When Orange & Lemons broke up exactly 10 years ago, they were at the top of their game. They've already released three critically-acclaimed and top-selling albums, they've played sold-out shows here and abroad, and they've won industry awards, including Artist of the Year and Album of the Year from the NU Rock Awards.
But all that came to a sudden halt when the foursome of Marco “Mcoy” Fundales, Clem Castro, and brothers Ace and JM Del Mundo decided to call it quits. The culprit was infighting and creative differences, particularly between Fundales and Castro.
For a decade the band ceased to exist, with Castro going off to do his own thing and the other three forming their own group called Kenyo.
The collective known as Orange and Lemons lived on only in the albums they've put out, in the videos on YouTube, and in the memory of the diehard fans.
Last Friday, September 29, Orange & Lemons re-emerged from the mists of history as a trio, Castro and the Del Mundo brothers, and played their first full show together as a band since the break-up in 2007.
And though they played an unannounced, impromptu show at Mow’s a week before, the September 29 gig was what fans had been waiting for since the band announced the reformation last June.
The venue they chose was 70s Bistro, the iconic local music hangout on Anonas in Quezon City. Castro said it was deliberate: it was at that very spot where the band played their very last gig together in the country. And then they flew to the U.S. to play a series of shows that had already been booked before the cracks within the band began to show.
When it was first announced that the band was getting back together, the response had been overwhelmingly positive. But for their first ever gig in 10 years, would anybody actually show up?
Reports from social media early afternoon Friday showed the band needn’t have worried. Orange & Lemons were scheduled to perform after sets from three openers. The show began at 8 p.m., but people started arriving at 70s Bistro as early as 5 p.m.
By 9 p.m., a long line crawled around '70s Bistro. The venue was packed and organizers had to turn people away for their own safety.
Forget that our songs are not available on Spotify or why we reformed as a trio. Exactly 10 years after our last gig in the US, we will be back on stage through a series of bar gigs in the Metro that will kick-off at 70s Bistro on September 29. Incidentally, this is also the venue where we last performed with the original line up in Manila before disbanding in 2007. Presented by JAM 88.3 in partnership with Lilystars Records and Darkus Music, “Armageddon Is Coming To Town” will also feature Blind Stereo Moon, Meagan Treesand The Strange Creatures. We look forward to a nostalgic evening with you all! #orangeandlemons #jam883 #70sbistro #blindstereomoon #meagantrees #thestrangecreatures #gig #armageddoniscomingtotown #clemcastro #acedelmundo #jmdelmundo #clementine #lilystarsrecords #darkusmusic
It could have been because it was a payday weekend, or maybe the venue's relatively small size, but undoubtedly, the biggest of fans — those who waited all these years to see and hear Orange & Lemons up onstage playing again — turned up in droves.
I literally had to squeeze myself between asses and crotches to get inside '70s Bistro. I ended up near the bar, constantly being jostled by the waiters who were coming and going delivering drinks and food.
My arrival was well-timed; '70s Bistro was stifling, people’s clothes were plastered on their backs with sweat, but everyone cheered when Castro, Ace and JM Del Mundo, plus session guitarist Rain Paggao, walked up onstage just a few minutes later.
My guess was that they would start with “A Beginning of Something Wonderful,” the first track from their debut album Love in the Land of Rubber Shoes and Dirty Ice Cream, but the band opened with “Armageddon is Coming to Town.”
The band finished the second song, “Caught in a Line,” from their sophomore record Strike Whilst The Iron Is Hot, before Clem realized his guitar wasn’t properly tuned.
“Sorry,” he said. “Medyo excited, e.”
Castro said the band only got together to rehearse a grand total of three times since he got back from an extended vacation in the U.S. “We’re still finding ourselves,” he said. It was clear they could have benefited from more rehearsal time, but what was also evident was how much fun all of them were having onstage. Ace, in particular, was smiling ear-to-ear practically the entire time.
The songs they performed reflected the band’s evolution from young upstarts to confident hitmakers. “Let Me,” the shampoo-commercial-anthem that sounds like it could have been written and performed by a British indie-rock band rather than a slender Bulaceño with a moptop, had the entire room singing along.
I was pleasantly surprised the Lightning Seeds’ “Pure” made it to the setlist, but not “Girlfriend in a Coma” and “This Charming Man,” which are staples from Castro’s musical idol, The Smiths.
The covers were nice, but the loudest applause were reserved for the band’s own hits. “Kailangan Kita,” “Just Like A Splendid Love Song,” “Lihim,” and “Eleven Minutes” took audiences on a trip across the very best of what Orange and Lemons were about. In between, Castro told stories about the songs.
“This one is about an affair I had back in the late '90s,” Castro said to introduce “Heaven Knows (This Angel Has Flown),” one of my personal favorites from the band.
On “Hey Please,” another song from the debut album, Castro missed a guitar part, which he acknowledged with a sheepish smile. By that point, it seemed like the band had time-traveled back to the beginning of their career, when they were wide-eyed and wet behind the ears. But hardly anyone minded; many of those in my immediate area yelled out encouragements and whoops of approval.
The final three songs came in quick succession — “A Beginning of Something Wonderful” (from the first album), “It’s About Time” (from the third album Moonlane Gardens) and the big finale, “Hanggang Kailan,” (from the second album), with that incredibly catchy chorus, “Umuwi ka na baby…”
There was a demand from the crowd for more but the band made it clear they were done for the evening. Castro admitted it wasn’t their best night, but who could fault them? It was their first official show in 10 years, and with a commitment that, this time, they’re in it for the long haul, I have a feeling things are only going to get better for Orange and Lemons.
The next day, Castro announced the dates and venues for what they’re calling Three Imaginary Boys: The Orange & Lemons Bar Tour:
- October 6 – The Minokaua (Manila)
- October 11 – Route 196 (Quezon City)
- October 19 – 19 East (Parañaque)
- October 21 – Craft BGC (Taguig)
- October 25 – Boiler Room (Makati City)
—LA, GMA News
Paul John Caña is a writer and live music geek. Check out his blog manontheotherside.blogspot.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter and Instagram @pauljohncana