Orange Blossom 10
published: 12 /
John Clarkson finds a three hour double DVD about the 10th Orange Blossom Special, the festival of the German label Glitterhouse, and which featured sets from the Walkabouts, the Great Crusades, Big Bang, Seachange and Robert Fisher of the Willard Grant Conspiracy, totally riveting
The small North Western German town of Beverungen, which has 3000 inhabitants, is the host to the Orange Blossom Special, one of the most unusual of all European summer rock festivals.
The OBS, as it is known for short, occurs every year at the end of May, and is run by the long-running label and mail order firm Glitterhouse, which was established by local Beverungen resident Reinhard Holstein in 1984. Restricting access and ticket sales to just 1500 people, many of whom travel from all across Europe for it, it takes place in the backyard of the large suburban house in which Glitterhouse has its main offices.
The OBS began in 1997 as a one day, one-off event involving four Glitterhouse bands, each of whom had the same day off and who were all touring Germany at the same time. It has since expanded into a three day event. Last year's 10th Orange Blossom Special, which was subtitled 'It's Your Universe', and which is the subject of this three hour double DVD, features sets from Glitterhouse's largely alt.rock and country based roster such as the Walkabouts, the Great Crusades, Big Bang, Seachange and Robert Fisher of the Willard Grant Conspiracy, and also other several acts it has promoted hard through its mail order service and website including Steve Wynn, Broken Social Scene and Sarah Hepburn.
An early camera shot of the burst banks of the local River Bever and the top of a park bench poking out of the overflowing water show the appalling weather conditions in which much of Orange Blossom Special 10 took place. Brollies are a frequent sight in the crowd shots, yet despite the heavy rain and the mud all the bands and the audience are clearly having a wonderful time.
Norwegian rockers Big Bang live up to their name and kick things off to a boisterous start when singer Oystein Gren hurls himself into the crowd. One off group K1, who have formed specially for the occasion and have several members dressed up as footballs -the 2006 World Cup coincided with OBS 10-, ham and clown their way through a surprisingly slick version of Kula Shaker's 'Hush'. The Walkabouts play the abrasive 'Fuck Your Fear', the pounding opening track from their recent 'Acetylene' album, while Steve Wynn provides a fire-and-brimstone version of his old 80’s group the Dream Syndicate's song 'The Days of Wine and Roses'
There is an unusually strong sense of harmony and camaraderie between the bands as well. Paul Austin from Glitterhouse signing Transmissionary Six, who were present but who do not appear on the film, is seen on stage playing bass with the Walkabouts. He and his wife Terri Moeller, the Walkabouts drummer and also the singer with the Transmissionary Six, pop up later also with punk rock group and fellow Seattle-based act, Downpilot. Chris Eckman, the front man the Walkabouts, provides some steel guitar for Robert Fisher for a not-quite-solo version of 'Flying Low', a song from the Willard Grant Conspiracy's latest album, 'Let It Roll' which Fisher tells the audience that he wrote with Steve Wynn, with Wynn in New York and himself in California, one night across the internet. Two current members of the Willard Grant Conspiracy, Jason Victor and Erik Van Loos, both of whom featured heavily on that album, in turn appear as two thirds of Wynn's backing band, the Miracle 3.
Almost as equally compelling as the band footage is that of the behind-the-scenes shots which are displayed throughout the first DVD. Film of Beverungen shows the town sleepily carrying on as normal as the rock festival takes place down one of its residential streets. The merchandise stall, full of hundreds of Glitterhouse products, and the bar and food stalls all do busy business. Reinhard Holstein reveals a shrine he has created on a wall of the Glitterhouse building for the Swell Maps' and the Jacobites' Nikki Sudden, who has died in the year between OBS9 and OBS10. A group of men, their pints of beer resting on its low walls, grin and wave back good-naturedly from behind the urinals as the camera pounces towards them.
This twin DVD provides a riveting insight into what was a very unique, if wet three days. In the only English interview in the film Chris Eckman explains that a few years ago Holstein and his crew had to decide whether or not they wanted to up the scale of things, but chose instead, rather than to lose its intimacy, to maintain the OBS at the level it is. With the release of this DVD, one suspects that tickets for this small and unspoilt festival and OBS11 will prove very hard to track down.