables that are necessary to safe and normal operation of your gear. Check. There’s the pure work of hauling heavy equipment up and down stairs that should be condemned by the city. Check.

    But, no one ever told me I’d have to brave the fucking supernatural just to play a show!

    So, on Saturday, before our amaze-balls (it’s a word, look it up) gig at Rudyard’s, I was tasked, as we all are before every show, with picking up my gear. Now, we split our rehearsal time between a space downtown and our drummer’s place. In honesty, the downtown space is as much for storage of gear as anything because Frank lives way out 290. And while everyone else lives in their fancy, schmancy houses (they’re so SMUG!), I have an apartment closer to town, so this is easier.

    I’ve rehearsed in this place MANY MANY times over the past 20 years, but I did not know that at some point between the time I last rehearsed there (maybe four years ago) and now, they did away with lights in the hallways at night. They still have lights above each room door, but they are only on if the light inside the room is on like a recording studio and, wouldn’t you know it, no one was home.

    When I got upstairs, the only light was from the freight elevator, which was WAY at the other end of the facility from our room, naturally. When I peered down the hallway, just blackness. I was convinced that when I shined the dim light from my iPhone down the hall, all I would see was a pair of glowing eyes, but they show, as they say, must go on.

    I managed to get a light on in our room, which lit the hallway pretty well. Sure, it was creepy, especially combined with the dark, nasty back stairwell across from the room and the thudding of the dance music emanating from a rave (yes, a RAVE!) around the corner, but it wasn’t bad. When I returned with the dolly after dropping my gear in the car, I knew I was left with one final, long trip down a pitch-black corridor with the rave music pounding in the background.

    Now, tell me that doesn’t sound like a horror movie! Someone should write it and call it, “The Night That the Bass Player Was Eaten by Satan” or something clever like that. Get on that, Hollywood!

    So, like the brave badass I am — imagine Samuel L. Jackson and the Karate Kid when he whopped up on Cobra Kai combined! — I shut off the light and proceeded to run as fast as possible down a hallway without being able to see a single step until I got to the other end. I could have run into a steel support beam or a wall or, of course, a demon, but I blazed like Forrest Gump extricating himself from his leg braces.

    I made it to the gig safe and sound with the only sign of demons being the claw marks down the side of my car and the faint smell of sulfur. Good thing I had that giant wooden cross strapped to the roof of the car. I almost NEVER bring that thing with me. Serendipity, I guess.

  • One Does Not Simply Walk Into Rudyard’s for an Orange Is In Show

    Posted on September 13th, 2012 Jeff No comments

    In case you missed the date or the hundred updates on Facebook, we’re playing a show this Saturday at Rudyard’s in Houston. Better yet, we convinced them to get us started at 9:30 — technically, LL Cooper goes at 9:30, we hit the stage about an hour after that, but still.

    As .38 Special said in the video below, “Rock and roll never hurt nobody,” which is why we, like .38 will be rockin’ into the night…rockin’ into the night.

    Don’t believe us? Show up and find out, Jack! Here’s the event notice on Facebook if you’re into that sort of social media thing.

  • Tropical Storm Isaac is No Katrina, but NOLA in Our Thoughts

    Posted on August 28th, 2012 Jeff No comments

    Kermit Ruffins at Tipitina’s in New Orleans, 2005 (Photo by Jeff Balke)

    The last time I spent any real time in New Orleans was the spring of 2005. I was playing at a festival in Gonzales as a sideman and we were too close to NOLA to pass up a chance at visiting. Original orange is in drummer, Leesa Harrington, was with me for that gig, and we agreed to drive into the city where we got lost in the Ninth Ward before winding up at Tipitina’s where we saw a mesmerizing set from Kermit Ruffins before watching him play with the Rebirth Brass Band for the first time in 20 years. It was luck and joy all rolled into one.

    A few months later, The Big Easy would again cross my radar, but this time because Hurricane Katrina was doing its damage. Images of people dying inside the Superdome and entire sections of town wiped out by flood waters thanks to rain and broken levees were painful to watch. Ruffins himself took up residency in our city for months and still considers it a second home. Our gain, I suppose.

    All musicians — particularly those of us from the American south — owe a great deal to New Orleans. In many ways, it is the cradle of American music. It is particularly true for those of us who grew up just a handful of hours to the west. All of us in the band have spent time there and love it for so many reasons.

    Now, with a much weaker tropical storm bearing down on the area again, I can’t help but think about one of those reasons — that killer night hanging out in Dr. John’s house and watching Rebirth keep a crowd grooving. Here’s hoping Isaac goes substantially gentler on NOLA than that bitch Katrina.

  • How Do You Rock a Million Faces…or How to Rock Your Own Face Off September 15

    Posted on August 20th, 2012 Jeff No comments

    Bon Jovi supposedly rocked a million faces. We will rock as many as possible.

