Wednesday, 14 July 2010

441 THE GRAVEL PIT, The Red Telephone, Heavy Stud, Bills Bar, Boston, MA USA, Friday 19 May 2000

"Last August Revisited!" Or, in other words, my second trip to Boston, this time with gig companion (and, well, "companion") Rachel, rechristened for the week as "The Sweet Rachey Griff", according to Boston's rock's naming protocols! After a stopover in Reykjavik, Iceland (where we totally failed to see any puffins), we arrive in Boston at 8pm local time (1 am UK time!). Dump stuff at Michael's (our first digs for the trip), then over to Bills Bar just as Fenway Park (Red Sox' home) is chucking out. The allegedly Veruca-Salt-esque Heavy Stud are already on stage. To me, they sound more like the long-lost Slingbacks, with their one-chord power riffs and general shoutiness. However, I'm not really for taking notice as I'm too busy meeting and greeting old acquaintances, and introducing them to TSRG (see above!). Gravel Pit bassist Ed Valauskas greets me like a long-lost brother, then chastises me for having told him I'd put on weight! Also renew acquaintances with Ed's girlfriend Carrie and friend Kate, Lucky, Pete and Jed of The Pit, Jim Heggarty of The Gravy, and Pete Stone, fresh in from seeing Waltham in "The Rumble".

Settle down to watch The Red Telephone, who actually come across all Brit-poppy, with shades of the slow-burning (and dull) dynamics (for want of a better word) of Travis and Radiohead, and also the bright knees-up pop of Blur. An odd combination, of which I'm not sure what to make, although Pete "The Peach" Stone remarks to me they should make me feel at home!

Needless to say, Rachel and I are both revved up and ready to ROCK by the time The Pit take the stage at midnight. And immediately I receive irrefutable confirmation that EdV takes notice of my e-mails, as the opening bars of "New Haven" (which I'd asked Ed to finagle into the set, this being the first song I heard by the Pit - there's instant results for you!) rudely assault my ears.

Rachel and I immediately hit the "whirling dervish" switch and crank it up, and the fact that it's really 5 am and we haven't slept for 23 hours and 4,000 miles is forgotten. The Pit are as awesome as I remember - 4 generally unassuming chaps transformed into a dynamic and primal rock force. Ed's pummelling bass holds things together and provides the platform for the genius of Jed Parish's songs to be given full rein. They've been described as "Elvis Costello on steroids" and there's certainly something very classic about their song structures, a lineage that can be traced back to The Kinks and The Beatles (hence the suits of yore, I guess). However, get them on a stage and it's a pure adrenaline blast, no more, no less. ROCK in its purest, rawest form, 15 songs blasted by like an express train, with me tied to the rails, flight stiffness and cobwebs well and truly blown away!

A few titanic new numbers - especially the excellent "Justice" and "Monster", which ends with EdV bellowing out the hookline as if trying to raise the dead - augments the set perfectly, but for me, an amazing "Flying Things" and the inevitable "Abimelech DuMont" stand out in the memory. But hey, who am I kidding? This was easily the most exciting and powerful set I've seen since... well, the last time I saw The Pit! And for encores, a run through of Rachel's favourite Pit number "Favorite Scar" and a frantic "Free To Be Me" left us catching our breath and wiping the sweat away.

Quick chats afterwards with the guys - EdV wasn't too happy and thought the set was, "sloppy", but hey, he gets to see every Pit show and hadn't just walked off a plane - then we head off to Michael's friend Ricky Brennan's (yes, he of Wheat, gig 440 stars) house-party. We meet Ricky again - properly this time, and get to chat awhile. Also meet up again with Mark Kraus, Brian the former vocalist with The Sky Heroes (this one makes Rachel go rather girly on us!) and a whole lot of other people. However the Pit adrenaline is wearing off a little, and at 4 am we realise it's 26 hours since we slept, so we get Michael to escort us back to his, where sleep arrives slowly. I'm in Boston again, this time with Rachel, and there's more fun and adventure to come...

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