'90s Greeley hippie band reunites for one show
December 25, 2009
There were flowers in their hair, and Orange Sunshine was everywhere.
But the year was not 1969, and it was not San Francisco. It was 1991
in Greeley. And Orange Sunshine? Well, they weren't exactly
everywhere, but their music pulsed and pounded in the heads of
teenagers and young adults in basements and nightclubs and at
bonfires, proms and after-proms anyplace that would take them, really.
The flowers are figurative, but just barely. For teenagers in the
early 1990s, Orange Sunshine was a complement to a trend in Greeley
and northern Colorado hippie had come back around. And Orange
Sunshine's set list, loaded with songs by the Grateful Dead, Rolling
Stones, Allman Brothers and others from the era, fit right in.
"For kids of the '90s, we really latched on to the '60s feel,"
guitarist Brett Dierks said.
Dierks, along with Travis Daudert, Jason Haas, Aimee Adams and a long
line of bass players, were the house band for Greeley West High
School. Besides basements and school functions, they performed at
places like the Armory, Libation Station and the Union Colony Brewery.
Orange Sunshine was known for its dedication to the music and its
problem keeping bass players. In the two years the band played
together, Orange Sunshine went through four bassists.
"It was kind of like 'Spinal Tap,' except for it was the bass player
instead of the drummer," Daudert said. "And none of them exploded.
And we're not nearly as funny."
No one exploded, but the band didn't get off easy. Its last regular
bass player was a 58-year-old Chicago blues veteran named Dan. Nobody
can remember his last name, but they do remember that he was pretty
skilled and, in retrospect, pretty quiet about his health problems.
He suffered an aneurysm onstage the night of the band's appearance at
its most prestigious venue, Mishawaka, getting through the Grateful
Dead's "Franklin's Tower" before collapsing. He died the next day.
"In hindsight, it seems like he kind of knew he was on his way out,
and it was his last hurrah," Daudert said. "For him to kind of have a
chance to play with some kids and rock out, it was probably pretty
cool for him."
Dan's death, along with graduation, had a Yoko Ono effect. The gigs
slowed down and eventually stopped, the members drifted away and
adulthood set in.
Dierks and Daudert headed to Boulder, where they continued to perform
as Orange Sunshine, and eventually found their way to San Francisco.
Daudert wound up migrating to San Diego, where he is wrapping up work
on a master's degree in jazz studies at San Diego State University.
Dierks lives in Parker and still plays an occasional solo acoustic
guitar gig in Denver. Adams, who now lives in Fort Collins, got her
degree in theater and went on to act and sing professionally in
off-Broadway plays, mostly in Seattle. Haas, meanwhile, became a
chiropractor and now owns CBP Spine Center in Windsor with his wife, Sandy.
Last Sunday night, Dierks, Daudert, Haas and Adams along with bass
player Jason Mannon were back in Haas' basement. He owns the house
this time, so there were no worries about minor annoyances like
parents and curfews and that was good, since Orange Sunshine, circa
2009, needed all the rehearsal time it could get. There were just
three days to go until the start of their reunion tour OK, reunion
week after all.
They're loathe to admit it, these children of the '80s and '90s who
have a thing for the '60s, but when they take the stage this Saturday
at the New Plantation in Evans, they owe it to a distinctly 21st
century tool: Facebook.
On Facebook, Dierks found out Daudert was going to be in the area for
the holidays and asked if he wanted to get together and jam. Then
they tracked down Haas. Pretty soon, Adams found out.
"In the course of like 700 Facebook e-mails back and forth, we
managed to get two gigs," Adams said.
Mannon, another West graduate who played with Dierks in the mid-'90s
and still performs in local heavy metal bands Cyrus Kane, the
Mannon Band and Cannon the Mannonaut are a few signed on to play
bass for the reunion. ("I'm a thrasher, but I'm a huge Dead fan, so
it works out great," he said.)
They contacted Larry Oyler, who owned the Union Colony Brewery when
Orange Sunshine played there in the '90s and now is part owner of The
"We went in there and said, 'hey, we'll do this for free, we just
want a place to do it and have some fun, and we think we'll sound
good.'" Adams said.
Counting Wednesday night's performance at Crazy Jack's Saloon in Fort
Collins, Saturday's concert will be just the second time all four
have performed on the same stage since 1995, when they gathered to
commemorate the death of Jerry Garcia, the Dead's guitarist.
A lot of the songs Orange Sunshine will perform Saturday won't be
much different than the ones they played in 1991. There's still a lot
of Dead, Stones, '60s and '70s.
There are a lot of years of maturity, too, and that's what's different.
"As our interests and talents have grown, we've added some things to
the list that might have been a little advanced for us back then,"
Adams said. "In rehearsal, you can tell that things are different.
Some of us have families, jobs and lives. When we were kids, we were
just happy to be out of the house in Jason Haas' basement."
It was easy to tell last Sunday that they were glad to be back.