    It’s been a long, hot, wet, moist…no, not moist, never moist…summer in Houston as usual. We could sit here and talk about weather all day — seriously, we totally could! — but summer is coming to a close and we are sending it out in style with a gig. Normally, we’d offer summer a fancy cocktail and perhaps an elegant meal with fancy china, but we’ve decided this year that style means loud guitars, face-melting guitar solos and enough Jager bombs to forget the name of your children.

    On Saturday, September 15, we’ll be doing all of the above at Rudyard’s (2010 Waugh) starting at 10pm with our very special guests LL Cooper and TC5.

    Sure, you COULD go wait in line to ride some stupid water slide at the Schlitterbahn or sit on East Beach with all the other drunk hooligans…or you could rock your flip flops off with us. We recommend bikinis for the ladies, but that’s your call.

    Oh, and if you are on Facebook — who isn’t? — you can check out the event page. And if you haven’t liked us already, seriously, dude, WTF?

  • Where the Hell Have We Been? RIGHT?

    Posted on August 14th, 2012 Jeff No comments

    Say it! Say it! Say "I lost the nest-egg." Go on, say it!

    Seriously, what the hell, orange is in? You don’t call. You don’t write. You’re website is all “NERD DATABASE ISSUE…DANGER!” We should be like ashamed and stuff.

    Truth is, we’re lazy…and awesome. Don’t forget awesome!

    Seriously, it’s been an interesting year-plus around the old orange ranch, pard’nah, but things are looking up. After an extended period of intense writing and Angry Birds, George, Chris and I really wanted to get out an play. When you are a rock band, sitting in a studio eventually makes you want to punch babies…but softly and with the caress of a gentle breeze because we’d never literally punch a baby. It’s like you never knew us at all!

    Fortunately, we worked with a couple of fine drummers during that time, but neither, sadly, would last. As great as both were, it has always been important to us to find the right fit both musically and personally, which is, needless to say, extremely difficult.

    Recently, I ran into an old friend, who it just so happens, plays the drums and exceedingly well. Wouldn’t you know, we’ve sorta hit it off and things are rolling along. We did a very brief 30-minute set opening for Chris’ other band, Skillit, at Rudyard’s last week and, dare I say it, kinda kicked ass. Yes, I DARE!

    In fact, you can catch a number of the songs in video form on our YouTube page. Here’s one now!

    Sweet, right? That was with literally five rehearsals under our belts. The new drummer — Frank Bullington, late of Lemonenemy — is a beast and definitely brings the energy and the Empire logo on his kick drum head. NERD ALERT!!!

    You’re next shot to see Frank play the drums like Animal from the Muppets is Saturday, September 15, again at Rudyard’s in the crime-free Montrose area. We’re playing with old friend LL Cooper and rockin’ cohorts, TC5. We’ll be manning the middle slot, so we’ll go on around 11-ish.

    See you there!

  • New Song: “Lipstick Smile”

    Posted on January 24th, 2012 George No comments

  • Going Back to Cali SXSW…Yo, I Totally Think So

    Posted on January 17th, 2012 Jeff No comments

    Ryan Gosling went to Fun Fun Fun Fest. Could he be at SXSW? A girl can dream!

    There’s something about the annual South by Southwest music, film and nerd festivals. To quote Agent Smith from the Matrix, “It’s the smell.” Ok, it’s only partially the smell. Mostly, it’s the smell of music! HO HO!

    Once again, we will take our caravan of anti-hipsters up 290 and/or 71 — depending on if you prefer the Dairy Queen in Giddings or Hruska’s in Ellinger…mmmm, Hruska’s — to our state capital in March to play during the annual festival and claim glory in the form of Home Slice Pizza.

    We’ve played this particular showcase twice in the past and it has always been fun. The showcase itself is at Guero’s, which is pretty good Tex Mex, but even better Tex ROCK! What?

    Assuming it doesn’t rain — with the way the drought has been the last year, there’s a better chance of a wildfire breaking out on South Congress (or in our pants…HEY OH!) than a thunderstorm — we’ll be on that outdoor stage on at 8:30pm on Saturday, March 17. (underlined and bolded because this whole post makes no sense and we want you to have the details about this actual show that is happening) Not a bad time slot either.

    There are a bazillion (actual number) bands playing over that weeks worth of events. One we want to see is The Akabane Vulgers on Strong Bypass, a Japanese all-girl band that, in the photo below, look like something out of The Ring. A co-worker of mine, when seeing the photo, simply asked, “Why do they look all wet?” We don’t know. Maybe for Ryan Gosling…ahem.

    Also, the name sounds like an American movie title translated into Japanese and back into English. It’s like The Tourist came back after translation as Putrefaction Jolly Rancher, which totally makes sense.

    Anyway, while you’re in Austin catching The Akabane Vulgers on Strong Bypass, be sure to swing by Guero’s, have a taco and watch some live ass kicking rock and roll. Konichiwa.

