September 10th 2011 signified a sad day in music for many people as Orphan Boy took to the stage for the very last time in their hometown of Cleethorpes.
There had been a big build up to the gig at Cleethorpes Beachcomber and tickets had all sold out for the 500 capacity venue. Support came from the likes of The Heartbreaks, The So & So’s, Liar Liar and From A City In Ruins, all of which class Orphan Boy as inspirations and all equally as distraught that this was to be the end. People flocked from all corners of the British Isles to be part of what was to be a momentous occasion, an event that would be talked about for years to come.
You’ve either heard of Orphan Boy or you haven’t. If you have, you will most probably have seen them live. If you have seen them live then I very much doubt that it would have been a ‘one off’ experience. The thing with Orphan Boy is they have the ability to imprint themselves on lives in one way or another, be it musically or as people. Their love and passion for writing music and playing live was what set them apart from many bands. Once you spoke to the band, you were classed as a friend and became a part on the ‘institution’.
On the 8th December 2004, Paul Smith (Smiffy) managed to blag himself onto the bill supporting Mick Jones’ band ‘Carbon Silicon’ at Cleethorpes Beachcomber. Taking to the stage alone with just an old guitar and dodgy drum-machine, Smiffy called himself ‘Orphan Boy’. Chris Day joined him onstage at the next gig, then Rob Cross shortly after – and Orphan Boy the band was born.
The ‘Council-Pop’ era saw the band make the move from their hometowns of Grimsby/Cleethorpes to sunny Manchester in the hope of making it. Immediately they were given the title of ‘adopted Mancunians’ and the Manchester band scene loved them. Playing popular clubnights such as Buff Bang Pow!, Friends of Mine and Blowout, it was suddenly all-go - and the band signed to Concrete
Recordings and released ‘Shop Local’. Appearing at D-Percussion and the city’s infamous In The City events solidified their presence in the city. For the coming years they gigged up and down the country, appeared in Europe, played many festivals including Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party, Kendal Calling, Truck and Wickerman. They headlined events as well as gracing stages with the likes of Pete Doherty, Jarvis Cocker, The Twang, The Courteeners and many others.
Musical experiences, changes in circumstances and the frustration of not getting the break that they had hoped for was the juice that went into their next offering.
Taking time to write their second album, Orphan Boy came back with something special. Passion, Pain & Loyalty stole the hearts of many listeners with its tales of the disillusioned music industry and nostalgic romance – eerily mirroring the fact that it was around this time that the band had started spending a lot more time back in their hometowns, eventually moving back there permanently. The album was well received by the like of XFM, MTV2, NME and the BBC, but Orphan Boy came to terms with the fact that they were never going to make a living out of it, and as opposed to fading out they wanted one last big gig in the place where it all started.
And what a gig it was.
Cleethorpes Beachcomber was rife with anticipation, excitement and emotion. Family, friends and fans gathered to pay their respects to a band who had been big part of their life for the last seven years. The band played tracks from the first and second album with such intense attachment and the crowd was a frenzied sea of madness. Beginning their set with ‘Letter For Annie’, ‘Passion, Pain, and Loyalty’ spilled out from each individual person in that room that night. 'Stilettos', 'Some Frontier', 'Harbour Lights' and 'Alderley Edge' were just a small selection from the set. Stage invasions aplenty resulted in more stops and starts than one of Frank Butcher's dodgy motors but the audience were not going to let Orphan Boy go out without a riot. A mass exodus from the Beachcomber ensued once Orphan Boy played out with Satellites. Sweaty faces, ripped shirts, beer soaked hair, tears of joy, tears of sadness and even a broken ankle were among the sights that signified the end of an era.
Photo: Jeff Iles
Orphan Boy were not just your average small town band trying to break through to the big-time, they were a way of life and imprinted themselves on the hearts, mind on souls of everyone they encountered. Its easy to become bitter that they never got that big break or the recognition they deserved, but in a way it retains the magic of Orphan Boy – a band who always stayed true to their music and never lost their direction and originality. They will live on inside every person that was lucky enough to be a part of their journey.
If only all journeys ended like this.
RIP Orphan Boy : 08 Dec 04 – 10 Sept 2011
Words: Jo Waddington