The Orange Opera
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The Orange Opera

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"Land of Tall review"

Kevin Hambrick must be on some kind of roll. In addition to having written over 350 songs over the course of his life, in the past six months he�s released a solo album and now an album with his band The Orange Opera, both brimming with high-caliber songs much too good to be confined to the 260 area code. I hereby respectfully request that he stop hogging the muse!

Ahem. Regardless of if muse-hogging has occurred, Hambrick and his band present Land Of Tall for your listening pleasure. Featuring Bryan Brubaker on bass, Kevin Hockaday on drums, Matt Tackett on guitar and Hambrick on everything else, the 11 songs have a definite retro pop rock vibe, as if Lennon and Harrison formed their own group with Rod Argent of The Zombies and rewrote music history in the early 70s. Adding to this is the now-lost practice of simultaneously balancing a polished and live sound that only comes from years of constant playing to the point that each member knows each others nuances and is able to read their musical minds. Instead of being raw or sloppy, the live feel that permeates these recordings is loose and organic, free from ProTool-ification. The fact that this astounding album was probably recorded in a basement with eight tracks is a strong testament to their skills as songwriters and musicians, because it sounds just as good as anything I�ve heard come out of a local studio.

At least three of these songs have previously been released on Hambrick�s solo albums. �Out of Focus� has more teeth this time out, with an aggressive guitar chewing through some mighty fine jazz chords, interrupted now and then by contrasting calm or an intensely melodic 70s riff. Hints of mellotron decorate �These Days,� a solid song that incorporates a John Lennon beat and builds to a Sgt. Pepper�s-era flurry of musical chaos. The title track from his recent Seratonin also gets a makeover, starting with a marching snare beat and creeping up on you with lazy vocals of �My seratonin�s at an all-time low,� before the band breaks in with a fevered wash of wah guitars and frantic electric piano. While the previous ultra-fuzzy version may have contributed to a mood of low seratonin, this stripped down version takes the song in a fabulously psychedelic direction.

The album opens with �Coy,� a Harrison-influenced fast shuffle with a dark edge as the romping piano leads the band through a spooky variation of the �Cry Baby, Cry� chord progression. �Sun Comes Up� is a full-out rocker with elements of Badfinger, breathlessly careening through two and a half minutes of catchy hooks. In �We Were Laughing� a roaring 20s piano stomps over a rowdy remembrance of �Every day / Every night / We were laughing,� eventually opening a door that leads to what sounds like a guitar played through one of those plastic spring-echo microphones for kids - and it works! A pensive piano in the resigned �Come On Try� is broken by a brash, punctuated guitar figure that may resound in your mind for days. The seratonin must have been at an all-time high when Hambrick wrote �Happy.� This peppy song finds joy in the minutia of each day, gleefully sauntering along in the pleasant shine of the summer sun, never failing to evoke a smile or tapping foot.

The constant songwriting has definitely paid off for The Orange Opera, as Land Of Tall is chock full of amazing songs of the highest caliber. Professional artwork and masterful production are merely icing on an already moist cake. If you can�t find a song to like on this collection you probably don�t have a pulse. Available at local Wooden Nickel stores and at

Copyright 2006 Ad Media Inc. - Jason Hoffman of Whatz Up Magazine

"Winner of Battle of the Bands"

By Greg Locke

The French philosopher Jacques Maritain once said, "The only artist who does not deserve respect is the one who works to please the public." Four left turns later Bob Dylan claimed that "Money doesn't talk, it swears." Those are what we call sharp words, the kinds of statements that cut the fat, fray the expectations and leave the art, raw and lucid, on the floor where it thrives.

What are we talking about here? Music. Art. Pop. Lifeblood. Jazz. Rock n' roll. We're talking about the crude, uncorrupted form of what some consider to be the backbone of culture and communication. We're talking about when you were eight years old and first started noticing emotional reactions to the Beatles or James Brown or Dolly Parton or Miles Davis albums your parents had been filtering through your daily routine for years. We're talking about that first cassette single you picked out and wore thin. We're not talking about competition or money or fame. Like the Mike of Mills and Stipe, we're talking 'bout the passion.

Spend a few weeks in any city with at least a couple hundred thousand inhabitants and you're bound to find some sort of notable music scene, be it emergent, limping or already established. Just 10 years ago Fort Wayne 's scene was limping along, direly in need of a dependable conduit specifically designed to help the area's scattered musicians come together and build a supportive, collaborative network of artists. The time since has seen Fort Wayne's music-minded folks rise to the surface, moving right past the thriving stage and fast into the established. And whether you like the concept of art-as-competition or not, the annual whatzup Battle of the Bands has played a part in this progression, along the way growing in quality each year since its induction four years ago and offering countless bands a chance to get their art out of the basement. (This year's crowds numbered over 100 every night, reaching well over 300 more than once and around 400 for the finals.)

