What began as a joke one most likely drunken night while hanging out at Lilystars’ headquarters in Cubao finally found its way to Route 196 last January 30. My memory isn’t serving me as well as I had hoped it would as I begin to write this, but I do remember several occasions where us Lilystars people joked incessantly about one day getting former friends and Orange & Lemons (O&L) band mates, Clem Castro and Mcoy Fundales, together—even if only for one night—to share the stage again. Enter Of Mice and Men, a production by Lilystars Records/The POP Shoppe!—a gig intended to celebrate the music that Orange & Lemons left us at the wake of their soaring career and the closest we got to hearing and seeing those old songs from those old days again, performed live.
Since the gig doubled as the culmination of Antonette’s week-long birthday celebration, she asked me and our good friend, Ericka, to coordinate the gig so she can have the “night off,” and be worry-free at least in this single instance (Antonette is responsible for putting together our POP Shoppe! gigs, so just imagine what a bundle of nerves she is every time we prepare for one). Not knowing what to expect, Ericka and I agreed to meet at the bar as early as 8:00pm, just some time ahead of everyone else, to make sure that we can go about our business that night with few to no kinks. But as lack of luck would have it, I ran extremely late and arrived
at Route an hour and a half later than what was agreed. My embarrassment from my tardiness was immediately replaced by excitement as I walked into the bar with a roomful of people… old friends and new faces alike welcomed me and I instantly knew that this POP Shoppe! was going to be different from the rest of the gigs we’ve ever hosted.
Shortly past 10:00, I gave The Satellites, one of our guest artists and that night’s gig opener, the cue to begin checking sound. The moment they hit the first bar of “Strike Whilst The Iron Is Hot,” their first song and the first O&L cover that night, the bar entrance became impassable… everyone inside was literally on their feet, so close together, we were canned sardines. The place was a standing room for a great part of the night, with people only sitting down or stepping out to take a breather in between bands, but soon as the next band began setting up, people settled back in, as if afraid to miss a note.
Truth be told, I didn’t get to enjoy most of the performances. I had the attention span of a common housefly who overdosed on caffeine, every other second checking and cueing artists and the hosts, chatting up guests and friends, shooting in and out of the band room and the bar… and I was slightly intoxicated to boot. I was cautious of the time, what with seven bands and a “guest performer.” I worried that if each band took too long, people might feel impatient, leave and miss The Camerawalls. It need not be said (but allow me), but I could tell that more than watching out for any other artist that night, every single person in attendance at that gig came with the intention to see and hear Clem perform an Orange & Lemons song. Speaking of Clem doing an O&L cover, I recall one time being weirded out by the thought of him covering an O&L song. In my head, I thought, ‘but aren’t those your songs…?’ I still can’t get over it.
While most of my recollection of that evening is a blur, I vividly remember people singing along to every band’s O&L cover/s. It’s unbelievable and heartwarming, seeing how people knew the songs so well and that they really did pay attention to the event, even participating in the contests we held in between sets (winners took away O&L merchandise), and staying into the wee hours, down to The Camerawalls’ last song. To everyone who was there that night, it is for people like you that people like us exist. We thank you.
As for the bands, none of them could hide their thrill and enthusiasm as they rendered their selected cover/s to a very receptive audience. The Satellites, as earlier mentioned, kicked the party off, doing two O&L covers from the album “Strike Whilst The Iron Is Hot,” the first being the song of the same title and “Rock-A-Bye.” The Gentle Isolation made the audience swoon with “Cycle Of Love” and “Days And Nights” set to their dreamy melodies. Ian Zafra of Cebu-based Shiela and the Insects fame flew solo that night and persuaded the crowd to sing his O&L cover of “Hey, Please” on his behalf. Your Imaginary Friends’ power pop delighted the audience and more so when they covered a Tagalog O&L song, “Lihim” in addition to the emotional “Heaven Knows (This Angel Has Flown).” Turbo Goth gave us a mellow but electric rendition of “Just Like A Splendid Love Song,” with Sarah Gaugler amusingly going on to explaining why Clementine had always been her favorite O&L member. And as if people weren’t already entertained enough, “guest performers” and birthday girls, Antonette & Odette (The Bernadettes’ Road Manager), snuck in their version of Turbo Goth’s “Turbo Time” and had the audience in stitches at song’s end. After blowing out their birthday candles at what was maybe 1:00am past, The Bernadettes came on, singing “I Feel Good, I Feel Fine” in the middle of a somewhat extended set, making for the perfect segue to the last band, The Camerawalls. Since time does fly when you’re having too much fun, the crowd was hardly satisfied after the last song and asked for more, probably feeling cheated since Clem and company sang but one O&L cover (“A Beginning Of Something Wonderful”). Unfortunately, the band couldn’t concede to the requests, thus calling it a day. To say the least, Clem got too immersed in his performance that he didn’t even notice that he was bleeding until we ran over to him with tissue in hand, blotting at his left brow. What gave him that nasty cut remains a mystery. The night couldn’t end without Lilystars’ mandatory, post-gig “class picture,” so with much ado and little else, everyone who stayed behind struck a pose, looking spent but extremely happy.
Cramming seven fantastic bands into just a couple of hours should still leave one wanting—the O&L covers that night were very few and far in between. I bet each gig-goer, at some point, reached hoping that the next intro they hear would be that of their favorite song. I personally was waiting for the song “Isang Gabi” to come on, but alas, I can’t have my cake and eat it too. So with or without it, I still sang along to all that was done with the greatest force in my life and feel no regret for my semi-sore throat and feet by night’s end—a result of combined and repeated screaming and jumping whenever an O&L cover came on. I have sorely missed the band.
Involuntarily, a soft spot in me is hit at every mention of the band’s name even to this day. After all, Orange & Lemons is the very first band who got me believing in local talent. They helped me realize that we need not look far for good music because we have it right here. Similarly, it was through them that I discovered the music of many [foreign] artists whom I admire today and whom I maybe wouldn’t have found on my own. What I know in music today, I owe to the band and to the people I met through them, many of whom have become the best of my friends. Meeting them was a happy accident. Earning the band’s confidence in me in their earliest days was a privilege. Watching them enjoy the fame and success that came to them gave me pride. And seeing them break apart when they did broke a part of me too. Some good things never last, says that old adage… how true.
But then maybe they weren’t meant to last. In hindsight, the “death” of Orange & Lemons gave birth to many new and much better things. Only God would know what could have happened had the band’s differences stayed under the radar. Maybe they’d have sung more hits. Maybe they’d have toured halfway around the world by this time. Or perhaps they’d be holed up in the studio for the nth time, working on their sixth studio album. We’ll never know now. On the other hand, at least I am thankful that today we have The Camerawalls… we have Lilystars Records and we have found our label mates, Turbo Goth, The Bernadettes, Your Imaginary Friends and The Gentle Isolation. In the break-up that resulted in this independent record label was a purpose after all. In the end, the fate Orange & Lemons met is not in vain.
We may not have been successful in bringing Clem and Mcoy together again that one night, but I think it’s safe to say that we still gave people a good show. In Clem’s most recent blog about this same night, he promised to cover more Orange & Lemons songs in the future. Now that should be something to watch. And for that we shall keep our eyes, ears, oranges and lemons peeled.
Thanks to Jeff Saw for the wonderful photos.