Let me reminisce…Seventeen years ago this summer, I saw The Orchids in Biele and Zurich. During the day, we chatted, played football and drank beer. My pidgin French was called upon to ask the only Swiss youths who couldn’t speak English to go forth into town to buy The Orchids some hash. A transaction was happily made.
One night at the gig, me and some other travellers were there early. Given that there were five of us and we were obviously foreigners in the closed Swiss indiepop world, we were mistaken for The Orchids. Cue a few hours of being given free drinks at the bar and being stared at by curious Swiss pop fans.
Hackett told me on Saturday night, at their triumphant return to the stage after 12 years, that the Swiss tour was the last time he smoked hash and that they all drank far too much back in those days. “After thirty crates of beer in Biele,” he laughed, “the promoter refused to give us any more.” They had a few friends with them on tour, but even so, that represents some prodigious drinking.
Drunk enough for Hackett, backstage after the gig, to pull out his guitar and attempt to coerce me to sing Felt’s I Didn’t Mean To Hurt You. “You know the words, don’t you?” Uh, yeah, but I can’t sing. “Shite! Everyone can sing.” As a public service, I declined all cajoling and coaxing.
Later and after more drinking, I unsteadily walked down the highway towards the camp site with my thumb out. A married man, about the age The Orchids would be now, picked me up. He had a picture of his kids on the dashboard. Very soon, he had his hand on my thigh. “You speak very good English,” he cooed. Being English rather helps. “You are very polite,” he smarmed. Your reporter made his excuses and left. That sort of thing happens quite often to teenage boys.
On Saturday, I’m pleased to report that The Orchids were a more sober, mature but no less engaging proposition than in their heyday, hearts on sleeves as ever, soaring harmonies and chiming guitars to the fore. The album, Good To Be A Stranger, is out today. Previews can be heard over at their myspace page.
Afterwards, the guitarist John, in a scene uncannily like Before Sunrise, but without the sexual tension – well, I can only speak for myself; The Orchids themselves are, after all, only human – arranged to meet me again in Switzerland seventeen years from now in 2024. I hope, given Saturday’s fine return, that I see them long before then.
Much of my evening was spent DJing. It was probably most fun when me and Harvey were DJing together after the show, each playing a record in turn. This provided the onus, I suppose, for each of us to play great records so that we didn’t clear the dancefloor (except the floor was never danced upon).
Someone did ask for a few requests, which Harvey fielded. “Have you got any Wedding Present?” No. “Have you got any Smiths?” No. “Have you got any Shack?” No, but I played the Pale Fountains earlier.
Sean of Fortuna Pop! was promoting the gig and had called upon our services strictly for “old school indie”. I used the occasion to play some Australian indie and was pleased to inform Greg of Brisbane's The Zebras, who rued that, “The Go-Betweens follow us about. They’re the only band from Brisbane,” that the next record to be played was by an 80s Brisbane band, Let’s Go Naked’s 3 Limbs.
He hadn’t heard of them. By chance, I was out with a former member of The Visitors the following night. The Devonshire lad opined bleakly that Coldplay, Devon’s current favourite sons, have never heard of The Visitors. I suspect Coldplay haven’t heard much good music in their time, but it’s a fair point. We agreed that Joss Stone and Muse are similarly unaware of The Visitors' delights.
Egg Records, I note, are planning a Let’s Go Naked retrospective later this year. On the basis of the 7” and the mini-album I have, it’ll be worth checking out. As is the new Zebras album. No departure from the first one, but if that means strong songwriting, driving riffs and fine pop tunes, it’s all right by me.