After last year's marathon 55-band BotB III, whatzup opted to go the economical route for this year's event, accepting only 35 bands and spreading the duration of the competition out over 15 Thursday nights, rather than the whopping 27 the previous year saw. The result was a more cohesive, better attended BotB season that saw largely unknown bands like Greater Midwest Identity Theft, The B-Sharps and Under the Wake more than doubling their crowds and first-place vote totals by the time it was all said and done.

Sure, there were the usual conspiracy theories ("the voting is rigged!"), surprises (Left Lane Cruiser once again bowing out early, despite favorable judge scores), breakout bands (Kan-tis) and classic moments (Sankofa tearing up copies of whatzup on stage not being among them), but in the end – on the final night – there were four bands who could not be denied. Four bands with completely different sounds, fan bases and approaches. It was a rowdy, unforgettable night, and, against almost everyone's wildest dreams, audiophile favorites The Orange Opera walked out on top, odds smashed to pieces behind them and dumbfounded smiles on their sweaty faces.

"We didn't really actually practice once specifically for the Battle of the Bands," said Opera frontman Kevin Hambrick, not so much revealing his secret as he was speaking in his usual candid, honest manner. "We've been playing so many shows that we haven't really been practicing at all," continued Hambrick, who found the time to sit down with whatzup during a Labor Day weekend that saw his band playing four hour sets on both Friday and Saturday nights following their Thursday win, as well as on Labor Day itself.

A project over five years in the works, The Orange Opera entered BotB IV as a trio (drummer Kevin Hockaday and bassist Brian Brubaker rounding out the lineup) before adding Definitely Gary drummer Jon Ross on guitar only two weeks before their first-round appearance. "We'd been trying out guitar players here and there for awhile," said Hambrick. "Then Jon came in and seemed to know things about our songs that I didn't even know. He could sing the harmonies and pretty much already play all the songs, so it worked out very easily."

Sounds like a winning bullet point for any band's bio: multi-instrumentalist joins band; doesn't really need to practice because he already knows the songs; starts playing at every show; helps win Battle of the Bands competition. Speaking of bios, The Orange Opera's has undeniably doubled in length in 2007 alone.

"Everything started to change after I lost my job in January," explained an animated, excited Hambrick. "Between playing at the Embassy, meeting Dr. Dog (more about that later), adding Jon to the band, going on our first mini-tour, bringing The Teeth to Fort Wayne, winning the Battle of the Bands, meeting Jeff Tweedy and now this upcoming Dr. Dog show, t - Whatz up Magazine

"Football Weather review"

����� By now the saga of Kevin Hambrick has become well known around the area: longtime local staple, interesting backstory, intense live performer, wildly prolific songwriter, documentary subject (Paging Rascal Hanks), can't catch a break to concentrate solely on his insistent muse. Whether it's alone or with the rocking Orange Opera, Hambrick's talent is only matched by his dogged tenacity.

����� His latest opus (that's 20 songs � all killer, no filler) is a self-recorded world with its own atmosphere. Hambrick has managed to create a self-contained, mood-sustaining album and, in the process, learned to use silence as an instrument unto itself.

����� Not that the opener, "Hit Where It Really Hurts," would reflect what I just said. A cranky, elemental groove supports some late-era Beatles/Pink Floyd harmony vocals here with purple riffage dominating the background. But it's soon followed by the breathtaking hush of "Rest Your Laurels," wherein a warm acoustic descending hook gives way to some weary, introspective vocals. Hambrick has never been underrated as an instrumentalist, but the subtle shades and precision he wrenches out here are nothing short of stellar.

����� The power of between-the-notes silence permeates this disc, and it does justice to Hambrick's combination of pop smarts, riff-rock instincts and self-examination. The halting and hesitating "S.O.S." has a ragged-but-right feel, while "I'm Feeling Cold" lopes along with a resigned vocal until the keyboard-laden chorus carries it into a bittersweet outro. These songs aren't slight in the least; rather, they serve as an honest emotional glue that binds the album together.

����� Rockers aren't as prevalent on Football Weather, but they make their presence felt nonetheless. Hambrick almost appears to have time-traveled to the mid-70s and snatched up a stable of studio musicians for "Guitar/Film/Sugar," although it's all him in reality. (Rhetorical question: Why isn't this guy signed and on the road already?) His commitment to communicating the essence of the songs almost always pays off, even as he often completely disregards "conventional" recording etiquette (much in the same way a couple of bands you may have heard of did in 1967). Maybe that's what keeps the big boys from calling � which might just illustrate why the industry is in such a sad, ringtone-obsessed state. At any rate, Hambrick cuts loose in his own classic-rock-centric way on "Plump Buzzard," which makes you wish ELO's Jeff Lynn was capable of this kind of abandon.

