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Review: Oranje 2011

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I’m pretty sure Sharon Rickson of Neon Love Life won “Anecdote of the Night” fairly early in the Oranje event. She was at soundcheck in the NUVO tent, and her amp wasn't working, so she started messing with dials.

“I smell something, and I look back and it’s literally on fire," she told me afterwards. "I mean, black smoke is coming out of it. So, yeah, our set got held up by 12 minutes while we tried to get another one.”

Twelve minutes? If my camera started belching smoke, I’d just pack up and call it a night. So I’ve got nothing but props for the whole show-must-go-on attitude.

Oranje saw fifty artists, thirty bands and thousands of arts-mavens-about-town fill up an empty warehouse and parking garage Saturday night for a truly gargantuan mashup of arts, music and the social highlife. Provided, the definition of “highlife” was stretched to include a woman with a painted-on corset pumping a syringe of orange liquor down the throats of any passersby willing to stuff a tip in her panties.

Late, beloved photographer/DJ Mpozi Mshale Tolbert — in three-story-tall tapestry form — stood watch over the proceedings, including the corset/liquor girl. I always thought of him as a titan of the city, though never quite so literally. But certainly his own approach to blending different forms of art renders him an appropriate guardian angel.

My own personal mission led me to spend most of my time in the DJ zones: the IndyMojo tent outside blasting everything in sight with lasers and strobes, and the Ketel One Lounge within the warehouse, which was as close to a comfortable rest stop as you could find at Oranje. When I arrived at the Ketel One Lounge, Wesley Clay was DJing in front of projected psychedelic images and scenes from a 1980s dance party show (I want to say “Solid Gold," but it was too cheesy for “Solid Gold; no, really). DJ Kyle Long, who followed on the stage, combined a lot of classical riffs with ethnic beats, such as raw, primal African rhythms, all couched in a style so bass-heavy it shook your pants.

Outside, DJ Matt Allen went for the throat with a potent combination of remixes. I wouldn't have thought Adele would lend herself so well to aggressive techno sampling. I stand corrected.

If you’ve ever been to anime and sci-fi conventions, and I’m not confirming that I have in anything but the most professional sense, you know the show’s not limited to the stages. The real action is in the hallways. To see and be seen. Oranje is a backdrop for everybody’s personal fashion show. Everything from middle-aged guys in suits and skinny ties trying to jam to the DJ beats, to a gloriously retro-steampunk thing being pushed by a group of designers holding a gypsy-victorian theme competition. The bands are no exception, frequently amping up their already-distinctive styles for the night. The whole thing is a mashup in and of itself; the concrete walls aren’t exactly tremendous sound baffles, and music thundering from one stage frequently bleeds into another. But hell, that almost makes it better.

As midnight approached in the IndyMojo tent, veteran spinner DJ Deanne was her usual blitzkrieg self, the most high-energy DJ of the night, all classic pound and throbbing stuff, fingers flying across the board like she was operating the world’s largest iPad and having the time of her life.

Inside, DJ Action Jackson played with retro rhythms, old-school stuff — very house, very catchy — mashing up modern hip-hop with the Bee Gees or the “Beverly Hills Cop” theme. I have to wonder how much of this crowd knew that riff as anything more than an annoying ringtone.

Taking us past midnight in the Ketel One Lounge, Gabby Love delivered ferociously heavy material. A cheer went up for “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” so at least there was respect for the classics. Turns out it lends itself quite well for a hard floor-pounding remix. Love’s set inspired the most enthusiastic and skilled crowd dancing of the night, as the floor organized itself into a circle reminiscent of “Soul Train” before everyone broke off to do their own thing.

All this made it very hard to leave Love’s set, but, fortunately, the Hollow Point vs. Kodama DJ face-off outside made it more than worthwhile. I don’t exactly know how these versus things are judged, but Kodama gets the win in my book for remixing Daft Punk’s “TRON” theme and the "Zelda" theme in quick succession. If loving pop culture eating its own tail is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

After some of DJ Phenom’s thundering beats in the Ketel One Lounge, I closed out the night at Beta Male’s set upstairs. If you go to the crazy art music dancefloor hipsterpocalypse and don’t check out Beta Male, you have massively missed the point. Allison Hazel’s by-now-infamous neon hula hoop routine is possibly the most photographed event at all of Oranje, which is a pretty high bar to clear. Literally half the crowd had their cameras out. We have officially crowdsourced media.

Incidentally, when Oranje organizers say they want to shut down at 2 a.m., they are not kidding. Beta Male’s mics cut out midway through the last song, though that may have been a coincidence. What was certainly not a coincidence was the sound system afterwards kicking in “December 1963 (Oh, What A Night)," which is about the clearest hint you can throw short of playing “Closing Time” at high volume.

Warhol had it all wrong: it's not that everybody is famous for 15 minutes, but everybody has 15 minutes of fame to hand out. Five years ago, I might have worried about the reputation of the guy I photographed taking the liquor shots from Panty Lass (the corset-wearing figure I mentioned at the beginning of this post). But four other people snapped him with their iPhones and probably had it up on Facebook two minutes later. Seriously, how do you even define irony in this world?

At one point during Beta Male’s set, I noticed someone videotaping me while I was taking a photo. I’m pretty sure someone was photographing her at the same time. We’re all the media now.

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