Review: Oranje 2011

Going to Oranje and expecting to see and hear everything is like going to Cedar Point expecting to ride all their coasters in just one day. Simply put, it ain’t gonna happen.

Just as the participants of the Oranje Roundtable concluded, Oranje is a different experience for everyone. It’s not about everything the event has to offer, it’s about what each individual embraces and enjoys the most. It’s about the stories told and experiences shared.

Accordingly, I’ve detailed four major highlights from my own personal Oranje adventure this past weekend. As a bonus, three pieces of advice for attendees to next year’s event.


1.) Chindi
One of the first local bands I ever discovered in Indianapolis was a group of mischievous rockers making somber punk music under the name State. Heartbroken when they split a few years later, I’ve kept a close eye on the band’s energetic front man David Barajas ever since. Accordingly, I was excited to see his newest project, Chindi, on The NUVO Main Stage at Oranje.

Longtime fans of Barajas’ past work will be pleased to find the same dramatic chamber rock that was so much of State’s allure, stepped in Barajas’ typical dark melodies and boosted by driving rhythm from bassist Brian Petersen and drummer Phil Milam. Adding jazzy woodwind depth and zesty electronic dimensions is another distinguished veteran of the local music scene, Joshua Silbert (ESW, Johnny Socko). If you missed them at Oranje, you can make up for it next month when they play The Melody Inn for the Broad Ripple Music Fest.

Photo by Matt Market.
2.) Freddie Bunz & Grey Granite
In this story of art class dork meets tranquil unassuming poet, observers of The Electric Kool-Aid Experiment (a.k.a. Freddie Bunz and Grey Granite) witness the combined result of an inventive hip hop stage show mixed with impassioned delivery, laid atop crunchy dubstep a la Ed Trauma. Perhaps one of the most anticipated shows of the night, attendees at Saturday’s Oranje event saw a live premier of the duo’s debut album Slaughter on the Audio.

Pulled from Granite’s bag-o-tricks, audience members were assaulted with countless cans of silly string and showered in paper confetti dots throughout the show while Granite tossed a mannequin head around the stage and Bunz moved his body in convulsive rhythm. Although each artist has a strong reputation for relentless work ethic and creative energy, I believe the pair have struck a special balance between hip hop and electro; between theater and song; between art and music. If you didn’t get a taste on Saturday, make sure you pour yourself a cup of The Electric Kool-Aid very, very soon.

Slaughter on the AUDIO – Grey Granite & Freddie Bunz Electric koolaid Experiment Mixed By Ed Trauma by ElectricKoolAidExperiment

3.) Alibabba’s Thought Bubble
The first time I attended Oranje, I let myself into a small, triangluar two-person viewing booth that had been installed in the space directly under a flight of stairs to the second floor. It was there that I experienced my first exposure to Azziem and Habib- the stereotyped quik-e-mart operators and main characters of local flash animator Jeremiah Little’s catroon series, Alibabba’s Thought Bubble. This year, what Little’s booth lacked in creativity (merely a projector screen and a slew of headphones), it gained in prominent placement (a few spots to the left of the ramp, neighboring the “clothing optional” photo booth).

A brief, partial screening of the Adult Swim-esque cartoon during Oranje made me chuckle at the “fudgie spill” on I-70 that was headlining the news, as well as a startlingly accurate depiction of a recognized Locals Only bartender. Later, I watched the full episode at home on DVD (twice) and still have no idea what really happened. Man, that really is one @#%k’d up cartoon!

4.) A New Favorite
The best thing about Oranje is shopping for new artists to follow and support. While there are always an endless number of booths to visit and enjoy, I typically find one or two to be particularly engrossing. This year, I felt a gravitational pull towards the work of Michael Foster- who you may recognize more readily as a member of the musical group Deadbeats. Much like the image of the band he performs with, the theme in his work appeared to be, well… without a theme at all.

Each piece was a unique individual with hardly any style connection to its hanging neighbors except bright, bold colors and curious, provocative messages. From the cat collage that merged human characteristics into the kittys’ facial expressions, to the painting that read “The goal is to impress, the result is to undress”- Foster’s quirky, edgy assemblage of graphics spoke to me on that “I’m a freak, you’re a freak, let’s all be free to be freaks” level.


Pro Tips for 2012
And finally, I’ve gleaned a few pieces of advice from this year’s Oranje to keep in mind for 2012:

1. Be prepared for less-than-ideal parking. Oranje is located at 22nd and Illinois. There are very few nearby parking lots to accommodate the event’s large number of attendees. So unless you come extra early or get lucky and snag a spot as someone is leaving, chances are good you will have to walk a fair distance to get there. And whatever you do- don’t give your money to the shady character standing over a dark, empty lot in exchange for the privilege to park there; he almost certainly doesn’t have any kind of authority over you or your car or the lot he’s trying to charge you for.

2. Identify three-to-five “must see” attractions. If you don’t have some sort of a purpose or goal at Oranje, it’s easy to feel lost and overwhelmed. It’s essential to do a little research in advance to make sure you see a few shows and artists that you know you’ll enjoy and appreciate. After that, fill in the holes in your schedule with surprises along the way.

3. When you see an opportunity to “do” something, do it! Sure, I’d love to pose for a picture in your photo booth! Put these headphones on and watch the video projecting on the screen? Of course I will! Get my naked body painted? Well… maybe not every interactive opportunity should be acted on. But to walk away from Oranje feeling like you’ve experienced something unique and special, you need to take it upon yourself to become a part of the event and leave your mark somewhere, somehow.