I hadn’t even heard of The Orphans when my friend D asked if I wanted to go see them play around December ‘01. D knew of the band because she worked retail with the singer, Jenny. All she could tell me was they were a “punk” band of some sort – no description of style, sound, scene, whatever. Didn’t really matter, I was game.
The show was at Mr. T’s Bowl in Highland Park. In hindsight, it was probably one of their early shows, as the 1st 7” hadn’t been released yet.
We arrived at Mr. T’s which I remember being some combination of restaurant, bowling alley, and bar, although my memory isn’t real clear on this. The scene showed good potential for an interesting show -– punks, hippies, Hessian types, art schoolers, some greasers. Soon after arrival we met up with a few of D’s all female co-workers who were funny, witty, and purposefully obnoxious in a good way. Another good sign, I thought. As we drank a few beers, I saw Phil from Gods Iron Tooth, who I hadn’t seen in awhile so I went over to say hello. Turned out he was the roadie for this at-the-time unknown-to-me band The Orphans. Yet another promising indicator.
Some stoner-metal type act played first, I think. Maybe a surf-garage band played, too? Don’t really remember. Any memory of these bands was soon to be completely eclipsed.
The Orphans take the stage and immediately begin tearing the place apart. If you saw ‘em, you know what the live show was like. Iggy Pop meets Darby Crash meets The Avengers vibe. Jenny going apeshit, rolling around on the floor, hiking up her dress, licking the mike, being overly obnoxious. Wade, drunk, barely playing the bass – more of just a smashing on the strings with his fist and getting bloody. Dan and Brandon holding the whole thing together.
Again, if you saw The Orphans, you know Wade had a proclivity for a few things: (1) getting bloody; (2) smashing beer bottles on his head; (3) breathing fire. A lot of bands breathe fire. It’s nothing new, but a fun gimmick at times. So Wade fills his mouth with alcohol, covers the bass stock, lights the stock on fire. But, here's the catch. Instead of spitting the alcohol up into the air like every other band I've seen who does this, Wade aims at the audience and spits fire directly in the face of one of the guys from the opening act. Wow. I’m pretty sure his hair caught fire. He may have fallen down. At some point he recovers himself enough to run to the back of the place, presumably to the bathroom to wash off his face. At this point, I’m impressed.
A few songs later, who reappears in the crowd? Fire victim. He immediately rushes the stage, tackles Wade, and starts punching him (or trying to punch him, I couldn’t really tell what was happening). Out of nowhere, Phil appears from the side of the stage and starts destroying Fire Victim. First he gets burned, then beat up. Not this guy’s night, that’s for sure.
I think the show ended at this point. Didn't really matter. I left thoroughly impressed, and with a new favorite band. I would go on to see The Orphans a ton, but nothing was quite like that first night. Well, maybe the time at the Prospector when my same friend D became the victim of Wade’s fire antics and had her hair catch fire. She was too drunk to notice, so I think Jenny put it out while continuing to sing. Classic.
The Orphans "Last Show" flyer: