Photo of the band practicing in Clint's shed at the Round House
The band revisits the year 2005 in the history of The Grift series, another year of the band that saw the continued lineup of Clint, Peter, Jeff and Neil. We also started having a certain special guest more and more often, Mr. Peter Nilsson on keyboards. He was working at Deerfield Academy at the time, and he would join us whenever possible. This included a few EPIC gigs at Deerfield Academy for the students as well as many other shows. Some other memorable shows from 2005 were the Lilac Festival in Rochester, NY, a third installment of our Do The Deck party in West Addison, shows in Oregon, Colorado, the Midwest, another Southern tour, and of course a ton in the Northeast.
We were able to catch up with Peter, Jeff and Neil for their memories of the year 2005. It is March of 2021 right now, and Clint is in the middle of a move from the Round House (pictured above). He was unable to add his memories for this installment, because he is completely swamped with this move. Check back periodically, as he is still trying to add his memories when he is able to get them done. And, as always, scroll to the bottom to check out the pictures that we were able to salvage from that year... Thanks again for following along, and see you in 2006!
2005 was another big year for the band. Fresh off the release of LBA, the name of the game this year was shows, shows and more shows. I think we did another southern tour? Another trip to the midwest? We played on the West coast for Wil the thrill’s wedding. Another Do The Deck.
Some of the highlights for me that year were definitely the trip to Washington and Oregon. Clint’s childhood friend, Wilson, got married at this place called the Skamania Lodge. I remember flying into Seattle, driving down to Portland and renting some gear there for the wedding. The wedding itself was one of the most amazing venues that I had ever seen.
One of the other highlights from that year was the Lilac Festival in Rochester, New York. I was always on the lookout for someone to help us manage the band. We all felt like it would be great to bring someone onto the team who might be able to help us with booking, promotion, and some overall mentorship. During the Life Beyond Aluminum sessions, I had a few different meetings with people about the business side of music. In one of those meetings, I was given the name of a gentleman named Carl. I told the guys about him, and we set up a meeting at his office in LeRoy - a suburb of Rochester.
When we arrived, it was at his house, which was quite nice. We went in, and had a meeting in his basement office. We all thought he was a pretty good guy, and we liked what he was saying. He also had an assistant, Ed (Ams was his last name I believe?), who was buzzing around in the back and also seemed like he would be an asset. We agreed to work with (Hot) Carl, and we were all hopeful that (Hot) Carl would help us find even more success.
Unfortunately, (Hot) Carl ended up not really producing anything except for this one great gig in Rochester at the Lilac Festival. It was Jeff’s hometown, so we were all pretty excited for the gig. We have some pictures of it in the memories folder, and I definitely remember it being fun. I think (Hot) Carl got us one other gig at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY on our way to the midwest. But Clint was WAY better than (Hot) Carl and Ed at taking care of us, so we sent (Hot) Carl back to Cleveland (steamer) - he wasn’t the right fit. Although I do remember him telling me about this awesome new band that was making waves called The Kings of Leon. He said they were going to blow up. He was right about that one for sure.
On one of our trips to Colorado, I reconnected with an old friend from high school, who I had stayed in touch with for a long time - since we were kids. We ended up getting married in December of 2005 (and divorced in ‘09, oops), which was the beginning of the end of my tenure as a performing member of the band. I picked up a stepdaughter, and my domestic responsibilities quadrupled! The guys moved out of my house that summer/fall. I was still very busy with the restaurant, and now I decided to just throw a marriage and a kid into the mix… What a smart guy, huh? Honestly, when I look back, I’m not sure how I handled all of that stress, but I’m sure the band was the best respite. And, musically, the band was better than ever. We were still having a ton of fun playing together, and it was some great times.
2005 was a continuation and expansion of the gains we made in 2004. We were playing a lot of the same places, but also adding new places and regions all the time. This included MANY hours driving around New England, more tours in the South and Midwest (where we once played the Super Bowl Shuffle to a stunned and adoring crowd in Chicago), and our first fly gigs in Colorado and Northwest.
Our friend, Will the Thrill, was getting married in Oregon and hired us to come play it. We decided, since we were flying that direction anyways, why not stop in Colorado for some shows? The trip had several highlights. In Colorado, one of our shows was at Trilogy, a great venue that was very special to us when we were based in Boulder. That show was also on my birthday and my mom arranged to have a cake and balloons sent to the venue (Thanks, Mom!). It really was fun to see old friends and we also had a memorable and fruitful jam session with former Grift drummer Chris Misner. A slightly less fun part was that it was the hottest summer on record there at 114 degrees. Yikes!
