Photo of the newly formed power trio at The Great Outdoor Games in 2002. The Grift was ESPN's house band for the company party in Lake Placid, NY
We have moved on to the year 2002 in our bi-weekly email series, where we remember the History of The Grift. 2002 was another big year for the band that saw a lot of changes. Rian, Ben and Chris left the band (although Rian and Ben never REALLY left), and Jeff and Clint moved back to Vermont to join forces with Neil, the pizza boy (he owned a pizza place in Middlebury, VT) on the drums. It was the dawn of The Grift power trio that lasted for a little over a year, before a certain (VERY IMPORTANT) someone burst onto the scene in 2003.
In 2002, we recorded and released an EP as the power trio that has been dubbed the Free Disc. It is 3 songs, and we would hand it out at our live shows for free. We also came up with the "Good Idea Box", (nicknamed Barry Gib, until someone stole the money at one gig - it was Robin Gib that one fateful night in Fort Wayne, Indiana...). This was essentially a tip jar that people definitely used, and it really helped us pay for gas for gigs from Vermont to Boston to NYC to Indiana to Chicago and back. You can listen and/or download that free disc here. Heck, feel free to leave us a tip if you want in our Virtual Tip Jar (Barry Gib), you know - for old times sake:). This EP definitely has a few deep cuts - I'm not sure I can remember the last time I heard WRP or Over It played live. Hopefully Clint remembers the words.
At any rate, we were able to catch up with Jeff, Neil and Peter for their memories of 2002. Although Peter didn't join the band until 2003, there was a Grift gig in the Gloucester, MA area while Peter was visiting Ipswich, MA (they are neighboring towns) that was a stroke of serendipity...
Thanks again for joining along on our trip down memory lane. Enjoy the photos that Jeff provided for the year 2002. Since we don't have too many from this year, he was able to put a few captions together as well to give you all some context. Enjoy these memories, and we will see you next time for the year 2003, another huge year for the band with the official addition of Peter Day.
We’ve made it as long as we have because we’ve been able to adapt to the many changes and hurdles faced by a band. None were bigger than those we saw in 2002. In early 2002, Clint got an opportunity he couldn’t pass up, playing a more acoustic role on the road with our friend Rich Price. That meant he had to move back East. That effectively ended the band for the moment. Our momentum had been slowing a bit anyways and this was the final blow. We did actually play a couple Grift shows without Clint, with our friends Mike (from The Motet) playing guitar and Shelby Johnson singing lead. They were fun shows, but it was clear it was a different thing.
Chris, Ben, and Rian were moving on to different things and after a couple months of playing with side projects and trying to figure out what was next, I realized playing music on the road was what I enjoyed doing the most. Clint and I had kept in touch and after a couple conversations, we realized The Grift is what we really wanted to do and restarting the band back East would make the most sense. We could make use of the connections we had there and could sustain ourselves by taking advantage of so many places to play in such a relatively small area. We initially thought we’d live near the Boston area, but when our talks with Neil became more serious, it became clear Vermont would be our base.
It was fun to be back in Vermont and it was exactly what we were hoping for. We were able to travel a lot and get a nice circuit of shows established that extended from Vermont to Boston to NY City and everywhere in between. We built on our prior success at boarding schools and began playing them more and were also able to play shows as the backing band for several friends.
One particular weekend sticks out in my mind where we played in Boston on Friday (with many of our MFUs from Boulder there who were also recent East Coast transplants) and NYC on Saturday. The traffic coming home on Sunday was really terrible and after fighting with it for hours, we made it back to our house in Vermont, sat on the deck looking out at Lake Champlain and revelled in the peace and quiet. Ok, more peace than quiet...Neil’s cat Astro showed us how much she loved us by constantly yelling at us. She was also making up for our other cat, Haley, who couldn’t meow at all.
That brings me to one of the GREATEST STORIES in rock and roll. We got the chance that year to play at ESPN’s Great Outdoor Games in Lake Placid. We were psyched! We rolled up, Clint checked us into the hotel (hotel rooms were VERY rare for us at this point), we set up at the venue, and crushed the show (as usual). That night we celebrated with a crazy night in Lake Placid, finally crashing in our hotel room. Sure, two of us had to share a bed, but we still felt like rockstars. We did so well that the next summer we got hired to play the same party at the X-Games in Philadelphia (yes, we got to meet Tony Hawk). This time we were staying at The Ritz! We had hit the big time. We get there ready to check in and our contact takes us aside and says “Now guys, in Lake Placid you only checked into one room. This is ESPN...you each have your own rooms.” !!!!! We were so excited to be getting a free hotel room that we assumed it was just one for all of us! Some rock stars we were…
In 2002, I was busy working away at the pizza place - but totally ready for a new challenge. I had a good crew of people working with me at the restaurant, and it was running pretty OK when I wasn’t around. I had kept in touch with Clint over the years that they were in Boulder, and I still wanted to play some music again. I had been playing my drums all along and got a call from Clint in early 2002. He said that he was interested in moving back to Vermont - he was interested in being back in the East. I’m pretty sure that I told him if he came back to Vermont, I would play music with him in a heartbeat. I still had the pizza place, but I figured I could make a run at doing both at the same time. Ah, to be in your twenties...
