Performing in front of an audience is one of the most essential activities of musicians. It is similar to releasing music in that it can attract attention from all kinds of people but there’s a huge difference that makes live shows unique: They enable real time interaction between the people present at the venue. Most artists appreciate the direct reactions they get, and I bet everyone attending concerts on a regular basis knows how this (more or less) face-to-face situation can foster, stabilize or ruin a connection to the music.
However, planning live shows as a rather unknown as well as unsigned band or musician usually looks like this: At first, you decide in which cities/towns/etc. you would like to – and can afford to – play. Then you look for potential venues and mail them to ask if they’re interested. In most cases, you don’t get a response which brings you back to the first and second step. It’s a rather frustrating experience. While it’s great that especially bigger cities offer many live shows and venues, this amount doesn’t make it easier for acts without a huge professional background (see ‘pay to play’).
But there are exceptions to this procedure which I, as a member of lo-fi indie band Kamikaze, fortunately got to know not long ago. Shortly after the release of some songs on our Bandcamp page, I received an email from Orange ‘Ear in Berlin, asking about the band and inviting us to play at their place. We didn’t know about Orange ‘Ear before but were attracted to their ideas and immediately sure that a journey to Berlin would be worthwhile. Frank and Jo, the passionate people behind Orange ‘Ear, look for musicians they like, online and offline, ask them to play, film the performance and then provide the videos to the artists for free. And as they have a huge living room in Berlin-Friedrichshain, they do it right there:
‘We started Orange ‘Ear 8 years ago. Since then, we have hosted 44 bands. We invite musicians who have made a particular impression on us. Therefore, the concerts have no fixed schedule. Besides the concert recordings at our location, we have also produced some music videos with musicians with whom we have made friends.’
The unusual name of the project comes from Frank’s use of ‘an old S8-movie of bouncing oranges to cover small inserts in video clips for a party’ (which you can still see in every video) and fits their musical preferences: ‘Regardless of the genre, Orange ‘Ear focuses on music that sounds unique in our ears. Nevertheless, we feel at home in post-punk, experimental and edgy music.’
Concerts meet Community
On meeting them it becomes clear that it’s not money that’s driving them:
‘We purposely keep Orange’ Ear out of business, it’s not about money at all. This way we can create a perfect win/win situation, because with the well produced videos the musicians get a fair value for the concert and we have the freedom to do whatever we want, whenever we want.
Our passion for both, live music and community, drives our activities. It’s always a very intimate situation when musicians bring their own world to our living room. Everything in our everyday world changes during concert-days and it’s like a present, when we are allowed to work with new creative persons for one day and then enjoy their concert in the evening.
In the meantime, however, a certain passion for collecting our self-recorded good music has also gripped us. We really enjoy listening to our recordings during car rides.’
Over the years, Frank and Jo have established a strong connection with the Icelandic music scene, citing their ‘two recording tours to Iceland’ in 2015 and 2016 as their ‘highest highlights’ so far which were followed by visits from some Icelandic musicians to Berlin (see #OE2iceland).
As I tried to plan shows around the Orange ‘Ear date, it was exactly as described at the beginning and I managed to arrange one other gig in Hamburg (out of maybe 50 enquiries). It was good to play there as well, but a totally different experience of course. Although our show at Orange ‘Ear was just our second one as a band, we felt comfortable, supported and inspired. I don’t think that’s a given. So, support projects like Orange ‘Ear (e. g. MG Kitchen TV, Småll Sessions, séjour), they deserve it:
‘We have no real target for Orange ‘Ear. Over the years, it has developed into what it is: it has become a space where music and musicians below the radar receive a high level of attention and appreciation, so most musicians experience their Orange ‘Ear concert as something special. Maybe our primary goal is to just keep going: recording concerts, support musicians.‘