The Underground: Kris O’ and Friends

The Underground: Kris O’ and Friends

By Molly Fleming, Staff Writer

“The Underground” is a music/CD review for musicians who have less than two gigs a month and offer public access to samples of their music, e.g., promo CDs, Internet samples, etc. If the band has more than two gigs a month, but those gigs are house- party shows, then they are also eligible for “The Underground”. The CD or tape does not have to be in wide circulation, but must be readily available to the public at the shows, or through request. Garage bands and struggling musicians may send their samples and brief bio to Molly Fleming at The Rock River Times, 128 N. Church St. 61101, Rockford, IL.

A name that is becoming well known to the Rockford music scene, oddly enough, is still eligible for “The Underground.” Kris O’, acoustic guitar player/songwriter, has had press coverage by the local daily, a CD release party at Borders, offers samples of his music on the Internet, and yet he does not have any gigs booked as yet. It is a mystery, to say the least, but there is no doubt there will be some public performances in the near future, as Kris O’ offers a sound that is familiar to the area and Rockford-acceptable.

Born Kris Lloyd Orendorff, he has been called “O’ since grade school. He grew up in Rockford, and later, spent nine years in Florida. He attended the Art Institute in Fort Lauderdale, where he played in various groups during the ’80s and enjoyed TV and radio play. Apparently, his sound at the time was more on par with the heavy rock hair bands of the time, which is a big contrast to his present folky/contemporary/acoustic sound.

O’ studied guitar with Rockford’s own Frank Calvagna in the ’80s, and also played with Calvagna in his first rock band, Departure. O’ also played in the group Alien, which received wide radio air play in Ft. Lauderdale. His major project right now is his work with Sheri Lenz, an 18 year old graduate of Hononegah High School. Her vocals are featured on Acoustically Inclined as she sings with maturity and clarity far ahead of her time on tracks 5, 8, and the bonus tracks. O’ is her acting manager, recorder, producer and all around promoter. Not only does O’ work with Lenz, but vice versa as she added two verses of lyrics to track 8, “2 Hearts.” One of O’s main goals is to sign other local artists to his label, Ha Ha Records, which has been in business since it began in Florida in 1995.

He is not a solo performer, but rather, O’ falls under the category of “mad director.” “I write the songs,” O’ commented, “…and try to bring in the best vocalists.” His CD holds a lineup of singers and friends of O’, whom he has chosen to best fit the sounds desired for his work. O’ himself plays acoustic guitar electric guitar, bass, percussion and drum programming, as well as adds his back up vocals to a few tracks. Dave Castaneda adds lead guitar, acoustic slide, strings, percussion and vocals to the album. Ryan Lidvall, Leinaala Castaneda, Brittannie Lidvall, Victor Castaneda, and Sheri Lenz all sing either backup or lead vocals on the recordings. Pauli Fernandez adds drums to “You Made This House” while Kamaili puts in vocals on the same track. With a lineup like that, it’s no wonder Acoustically Inclined took about three years to complete. The age range of participants on the work starts at 14 to mid-40s.

Acoustically Inclined is dedicated to Arthur Castaneda and Shirley Mirambeau, two individuals who have passed away and deeply affected O’s life. The studio drums used by Fernandez on track 4 used to belong to Castaneda, and add a bit of tradition to the recording. O’ looks upon all those who have worked with him as part of a family, and so it’s a nice touch to have a late family member add a bit to his work.

O’s sound is not easily classifiable on the Media Play shelves, but could be described as America meet the Eagles, and all of a sudden become less pretentious. There are aspects of Rockford’s own Seed Band, and perhaps a spattering of Dylan and Nick Drake, but only in feel and not in sound. There’s definitely a possibility that “world music” could be plugged as a partial classification on this CD, and every song follows pop structure without any jam time. These are not bad aspects or negative reviews, however. The songs are good, clean, American music with little room for anything else. The lyrics are about love, support, relationships and personal experiences and are easily swallowed by Rockford music appreciators. The instrumentals are tightly recorded, and O’s guitar style is clear and eloquent.

Unfortunately, although the music can appeal to young and old alike because of its clean nature, the style may not be universally enjoyed. Some listeners who are more tuned in to contemporary acoustic music may object to the slightly ’80s synth sounds used on the walk-in introductory track, and the touch of cheesiness in some of the lyrics. But it should be kept in mind that this is music from a wide array of experiences, and should be received at face value.

Kris O’ is a good contact for musicians and singers in the area who want to get some direction for their talent. O’ has spent a lot of time in and out of the recording studio promoting not only himself, but those who he involves in his work. “When people tell you that they have contacts, they don’t … I actually do,” O’ added when asked about his promotional techniques. Lenz, O’s main project in the works, has had an offer to be signed to the same record label as the famous pop group O-Town. Other musicians who have worked with O’ in the past have also had similar opportunities.

Copies of Acoustically Inclined are available at Borders Books and Music. They are located toward the back on a side shelf, and can be easily missed if not sought carefully. O’ can be heard next month at the State St. Art Gallery in Champaign, where hopefully, he will have assembled a band similar to that on his album. O’ is also planning on playing at the Singer/Songwriter Nights at Kryptonite which occur every Tuesday, and any gigs that he does get can be found in the Music Calendar of this paper in the future. For sample clips of O’s music, information about Ha Ha Records and Kris O or to purchase a copy of Acoustically Inclined, check out,, and email

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