Monday, 26 July 2010

415 THE GRAVEL PIT, The Shods, Heidi, Downstairs At The Middle East, Cambridge, MA USA, Saturday 7 August 1999

"Pit Day" part 2! A day spent getting warmed up for this via an acoustic gig from the "Colonel", The Gravel Pit's vocalist Jed Parish, in Jamaica Plain, sees me back at EdV's at 7 making arrangements for the Gigolo Aunts gig tomorrow! Everything's falling into place.

Decide to follow Pete Caldes’ advice, and wear the red velvet shirt to the Pit show tonight. I’m going to roast. Pete Stone brings some beer over, and we chill out awhile before hitting the Middle East for 10. I go straight in as I want to catch Heidi’s opening set. Heidi are a noisy shouty Offspring post-grunge punk mess, with a ¾ girl line-up being the only distinguishing factor. Fun to watch but I couldn’t eat a whole one. Ed had mentioned the Colonel had recommended them, and in an untypical burst of cynicism said that the Colonel is probably looking to get laid. Hmm.

A great double take is performed by Shayne Phillips, the former drummer for Tracy Bonham’s band, who I met in the UK in 1996 and who I tap on the shoulder tonight as he passes by. A second or so passes before the penny drops and he recognises me, with an incredulous look. Good to see him again! He’s now drumming for Quick Fix (that band name again!). Also meet Sterling and e-mail correspondent Mike Paolo, a really cool and friendly guy, and fellow Sterling Pat Emsweiler, who is comically drunk. Chat with them during the Shods set, who remind me of Rocket From The Crypt with their 50’s rocka-bully postures and Clash-ing guitars.

(I subsequently find out that Drew, Tracy Bonham’s bass player from that trip, is now in BMX Girl, Ed’s roommate and former Sky Hero Jamie’s new band. Jamie is sub-letting his room to Toirm as he and the band are in Maui, spending their huge advance recording their debut record for 6 months. Talk about falling on your feet!)

Down the front for the Pit, with Sterlings Pete, Mike and Pat. Amazed at the room I have, despite the crowded venue. James later tells me no-one dances in Boston .

The Pit arrive at midnight, and from the opening bars of “Bolt of Light” it’s plain I’m witnessing greatness. They rip into the set with the ferocity of tinder wolves. Second number, “Abimelech DuMont” is even more dynamic, strident and forceful than on record (and I thought it was one of the most dynamic, strident and forceful records I’ve ever heard!). I become the no-one that dances in Boston, and just go for it. I have no choice in this matter; the rock compels me to dance.

The Pit are simply jaw-droppingly awesome live. A more dynamic and exciting rock music set I believe I’ve not seen for years. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much movement onstage; Ed with the Chuck Berry duckwalk, Jed in perpetual motion, alternating between keyboards and authoritative vocals, Lucky ducking and diving as if avoiding machine-gun fire, Pete all octopus arms. It’s an incredible visual spectacle, to augment the titanic rock noise these guys are blasting out.

It gets more incredible. 2 numbers to go, Jed turns to Ed and asks, “are we going to do something with the English guy now?” I have enough time to pass my camera to Pete Stone, before being invited onstage and introduced. Jed thrusts a pair of maracas into my hand and says, “and now the English guy is going to dance for us”. What can I say? I just totally rock out ONSTAGE to the last 2 numbers, bumping into Lucky on occasion but doing well to avoid tripping over the guitar lead. For set closer “I Climb (Up His Tree)” I really go for it; jumps, high kicks, the lot; I chuck it all in, and even get to sing a line from the song, “just look what he’s done, look what he’s done”!

Hit the aftershow party at Tremont afterwards, sweaty and totally high on the night and on my first onstage rock experience. Chat to loads of people who are generally impressed by the cool reserved Brit rocking out onstage. Get bearhugs from Ed and am told by many that I caught the Pit on a very good night. I’m glad they turned it on for me! Get to meet the big man from Senor Happy, Joe McMahon, and remember hazily chatting to a Heidi. Hmmm. Get progressively drunk as I use cans of Bud as a sedative, and keep fielding the same questions about why I’m in town and what part of London I’m from (!). Find myself increasingly using the same “Italian Man” vocal inflection as the guys from the Pit, particularly Pete Caldes, use. Eventually run out of steam, and hitch a ride back to Ed’s with Toirm and his sassy lady friend. Hit the hay at 5 a.m. Pass out after one of the most extraordinary days I’ve spent on this planet.

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