The last weekend of October brings a lot of different traditions for people. Some folks head to a Halloween party, others await trick-or-treaters at home, and Tiger Army fans all flock to the Observatory for the band’s annual Octoberflame shows. Other than having to cancel the 2014 festivities, SoCal’s favorite psychobilly band has become as much of a staple for Halloween in OC as haunted houses and pumpkin spice everything over the last decade, and it’s something that Tiger Army founder and frontman Nick 13 realizes is an important event for both the band and the fans.
“It’s actually kind of hard for me to believe that this is the eighth year we’ve done it,” Nick says. “It seems like such a long time ago that it started in certain ways, but in other ways it seems like yesterday. It means a lot that it’s become a tradition for people and that there are people who go to it every single year not just from Orange County, but from across the country and around the world.”
As anyone who was in attendance at last year’s Octoberflame will recall, the 2015 rendition also marked Tiger Army’s first two shows back together after a couple of years off. Nick 13 returned to the stage alongside new bassist Djordje Stijepovic and Tiger Army III: Ghost Tigers Rise drummer Mike Fasano last October, but this year the band comes back to Santa Ana with a whole lot more confidence thanks to an entire year of touring and the release of their latest record, V •••–.
“Last year, it was a big job to learn two very different sets and hit the stage for the first time together,” Nick says. “Now we have a year of touring under our belts. We’ve done three full tours of the United States and Canada. We’ve played about 100 shows. I was really proud of how we sounded last year, but having had all that road time to build up that on-stage musical chemistry, I think it’s going to be something special this year.”
Of course, this year’s four-night stint means that the trio will have to prepare even more songs. Nick 13 knows that many of the faces in the crowd have seen him perform at least a handful of times before, so he wants to make sure that everyone gets a unique experience each night – even if you plan on going to all four nights.
“When you prep to go on tour, you really only need to prep for one set,” Nick says. “When we do the Octoberflame shows, we’re always trying to give the people who’ve seen us many times over the years something that is unusual. Whether it’s a song that they’ve never heard us play or a song they haven’t heard us play in 10 years, that’s the goal for every show. We also try to mix it up between the shows with guest musicians and the setlist changing every night.”
Aside from the tracks Tiger Army will be performing, each night will also host different opening acts. Although many fans might scoff at getting to the Observatory early to see a band other than the one they paid for, Nick 13 believes there’s plenty of reason for people to be excited for every act on the bills – particularly the legend who’s joining them on Sunday night.
“Wanda Jackson – who is really the most important female rockabilly singer of all time – is playing with us on the Sunday show, so that’s really special,” Nick says. “Some of the other opening bands aren’t as well known, but I think they’re really great live. If you’re a fan of Tiger Army’s music, every band playing will have an element that our audience can relate to and enjoy. The bands were all hand-picked by me.”
Once Octoberflame ends, the trio will head overseas for the rest of the year before deciding what they want to do in 2017. Although Nick admits he’d love to continue to do the annual series for as long as the venue will have them, there’s always the possibility they’re too busy working on a new album or pursuing other ventures to make it back to OC again next year. Thankfully, the band has lined up plenty of limited edition souvenirs for their diehard fans to remember them by if Octoberflame IX doesn’t happen next Halloween.
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“We’ve done some cool things with the merchandise for this year,” Nick says. “There’s a pressing of our new album in flame colors that is only going to be sold at these shows. We’ll have hand-signed posters by the artist who did the poster for Octoberflame at the event – things that are really for the fans who are really into what we do. I’ve always liked having limited things for these events.”
For now, the band is primarily concerned with putting on the best possible shows for their most devoted fans. Octoberflame is a special tradition for everyone involved, and Nick 13 wants to keep it that way for as long as he’s the head honcho.
“We want to do anything we can do to make these shows extra special in recognition of this time of year and the support that Southern California has always had for us that we appreciate so much.”
Much like Tiger Army, here's hoping Octoberflame never dies.