The flight from Denver to Seattle had a stop in Phoenix that turned into a four hour delay due to a huge thunderstorm. What were the chances we’d go from record high temps in the mountains to a freak rainstorm in the desert! It was late and all the shops were closed and it turned out to be fun wandering around the mostly empty airport, riding the people-movers and listening to The Mercury Program on repeat.
We eventually made it to Seattle, spent a few days there, and then south to Portland. The hotel we stayed in there was also hosting a belly dancing convention. So one of my biggest memories of Portland is the constant sound of jangles as attendees walked around the hotel. The car ride back from the wedding to fly home involved an EPIC traffic jam (ironically caused by a NASCAR race), a movie theater, a Fairfield Inn, and a Hooters...but that’s a story for another time.
2005 also marked our biggest show yet (several thousands of people) in Rochester for the Lilac Festival opening for Average White Band. Growing up in Rochester, I played the Lilac Festival many times with school bands but was excited to return to rock the big stage. It was the first time a lot of my family and friends got to see us play and we sounded better than ever.
Several shows in 2005 would lead to mainstays and big events for the band for the next few years. We won a “battle of the bands” at The Barley House in Concord, NH, and played a few times at The Perfect Wife in Manchester, VT, thus beginning a partnership with two places where we would make lifelong friends and would feel like homes away from home for the next several years.
During this time, our good friend and great keys player, O-Dubs, helped us grow a relationship with Deerfield Academy. Both by getting us shows there and also helping with places to stay if we were passing by. We got to be good friends with people there, leading to one of the more memorable set of shows in 2006…
Oh man, that's right… I forgot that 2005 was really the beginning of a lot of travel that we would be doing as a band – yet another amazing bonus to an already amazing “job”. One other thing that I think of when I reflect on 2005 is that we wrote LOTS of great songs that year! One of my favorite songwriting rituals from that era came about because of the school gigs that we were playing, interestingly enough. Often, we would go (very) early to the school where we would be playing and do an acoustic song or two for the school’s morning meeting to help introduce ourselves and get the students psyched for the concert later that night. And one interesting by-product of this was often… well, time! We would wind with a glorious stretch of unscheduled hours after the morning meeting, but long before we had to start setting up gear and sound checking for the evening performance. This time was perfect for songwriting: we would be buzzing on a performance rush and the extra cups of Dunkie’s that we undoubtedly consumed to get the engines going at 7am (this is very early, by the way, to a bunch of touring musicians ;) Clint and I wrote Brown one morning at my friend Jasper’s apartment in Somerville after playing the morning meeting at Milton Academy. (Jasper also makes the best cup of coffee of anyone I know so it’s a wonder we could sit still long enough to finish the song. You know that line in Ode To Joe about “Jasper’s got the hand crank and stirs with a plastic spoon?” That’s the one!)
Another time we debuted a brand new song in front of 500 high schoolers at 8am that we had written after another such morning meeting - Stand To Fall, which would wind up on the Doppelgänger album. I remember we wrote the bridge to Emily this way, and there were many that we wrote or finished at Deerfield staying with our dear friend Pete Nilsson (OWP, as Jeff mentioned) like All In, which is one of my favorite Grift songs that has yet to be recorded. Who knows, maybe it will end up on the next record?! I also wrote Tell Me in early 2005 sitting on the couch at Grift HQ in West Addison watching the inauguration of George W. and this is another favorite of mine that hasn’t officially been on a Grift album but we still love playing it live from time to time.
And perhaps the most important element of 2005 that has yet to be mentioned is… the open mic at Neil and Otto’s! Every Monday we schlepped our guitars, the PA, Token, and the Mics to the Pizza Cellar and stuffed ourselves silly with Neil’s famous Pizza Styx and ranch. And then we would play some Grift tunes, some covers, some what-have-you, and then we’d open the floor to what was, as it turns out, a ridiculously talented community of singers and songwriters, many of whom were still in high school. This was where we got to be witness to the nascent genius of Jer Coons (with whom we would go on to tour as his backing band a mere 3 years later! and who remains one of our closest friends to this day…) and other Middlebury luminaries like Mark Daly, Ethan West, Spencer Kelly, and many others who would go on to great musical success of their own. There was even a cameo from Jamie Bright one memorable evening (another dear friend with whom we would also later tour and who recorded both Live at Nectars and Doppelgänger!). I’m so grateful for the friendships that we forged in this time, so many of which remain stronger than ever today!
And of course, how could we forget the pictures...