[ view additional photos
L.A. folkies He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister. Photo courtesy of Big Hassle Media
For more than 100 years, the Orpheum Theater has sat at the same location, on a street named after the aspen trees that paint the autumn mountains red, yellow and orange.
It has seen silent and foreign films, rock stars and independent strummers alike and has entertained generations of Flagstaff families. It closed in the late 1990s and was quickly remodeled and reopened in 2002. That was 10 years ago. Today the theater is celebrating its decade-long rebirth by acknowledging the community that supports it on their backs with a string of open houses and free events.
“We’ve been doing a couple free shows up to this point, but this is a good opportunity to really open our doors; that’s why we’re calling it the Orpheum Open House,” Charles Smith explains. Smith is the co-owner and operator of the theater as well as a practicing physician, which doesn’t leave much time for sleep. “From the Orpheum’s perspective, you know, if you’re a fan of music it’s a privilege to find something that you really like and be able to share it with other people.”
He’s speaking specifically of He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister, a psychedelic-folk group from Los Angeles fronted by Robert Kolar and his sister Rachel. Smith caught them in Chicago last year and was immediately struck with their live energy and soulful retort.
“We want to give folk more of an edgy, kinda experimental element while still keeping that pop sensibility to our songwriting,” Robert Kolar explains. They draw parallels, both sonically and stylistically with contemporaries Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, along with what Kolar calls trajectories set off from the same bohemian punk influences.
“I definitely grew up and started in the punk realm,” he says. “My first bands were all punk bands. And then Rachel is much more influenced by country and pop, so we keep it balanced.”
With a punk-rock spirit and a country soul, HMBSMS carve their niche on a vintage sound that is simmering all over the country.
“There’s a community in L.A. with bands like this,” Kolar says. “Tommy Sandy Claws, Spindrift, and a band called Restaurant who are all doing a twist on folk and rockabilly and really incorporating a modern twist on an old sound.”
The Tempe-based Dry River Yacht Club flex the same musical muscles. They create a simultaneously dark and funky atmosphere with avant-trashcan percussion paired with instruments like bassoons, clarinets and a tuba. It’s a gypsy dance party in a cowboy bar.
Or, as percussionist Henri Benard sees it: “A gypsy, western, pirate, folk-rock-type of thing.”
The nine-piece outfit has a high-energy atmosphere that they’re excited to bring to the Orpheum for the first time.
“Flagstaff’s music community is super inviting,” Bernard says. “When we go to Flagstaff the kids get down, they want to hippie out and enjoy themselves and they’re always ready for new music.”
But the open house is good for the musicians as well.
“The struggle as an independent is trying to push forward on the business end while always keeping the art number one,” says Brandon Decker, the creative mind behind Sedona-based folk outfit decker. His band recently survived a van rollover in California, but will still be playing tonight at the Orpheum. “If you think of it as, ‘You gotta’ serve the music with integrity’ you pick and choose your battles. There are places where we can play and make $500 but it won’t be as rewarding as this one. Mostly we’d like to see the touring band make some money so they can keep touring.”
As a promoter of live music, Smith agrees. “You know, we’re feeling good about our place in the community and it feels good to be able to give back. As far as I’m concerned if we didn’t make a penny it would still be a success. At the same time, we are giving folks a chance to see music that they might not have taken the time to see. That’s good for us and that’s good for the bands that rely on performance as a major portion of their income.”
Catch He’s my Brother, She’s my Sister with Dry River Yacht Club and decker. on Thu, Oct. 4 at the Orpheum Theatre, 15 W. Aspen. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the show starts at 8:30 p.m. It’s free for those 21 and older and $5 for ages 18 to 20. For more info, call 556-1580 or see www.hesmybrothershesmysister.com, www.dryriveryachtclub.com or www.deckermusic.org.
Additional photos for this story:
Phoenix's Dry River Yacht Club
Northern Arizona-based decker.