Thursday, 4 February 2010

602 TT THE BEAR'S 30TH ANNIVERSARY PARTY, featuring THE GRAVEL PIT, TT The Bear's Place, Cambridge, MA USA, Friday 19 September 2003

The start of our Boston 2003 trip! We arrive at Logan Airport in torrential rain, but luckily Hurricane Isabel just missed the North East coast! Clear customs, then head over to Q to catch up with new label manager, our friend Ed Valauskas, bassist with the mighty Gravel Pit. We then head over to "mine hosts" for this trip, the wonderful Carol Hurley, who later drives us to TTs for the main reason why we're in town this time, their 30th Anniversary show!

We hit the venue at 8.45 (which, given we started today in Swindon, is deep into the small hours for us). Someone is onstage doing PJ Harvey impressions - we don't recognise her but do recognise the next artiste, THALIA ZEDEK, who plays 4 slow, gothy and doomy Nick Cave-esque numbers. We run into former Sheilas Divine vocalist AARON PERRINO during Thalia's set; Aaron is next up, his 3 acoustic numbers all recall his former band in their wistful and beautiful melancholy. Aaron advises they're all Dear Leader songs, which whets our appetite for his new band's support slot with Nada Surf later in the week. Obtaining cola to keep us awake, we then run into another familiar face, Shayne "The Mane" Phillips, who once again is not surprised to see us in Boston. We catch up at length with Shayne, a lovely bloke, now an ex-Quick Fix drummer, living in Salem and about to be wed! We also run into Gravel Pit vocalist and resident genius Jed Parish. Discuss the state of play of his music; Jed advises the Gravel Pit aren't "done" from a playing viewpoint, but are more occasional these days and he's not writing for them right now, concentrating on his more eclectic solo material. Talking, or rather listening, to Jed is like receiving tablets of stone from Mount Sinai. You feel you are being bestowed with the Absolute Truth.

Jed had recommended AD FRANK AND THE FAST EASY WOMEN, so we pay attention. Jed is right; Ad is great, a real entertainer completely at home on the stage, with a playful persona reminding Rachel of Jack from "Will And Grace". Musically upbeat and happy, we thoroughly enjoy his set, which also features the aforementioned Shayne on drums. Shame it's only 2 numbers long. MISTLE THRUSH are next up, and really are only memorable due to their besuited guitarist becoming a familiar face in "CD Spins" shops across Boston in the next 12 days! We wander to the bar during their set and chat with Ad Frank, who also introduces us to Quick Fix mainman Jake Zavracky. Jake, nowhere near as imposing in person as on stage, is personable and gives us a free copy of the new Quick Fix CD. Cool!

A suited-up Pete Stone dashes past us; he's due onstage with THE CHARMS, who manage to squeeze in 5 of their spazzy girly pop numbers. Again, as before, I like them fine but no more; they're not a patch even on the similar Heavy Stud, for example! This takes us to 11 pm, which our bodies think is 4 am UK time, so we sit down and doze a little. RAGING TEENS and KINGS OF NOTHING both play old school rockabilly'n'roll which fails to grab our attention. EdV comes over to try to keep us awake. He's got a vested interest in this; he wants Brits bopping down the front for the Pit!

Finally 12.40 local time rolls around, and we take position at the front, stage left. Jed's onstage and is hooking up the battered Farfisa, and Pete Stone takes his usual viewing position stage right. All is then set for the entrance of headliners THE GRAVEL PIT, who amble onstage, plug in and break into a similarly ambling version of "Get Tangled", easing into the set. "The Ballad Of The Gravel Pit" follows, all primal energy and howl, and the Pit are away. It's not pretty; the sound, set up for so many acoustic performers tonight, is harsh and abrasive, and Jed's "big smoky voice" has taken a battering from chatting too much before the show. But the titanic rock beast that is (occasionally, these days) The Gravel Pit are as ever utterly compelling viewing. Drummer Pete Caldes, who later stresses to me the importance of band chemistry, is right on the button; even with the sound and Jed's voice as raggedy-arsed as all hell, the unique chemistry of these 4 men, this one unit, makes for strident, powerful and awe-inspiring listening and viewing. The 50's pastiche of "Favorite Scar" and the epic "Abimelech Dumont" shine mid-set, but they're all great, as I revel in possibly one of my last chances to see my favourite band.

We offer awed congratulations to Jed and Ed afterwards, then amazingly walk straight into a taxi on the corner of the street, a feature that would be repeated during this trip. Back to our digs for bed, after being awake for 25 1/2 hours straight!

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