Thursday, 22 April 2010

512 THE GRAVEL PIT, Quick Fix, Heavy Stud, D.James M'cle; 513 ROCKETSCIENCE; TT The Bear's Place/ Middle East, Cambridge, MA USA, Friday 22 June 2001

This is what we're here for! A Gravel Pit CD release show double header over the next 2 nights, but first night is a double-header of its' own for us, as we're sneaking off halfway through... After a day CD shopping along Newbury Street, and meeting friend Mark Kraus for lunch, Rachel and I have nevertheless saved our energy for this one. We hit the club as The David James Motorcycle kick-start the evening with some rootsy country rock, like the Gin Blossoms less auspicious moments. They're OK I guess, but Rach and I hit the pool tables instead.

Heavy Stud, next up and featuring EdV's girlfriend Melissa Gibbs (or just "Gibbs" to Ed!) are better, with their shouty Muffs-like punk rock stylings. Pretty fun and snappy, with short and sweet songs. They're done at 10.25, and at this point Rach and I bail out of TTs to head downstairs at the Middle East, to catch the just-started Rocketscience in gig 2 of the night! I was keen to catch them if we could, as I love their CD "A Girl's Name Here", which strikes me like a heavy Teenage Fanclub, melodic yet moody. "Live" however they're surprising; extremely powerful and very mobile, especially the menacing vocalist Andy Galdins, who has the similar wild-eyed manic stare and unsettling craziness of the Crockett's vocalist Davey McManus, and who prompts Rachel to comment, "I'm not entirely not scared of him!" They sadly omit "Killjoy" from their set (despite the fact it was on the set-list - d'oh!), but overall are pretty impressive, the added dynamism and power of their live performance adding to the songs, despite a couple of headscratchers (why swap instruments around if the drummer really can't play guitar very well? And also - please remove the rap number as soon as possible!). We grab a couple of words of praise with bass player Aaron before scooting back to gig 1 of the night at TTs!

We hit TTs again at 11.10 to find, to our dismay, that Quick Fix, who were due on at 11, are considerably more than halfway through their set. D'oh! However, what we do get to hear is pretty sparkling stuff; dark, dynamic and sleazy up-tempo glammy rock, with the hugely imposing frontman figure of Jake Zavracky throwing shapes with wild abandon, and the muppet-haired and semi-naked Shayne Phillips providing the clattering beat. It's great stuff and I'm annoyed that we'd missed even a minute of it, but this is compounded further when I pick up the set-list afterwards, to discover they'd opened with "Underground", not only my favourite QF number, but one which I've never seen them play. D'oh! Yet again!

We run into a fair few folks we know in the packed crowd at this point. Pit manager Michael Creamer, who asks Rachel, "you still hanging out with this guy?" (more so than ever now, Michael!), "The Peach" Pete Stone, who comments that Rach and I getting together was, "only a matter of time", Army Of Jasons frontman Geoff Van Duyne, who promises us some new AOJ stuff, and the manically maned Shayne, who wants to come visit us in the UK! I also run into EdV in the horrible TT's Gents, rather embarrassingly as I'm peeling a Quick Fix sticker off the wall! However Ed doesn't seem to notice, rather diplomatically - he's all suited up for the Pit performance, so I meet Rach and follow him through the crowd to a perfect stage-front spot.

The Gravel Pit hit the stage at 11.45, once again suited up like their heroes The Beatles, Costello and Joe Jackson, and immediately burst into "Baby Gap" from "Mass Avenue Freeze Out", the new CD, whose release these 2 shows are celebrating. It's a bouncy, modish, almost jolly number with a push'n'shove backbeat, and immediately gets Rach and I rocking. The Grunge howl of "Something's Growing Inside", a surprise oldie, is up next, and the incredible guitar work of Lucky Jackson really sends this oft-times leaden track soaring. It's evident that The Pit, fresh and enthusiastic for live work (especially the dynamically flailing Pete Caldes!) and benefiting from their recent hiatus and decision not to tour this sucker to breaking point, are up for this one, and they're no less than awesome. The punkish new wave amphetamine rush of "The Ballad Of The Gravel Pit", their own road movie document, is brilliant and has Rachel and I manically screaming, "do you think we oughtta... OUGHTTA stick around!!" at each other. But really, every one's a winner in this set. Jed Parish is the focal point throughout, thick-set and menacing, Frank Black's evil twin, brandishing maracas and cowbells menacingly, but mainly bashing seven bells out of a battered and road-weary Farfisa. Jackson's high-kicking and EdV's bobbing and weaving like a demented Chuck Berry also catch the eye, but it's also evident that drummer Pete Caldes' appetite for live work is immense, as he's really going for it!

Other highlights are hard to pick out - there's so many! - but Rachel and I waltzing down the front to "Bucket" is fantastic. And why not? This is OUR holiday, OUR band, OUR night! "Ezra Messenger" is brilliant, as is the totally unplanned encore "Officer Dwight Boyd". But really, tonight The Gravel Pit totally excel, and smash their own stratospherically high "live" standards into utter smithereens.

Afterwards, Ed cracks up when he recalls one of my dance moves, and we finally hit the road after catching our breath. We got what we came here for, no messin' - and frankly I'd have swum the bloody Atlantic to see The Gravel Pit on this form!

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