����� If I gush, I apologize. There's so much to be taken from this disc that one listen doesn't do it justice. The centerpiece of Football Weather is the deliberately paced "Sweet Momentum," which uses a martial beat and Tartan bagpipe vibe to convey the record's gauzy underlying sports/war/music-biz metaphors. You can almost see a fog-draped stadium/battlefield/stage door at dawn upon hearing this quietly insistent and cinematic song. It's nice to know that this unique and prolific artist has not yet begun to fight. Football Weather is his best battle cry yet. Football Weather is available at Wooden Nickel, Convolution and at both his solo shows and Orange Opera shows.

Copyright 2007 Ad Media Inc. - D.M. Jones

"Part time promoter Kevin Hambrick"

Kevin Hambrick, singer/songwriter for The Orange Opera and a solo artist, has had one busy, yet successful, year so far.

It started off with a bang when he met his modern day music heroes, Dr. Dog. This was akin to a first grader meeting Santa Claus and the gift that they later gave Hambrick (more on that later) was better than any bicycle.

Then there was the small scale tour that he and his band, The Orange Opera, embarked on, which provided them the extra confidence that surely helped them secure the crown in this year's Battle of the Bands.

Now, after having already played host to The Teeth, who, along with Dr. Dog, call Philadelphia their geographical home and Park the Van Records their musical home, Hambrick has decided to virtually do away with any free time and devote it to promoting shows. He's already secured three shows in the next month and has plenty more up his sleeve.

First up is a band from Louisiana, The Peekers, who are also on Park the Van and play what Hambrick calls “mountain country, happy, little 60s music.” Their performance will take place at The Brass Rail on October 14 th. Next up is a show at Mid City on the 26th. The line-up consists of Fat City Reprise, who Hambrick describes as “funk from Philly” and have a song that sounds like Blind Melon playing Urban Dance Squad,; and Quiet Life, a band that should appeal to anyone who's enjoyed any band that ever recorded for Saddle Creek. Finally, there is a show scheduled the very next day at Side Pocket Pub for Willy Wisely. Wisely doesn't have a MySpace page (which makes him the closest thing to Jandek to ever play here), but he does have a video that features Jenna Fischer a.k.a. Pam Beesly on NBC's The Office (which makes him the envy of any guy who's ever watched that show).
"He's been around for awhile," points out Hambrick, "That one came about from Jason Davis asking if I could get him a show here. I think Jason played a show with him years ago. He's a really smart songwriter and, to me, he's got a sort of Michael Penn voice. His stuff reminds me of songs on the Garden State soundtrack."

So why do it? Why spend the time and trouble it takes to line this all up, when there are already plenty of establishments in town that have hired people to do this very thing? Especially when you are already a full time musician trying to get your band off the ground. The answer, as it turns out, partly deals with that very matter.

"I just think the whole thing is you get a person a gig and then if they dig you, then there's a good chance they'll have you open for their town," reveals Hambrick, "Which could be in Louisiana or Philly. I love the music of these people that we're playing with and it's a good 'swap gig' thing. It's a good thing on your bio. I was talking to Van Campbell, the drummer for Ghostfinger, and he was telling me that you don't even need a label these days. He mentioned they have their little advantages, but all you really need is merchandise and contacts. He thought I was a promoter. In a way, I am, but he thought that was my job."

The other reason Hambrick is investing his time into setting up shows is to offer an alternative to the status quo. "To keep from getting a Queensryche cover band," he laughs, "Booking agents have their advantages, too. But, they don't really know the underground scene."

Hambrick says he has had his fair share of opposition so far, but he considers it par for the course. "I think there's definitely a 'behind the times' thing here. I'm going to keep trying what I do. There's no sense why we can't bring people here other than Rush cover bands or Too Short or Henry Lee Summer. Who gives a rat's ass? Bring something different. I think that the general public, sad as it is, a lot of them around here really like that," suggests Hambrick, "They want to hear covers and songs that they know."

There have been more than a few bars and clubs that have turned down Hambrick's requests to organize shows, mostly based on not wanting to change their nightly schedule of karaoke and such. "Some places want to still do their thing they've been doing for years. One place said I had to drop off a CD there. I'm not going to drop a CD off," he states, "C'mon! I can tell you everywhere I've played, I just won Battle of the Bands, and I'm playing with a national act."

So, again, why do it in the first place? Well, the reason has everything to do with the very first show he booked, in fact. Hambrick fell in love with Dr. Dog and then fell in love with many of the other bands on the Park the Van record label and … Well, better off letting him tell the story. "I think a lot of it stems from the whole Dr. Dog thing and meeting them and then hearing back from them that they liked the copy of Football Weather (Hambrick’s solo CD) that I gave them. Then, the second time I met them, The Teeth were opening for them and they told me I had to check them out because they were awesome. And they were. So, - Sean Smith

"Documentary review"

It's a cliche that most artists aren't normal. Some are pushed by extreme experiences (mostly tragic), and some are born with differences (frequently psychological disorders) that mold their worldview into the compelling stuff of art.