Jeff also agreed to move back, and we were going to make a go of it as a power trio in Vermont. I didn’t know Jeff all that well, but I was excited to get to know him. I knew he was an amazing bass player and seemed like a good dude. I was totally into the idea of a power trio with Clint and Jeff. Chris was from Boulder, and wasn’t going to move back to the East Coast. And I believe Rian and Ben were ready to go in a different direction. So, it was decided. Clint and Jeff were coming back, and we would rock a power trio.
So, in the spring of 2002, I bought a house out on Lake Champlain in West Addison, Vermont. I had sold my house in Burlington a few years earlier, and I was ready for a new investment. I found this great house that had a beautiful 2nd story porch that overlooked Lake Champlain. It was on about ¾ of an acre, and had a neighbor on one side, a dairy farm on one side, a horse pasture, and an empty lot. It also had deeded lake access! It would prove to be a great band house, Eastern version. Plenty of room to park the Ayatollah, a bedroom for everyone, and a 2 car garage that we eventually turned into our practice room. And honestly, we decided that being out in the country might be better for making music - we knew we would be touring a ton so we were kind of excited for the peace and quiet when we were off the road.
After a bit of a snafu on their way up to the house from Connecticut, Clint and Jeff arrived in May of 2002, and we got to work. I remember our first two gigs were in early June I believe. It was a Tuesday gig in New York City, and then a Wednesday gig back in Middlebury, Vermont. We crashed at a friend’s (Laura “Bama” Thomas) that night, and I was up early and ready to hit the road ASAP - I was worried about Friday traffic and getting to the Middlebury gig on time. I woke up Clint that morning, much to his anger. I was super worried about weekday traffic going out of the city, and I was just so used to running a super-tight business. I was a little intense at most things (still am), and uber-organized. This made for one of the greatest stories that Clint and I have.
It was literally the first gig that we had together in years, and really our first long trip together. I was ready to go, so I went in to wake Clint up out of a slumber. When I woke him up, he looked at me with one eye open and forcefully said “Why do you ALWAYS wake me up?!? I just don’t see the NEED!”. After a few moments of a heated exchange, Clint emerged, and we got on the road. It turned out that my craziness paid off, because it took us like 7 or 8 hours to get home (normally takes 5), and we made the gig just in time. We both laughed our asses off and got ready to rock show #2 in our hometown as the power trio. This trip also helped to cement The Grift’s legacy as the “most prompt band in rock and roll”, even through a major band transition:)
The other thing I vividly remember about 2002 was the 3 song EP that we made at Chuck Eller studios in Charlotte, Vermont. It was an awesome little studio, and my first REAL experience in the studio. We have made a demo for The Ushers of Jonesville, but this studio was a lot more professional. The EP had One More Drop, WRP (a gem!) and Over It (a song Clint hasn’t played in awhile I bet…). It was dubbed The Free Disc, as we decided to give the CD away at our live shows to spread the word about The Grift’s new lineup. We were playing a ton of shows in Vermont, Boston, New York, and anywhere that would have us. It feels like we were playing almost every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We were definitely building up some Eastern momentum…
Though I had yet to join the band in 2002, there was one coincidence that turned out to be yet another breadcrumb dropped by the universe saying “hey, your future is making music with these guys…” (funny how in the moment those things just seem like random little breadcrumbs and nothing more, but looking back you can see the path being laid out for you).
I was living in Atlanta at the time – long story – but was home in Mass for a few weeks when I learned that the Grift would be in - of all places - Gloucester, MA playing a private party. 15 minutes from my house! I think I must have gotten in touch with Clint and we spoke briefly and he invited me to come and sit in for a song or two on guitar. I remember that we played the theme from Rocky, and it was so fun and so funky and in that moment I remember just wishing that I could be living in New England again and playing music. Closer! Warmer! but that would still have to wait another year and a half…
A flyer for our first show as a trio in VT
We self-made MANY posters in those early VT years
At a favorite NYC spot, Desmond's Tavern
There's a lot in this pic that is very much of the era. First, Haley loved to sit like a human. There is also the 2002 Atlas we used so much it eventually fell apart. There's also a big envelope there that we used to send our press kits in. Yes, this was before EPKs and we spent hours around that table printing out everything, putting it in a folder with a sticker and CD, and snail mailing them all around the country.
One of our many boarding school shows. I honestly don't remember which, but it was in MA.
Astro and Haley
The basement of Angela's in Middlebury