In The Studio with
Greyspoke: Not Trying To Be Some Hippie Jam Band
Published: Monday, April 7, 2008
Updated: Saturday, March 14, 2009 17:03
When anyone goes downtown to see a college band on a Friday night, there is always one thought on their mind: "I really hope they're good."
Granted, the idea of what's good and what isn't, varies from person to person, but when it comes down to it, it's a college band, and there are certain elements that are absolutely essential.
When I went to see Greyspoke perform at Nectar's on Friday, April 4th, I had these elements in mind.
Number One: Are they tight? Yes. Mike Wheeler (vocals, rhythm guitar), Jamie Heintz (drums), Rudy Kiburis (bass), and Rob Eaton (vocals, lead guitar) have been playing together since they were in high school, in Manchester, VT. Better yet, you can tell by listening.
They sounded as though they were well-rehearsed, together and had carefully planned out the setlist. At times, Wheeler and Eaton harmonize on lead vocals, a feat not many college bands can pull off, even among the relatively small number who actually attempt it.
Eaton's guitar solos are well-placed to build the intensity of the songs, and impressively, there were even a few well-executed bass solos from Kiburis.
There was no other conclusion to draw except that this is a band that works hard to play well.
Number Two: Are their songs original? Yes. When I talked to the band during their short set break, My first question was, "Who would you say are your major influences?" The response came quickly: "The Dead, Zappa, Pat Metheny, etc."
Pretty lofty names, but still, every one could be heard through their songs, not to mention a swampy, pulsing drum sound vaguely reminiscent of Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Adding the aforementioned harmonies, the equation comes out to a fairly distinct sound that I hadn't expected when I first headed down to Nectar's.
Number Three: Does the band have personality? Yes. I think this can be chalked up to their longevity as well. They played their first gig at Nectar's in 2005, and have had plenty of time to develop a dynamic among the group members.
Even on the small stage of Nectar's, their three-man front provides enough room between them to move around some, and to get into the music, which in such an intimate space translates easily to the crowd.
Number Four: Do they have a point? Yes.
When I spoke to the band, I couldn't help but ask a question that, admittedly, isn't easy to answer: "What are you trying to do with music?"
The fact that I got an answer at all from a college band, is a good sign - to get a good answer is worth noting. "We're not trying to be some hippie jam band," they said. "We're trying to make the music more wholesome, keep it about the music."
Not an answer you'd usu¬ally hear from a college band playing at Nectar's, a venue long associated with hippie jam bands.
Number Five: Do people come and see them? Yes. Even on a rainy night, Nectar's was pretty much packed.
More than that even, everyone was paying attention, dancing and responding enthusiastically to the band.
Even during a couple of slow songs, the floor remained full, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. The earlier performance, Lewis Rapkin and Unit X, brought a fairly large crowd as well, and nearly everyone stayed for Greyspoke. As the night went on, the crowd grew and grew.
Number Six: Will they stick around? Probably. This is a band whose members have played together for more than four years - how many other Burlington bands do that?
Sure we see some stay together for a year or two, but even bands who see a reasonable degree of success don't usually last this long.
In this case, that's a good thing. An original college band is a pretty special thing and deserves any respect they get. But what it really comes down to is this: on Friday night, Greyspoke played to a large crowd and everyone left with a smile on their face.
In the world of Burlington bars and college bands, what more can we really ask for?