While "outsider art" has become a staple, it could be argued that most art falls under that rubric.

It's no coincidence, either, that artists make great subjects for documentaries.

Kevin Hambrick is no exception. A recovering alcoholic with obsessive compulsive disorder, he has written and recorded more than 350 songs in his basement in Fort Wayne, Ind. He plays in a band called the Orange Opera, and by himself. He has no immediate plans to relocate to a music industry hub but does want to make his living playing music. What drives him to create?

"As my friend Bryan Brubaker, the bassist in Kevin's band, which is how I found out about Kevin, says, he s -- music," said filmmaker Alex Uncapher, whose documentary, "Paging Rascal Hanks," chronicles a few days in Kevin's life. (The title comes from one of Kevin's alter egos.) Describing Hambrick's music as close to classic rock from the '70s, Uncapher says, "What really amazed me was his songwriting. He really knows how to construct and mimic different production styles. A lot of his songs sound like the Beach Boys with really nice chord progressions."

In Uncapher's opinion, Hambrick's strange stage presence, feverish songwriting and grandiose ambitions indicate that he is an oddball, but not disabled or socially unfit. "He's not so flighty that you can't have a conversation with him," says Uncapher, who does think, though, that Hambrick's obsessive compulsive disorder is expressed through his frantic production. "He has to continue to write and record because he's afraid he's going to lose it."

To make the documentary, Uncapher spent time with Hambrick. As a musician himself from Fort Wayne, Uncapher knew the frustrations of making music that "isn't a cover of 'Brown-Eyed Girl' for a bar band" in Middle America. "His big downfall is marketing," Uncapher says. "There's no local audience for his kind of music."

That leaves the Internet to help him get his stuff out there, and he has achieved some success with sites like

"Basically, he wants a recording contract," Uncapher says, "and when my friends hear his stuff, they're like, 'Are you serious? This guy made it in his garage?' His production sounds amazing."
“Paging Rascal Hanks”: Alex Uncapher’s documentary on Kevin Hambrick screens at 7 tonight, with a performance by Hambrick and DJ sets by JBeep and the Dupont Twins. $5. CELLspace, 2050 Bryant St., San Francisco.

This article appeared on page H - 37 of the San Francisco Chronicle - San Francisco Chronicle


The Orange Opera discography-
2009-Year of the Beard(full length)
2008-Ant Muscle(6 song EP)
2006-Land of Tall(full length)

Kevin Hambrick discography-
2007-Football Weather(full length)
2005-Serotonin(full length)
2002-Cheap(full length)
2001-Blueberry Hurricane(full length)



Sometimes, the best of things come from the most unlikely of places. Who would have thought a wellspring of world-class pop-rock would gush forth from a ho-hum city in the Midwestern U.S., not exactly renowned for its musical output? Here’s the exception that proves the rule: great music can emerge from the most humble of locales. The Orange Opera channels a classic vibe, enriched with some stellar signposts of early ‘70s rock, driven by the uncanny songcraft of Kevin Hambrick (guitar, piano, lead vocal) and propelled by bassist Bryan Brubaker, guitarist Michael Ostermeyer, and drummer Kevin Hockaday. This combo melds modern energy with vintage vibe to produce the kind of distinctive, catchy, smart and infectious sound that you recognize immediately: it simply belongs in your ears. Imagine bits of Beatles and Badfinger melodic magic mingling with ELO and Wilco, and you’ve barely scratched the surface. The Orange Opera is one of those essential bands that you hear once and realize that, yeah, maybe there’s hope for pop music after all.

2007 has been a great year for the band. Early in the year they played at Fort Wayne, IN’s venerable Embassy Theater to an appreciative crowd of over 1,800. A stretch of opening gigs for great bands followed, including outstanding shows with The Teeth,The High Strung,(both from Park the Van Records). Upon the completion of a highly successful southern U.S. tour, The Orange Opera returned to their hometown in August and were awarded 1st place in Whatzup Magazine’s highly competitive 2007 Battle of the Bands. An October 7 appearance with national act Dr. Dog(also on Park the Van Records)and Apollo Sunshine was a complete success at Fort Wayne’s Sunset Hall and added yet another highlight to The Orange Opera’s year. In 2008, the band started right where they let off playing their first show of the year on new years eve at The Bitter End in NYC. On Jan.31 the band made their way to rock island Illinois for a dream come true to record a Daytrotter Session. Many of the bands featured on this site have given The Orange Opera hope that more good things soon lie ahead.