I have a long list of bands that I hope I’ll get around to getting to see. There’s a hierarchy of how far I’m willing to drive for who, what concerts are worth $15 and which are worth $50. Every once in a while I think a band goes onto the “gotta see em” list with just one song. Orb was a band like that — I am obsessed with their song “Immortal Tortoise,” from their album Naturality. Since the first taste I’ve listened to all of Orb’s work and thought all of it was awesome, but nothing yet has stolen my heart like that song, which I proudly scream sing almost every day of the week.
So it was very lucky for me that Orb was announced as the one of the two openers for King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s USA tour. Before this year, I hadn’t really gone to any shows where I knew the opener almost as well as I knew the lead, but this year I’ve been able to kill two birds with one stone a few times.
The first night in Toronto, I was a little bit underwhelmed by the group. I was expecting for them to start with a high energy level, to try to get us from 0 to 60 right after we came in the doors. As the first on a bill of three bands (fellow opener Stonefield and Gizz headlining), I thought that Orb would be kicking over amps and headbanging along to the music like other garage rock frontpeople. But I sort of misread their vibe on that one. On the first night, it felt to me like Orb was doing the chill, laid back set for us. The tracks chugged along at almost a groove, not quite the punching I was expecting. Jams were extended and spaced out instead of a race for the prize. Other than “Immortal Tortoise,” which I totally enjoyed seeing live, I wasn’t quite feeling it the night I saw Orb in Toronto.
In New York City, they totally changed my mind. It might have something to do with me knowing a little bit better what to expect, but I every time I saw Orb I loved them about three times more than I did the time before. At Summer Stage in Central Park, Orb played a set during the “sun is just starting to go down,” time block. Since I was meeting a friend who wanted to stand towards to the back of the venue, I wasn’t anxious about losing my spot closer to the front, and I was able to chill out a little bit more. With this tone, I was able to get totally into the performance. I agreed with the woman who casually yelled, “I am enjoying your music!” at the band, and liked that the members got a kick out of it themselves.
Orb is pretty laid back, but still their sound is still heavy and a little chunky. There’s something about each of their songs that sneaks up on you, you’re waiting for it to build in one direction and instead it ends up going somewhere else. The members seem focused, but their live performances feel like they have more twists and turns from their recorded work. They sounded like they were all just naturally coming together, but they happened the same way each night. Something about them nailing this casual perfection made it even more exciting to see them.
And then they were the best in Philly. At Franklin Music Hall, they were the second act of the night instead of the first. Whether this was because of something changing or that Orb and Stonefield are switching things up every couple of nights, their set benefited from the kickstart of energy that Stonefield has. In that city I was with someone who didn’t know the music as well going in as I did, and I was particularly interested to hear what she was going to think of them (especially since she fainted shortly before they went on). The venue was melting it was so hot, and I was swaying back and forth trying not to think about just how little I’d had to drink that day. I wouldn’t recommend anybody show up to a concert dehydrated, but I think that it really suited watching Orb. Their sound matched it really well, and gave me some of the energy I needed to get to the headliner.
Orb rules, is the long and short of it, and I can’t wait to see them again, because I have a feeling that my love of them will triple again every time I see to them. They were a great way to establish the palette of the evening on the nights that they were up first.