  • Chris Gray Benefit Show This Saturday at Continental Club

    Posted on January 10th, 2012 Jeff No comments

    Ok, it’s been a little while since we last spoke. We have a tendency to be a little lazy sometimes. Maybe it’s the drought. You can’t say it’s not. YOU DON’T KNOW!!!

    Anyway, we’re back, baby, and this weekend we are participating in a very special Blossom benefit concert along with 49 other great local bands. For the last two months plus, I’ve (Jeff) been filling in for Houston Press Music Editor Chris Gray editing the Rocks Off blog because Chris had a heart attack. It’s frankly a miracle the guy survived, but he’s doing GREAT and will soon be back working.

    Even with insurance, his medical bills are mounting and he needs help. Chris is a friend and a guy who has done a tremendous amount for the local music scene over the years. He deserves our respect. He certainly has mine.

    This benefit isn’t some lame three or four bands jamming for nickels. This is a full blown day-long party featuring some of the best bands in Houston, a MOUNTAIN of killer silent auction items (hands off that signed Steve Earle poster or I’ll cut a bitch!) and a performance by Houston native and alt-country ass kicker Hayes Carll.

    We’re going on a 4 p.m. on the Continental Club stage, but the whole thing starts at 10 a.m. with breakfast with the Allen Oldies Band. Carll is on two slots after us and the whole thing is gonna kick freaking ass.

    You can get more information on the whole deal here and here. Even if you can’t go, please consider donating to the cause, which you can do on the website.

    See you at the show!!!

  • “Screw You, We’re from Texas” – Live at Dan Electro’s Guitar Bar

    Posted on July 15th, 2011 George No comments

    This is our version of the Ray Wyllie Hubbard classic. If I’m not mistaken he wrote the tune as a “screw you” to the folks in Nashville because of their elitist attitude when it comes to music and everything that is allegedly right. We changed the words a bit, added a few chords to the chorus and kind of made it our own. Isn’t that what any good Texan would do? We hope to see y’all at the next gig set for Friday, Aug. 5 at Bohemeo’s in southeast Houston. Like the kids say….”dey be serving up ‘dem fish tacos.” See ya at the gig.

  • Homeless: The Quest for a Rehearsal Space

    Posted on June 22nd, 2011 Jeff No comments

    Will work for rehearsal space!

    Over the years of playing music in and around Houston, I’ve learned that few things are more prized to a band than a good rehearsal space. Unfortunately, orange is in is currently homeless having just lost our current space. In looking for a new space – something that ain’t easy; more on that shortly – I determined the ideal space should have the following characteristics:

    • Big enough to support the largest band using the room comfortably.
    • Reasonably priced – about half the cost of a moderately-priced apartment is about right.
    • Central location – unless everyone lives in one part of town, this is essential.
    • 24/7 access for everyone – this is what usually rules out the room in someone’s house, unless it’s a detached garage
    • Reasonable security measures – a door lock in the worst part of town is not acceptable
    • A/C and Heat
    • A limited number of bands in one space to share rent – 2 is ideal, 3 is ok, more than that is pushing it

    After you find a space, it should be outfitted accordingly:

    • A good PA system that is only used for the space – nothing sucks more than having to set up a PA system every week after a gig
    • A good drum kit everyone can use – two if you have enough room
    • Decent soundproofing material

    At that point, you are good to go. Now, here is what I’ve found in searching for spaces in Houston. First, there are only about five commercially available rehearsal spaces. One, as Prince once said, “is, was and always will be” a total shithole. Two are located in areas that are not remotely central. One is nearly impossible to contact. And the best one is central, expensive and has a long waiting list.

    Needless to say, the options available are not good.

    After that, the next option is to look for non-traditional spaces – artist lofts, commercial warehouse space, Craigslist ads for random commercial spaces. While these can be appealing if you find the right one, mostly they are rare and, if they do exist, they probably won’t allow a band there.

    Finally, we come to the residential options. There’s nothing inherently wrong with using someone’s house, but if the space is a spare bedroom or game room, the limitations on how late you can play, the impact on the neighbors and/or family and the lack of access to people who aren’t living there makes it difficult if not entirely prohibitive.

    As I searched and found very little, I started to wonder why someone didn’t start a legitimate rehearsal/artist space in Houston and then I remembered when I helped to manage a single room with 5 or 6 bands in it. As George and I have said to one another on more than one occasion, “Music would be great if it weren’t for the musicians.” Truth is, far too many of my musical brethren (and sistren?) live up to the stereotype of the burnout who mooches off his girlfriend and sleeps on people’s couches. The times I saw people try to manage rooms, all I remember is how tough it was to collect money, to keep equipment from being broken or stolen and to clean a room that routinely appeared as if it had been the unwitting victim of an F4 tornado.

    This was in addition to complaints from the building managers about damage to the overall facility, especially the bathrooms, God help them, and countless other violations like smoking, drugs, garbage, etc.

    It was, and is, disheartening.

    But, the search continues because every band needs practice and the better the place, the more conducive it is to making great music. If you hear of anything, you let me know, k?