Photo of the CD release party for The Grift Live 2003 at Nectar's
We move on to 2003 in the history of The Grift series. 2003 was another year that brought some significant changes to the lineup and the evolving sound of the band. This was a year that saw Clint and Jeff transitioning well to being back in the East. Clint, Neil and Jeff were living in West Addison practicing and playing shows at a frenetic pace. There were a bunch of boarding school gigs, a massively successful CD release show at Nectar's in Burlington, and the largest part of the year was the addition of Mr. Peter Day. Peter really completed the new lineup, bringing a fresh new energy, new songs and amazing musicianship to the band. This solidified the lineup that would last for the next 3 years. Neil left in 2006, but Peter, Jeff and Clint have continued to keep the music alive to this day, some 21 years after the band got it's start.
We were able to catch up with Neil, Jeff and Peter about the year 2003. Clint has been pretty swamped lately with some other projects, but hopefully we will catch up with him in 2004. Thanks again for following along, and make sure to download Live 2003! We had fun putting this album together, and it has some of the classics from the power trio that only lasted 16 months. I think we can all agree that Mr. Peter Day is one of the best additions that The Grift could ever have made!
Check out the pictures below as well. Many of them were taken (and provided) by our good friend, Pokey (Scott Pokrywa). He was a huge supporter of the band in the early Eastern days. He lived in Boston, and he was always so awesome about letting us stay there whenever we were in town. He also always helped us bring people out to the shows that we had! Enjoy our memories of the year 2003, and until next time...
2003 was a big year for The Grift. We were living in the house in West Addison and settling in (when we were there…) We were playing nearly every Thursday, Friday and Saturday all around New England. We played a ton of boarding schools, bars, ski areas, clubs - really we would play anywhere that would take us. The boarding school gigs were always the best. The kids were usually energetic, and we would often sell A TON of merch and music at these shows.
After the free disc in 2002, we decided that we would release a live CD in 2003. So, we (actually Rian Alfiero) recorded the shows that we did at Governor Dummer Academy and Cushing Academy in Massachusetts, as well as a show we did at The Mad Mountain Tavern (now Local Folk Smokehouse). It was a 10 song record that we planned on releasing in the spring of 2003.
There were a bunch of memorable shows in 2003, but the biggest show was probably the CD release party. The CD release party for Live 2003 was epic. We were going to have it at Nectar’s in Burlington, which we had definitely played a number of times at this point, and we really wanted to promote this show a ton to get people out to party. We had a pretty good relationship with Otter Creek Brewing in Middlebury. We had played a few shows at their place, and they were just an overall good company. We had the idea that maybe they would be willing to help us sponsor the CD release party with some ads or something, so we reached out to them. They did a bit more than that for us. They gave us a KAYAK to give away at the show. It was amazing. Then, the guys at Nectar’s hung it over the huge circular bar, so it was dangling over the bartenders for the entire night. We had a packed house, and it was probably one of the best gigs in 2003. So fun.
Another memorable show on the other end of the spectrum in 2003 was the show we had at Jimmy’s Seaside Tavern in Stamford, Connecticut. We literally played for one person - my high school buddy, Tim. Although we were always bummed to play for no one, we were pretty good about just making it a paid practice. In the room, there was a Golden Tee video game (a fun, popular golf game). We ripped through an amazing version of one of our songs (Jeff probably remembers the song…), and finished with authority. Just as we ended, the cheers from the Golden Tee game erupted, as it was a feature on the game, the crowd cheering for a golf shot. I remember laughing about that for many years after. Shit, I’m chuckling now.
Then of course the BIGGEST event of 2003 was getting a new member of the band that would prove to be one of it’s most crucial - Mr. Peter Day! I didn’t really know Peter all that well, but I know I delivered a pizza to one of his friends, Dave Koltai one time. Dave gave me a CD of a band that he had at Middlebury College, and the bass player was Peter Day. I knew that Clint and Jeff both knew him, and it was Clint who made the legendary call to Peter. He seemed like a great guy, and I was truly looking forward to working with him and getting to know him. Little did I know it was going to be one of the best friendships I could ever ask for. And an amazingly great wiffle ball foe. More on that in 2004. We had some big battles at Clark Goldfarbe, Jr. Memorial Stadium, which was on the grounds of The Grift HQ house. We even had one or two night games under the lights.
2003 again brought many changes to the band. We were building momentum as a trio, playing all around the Northeast, living as much in the van as we did at the house in Addison. Though, I actually moved to Burlington in early 2003 to live with my then girlfriend and our friends, Meesh and Lynn. I filled a vacancy in the house left by our new friend, Ben Bloom, photographer (and person) extraordinaire.
The seeds for the biggest change for the band began in 2002. We were listening to a lot of Jurassic 5, Incubus, and Linkin Park during the long drives in the van and I was inspired to do something I’d wanted to do since I was a kid: I was going to learn how to become a scratch DJ! I bought a real turntable and mixer and spent many hours torturing the cats learning how. I was also getting more into sampling and synthesizers. It was so much fun, I began incorporating it into our live shows.
Around Christmas 2002, our friends Dave Koltai (who had sat in with us on many shows) and Peter Day came up to VT. As you might imagine, there was a lot of music played and you could see there was a definite musical connection between Peter and Clint. As I got more and more into DJing, we started to think it would be fun to make it a bigger part of the band’s sound. It was difficult for me to play bass and scratch at the same time, so we thought about adding a 4th member. Peter was at the top of our list. He fit everything we were looking for. First off, he was a really fun, nice guy. That can’t be overlooked because being able to spend hours in a van with someone is, honestly, the most important qualification. On top of that he was a kick ass bass player, who could also sing and play guitar. This way I could spend part of my time scratching, playing keyboard parts and samples, and part of my time playing bass. Plus, because I had moved to Burlington, there was an open space in the Addison house. In October 2003, after months (minutes) of negotiating, The Grift had its newest (and youngest) member!
Oh man! I remember that hang with the guys at Neil’s house in West Addison in December of ‘02… I distinctly remember the deep longing I felt to be back in New England, and how good it felt to play music with simpatico friends… and also how much I admired (and longed to be part of) what Clint, Jeff and Neil had built with The Grift. They were, in fact, living the dream! But it wasn’t until the Spring of 2003 that I received the now legendary call, without exaggeration one of the most important phone calls of my life. I was living in Atlanta and what had been a promising job prospect was turning into a grind of a sales job, which – as it turns out – I was not cut out for. So there I was, slumped on my desk in front of an Excel spreadsheet, in major need of a life change and unsure of the path I should pursue, when out of the blue the phone rang (this was, of course, in the days before caller ID so I didn’t know it was Clint calling from Vermont). We chatted for a bit and I shared how frustrated I was in my job that was not turning out how I hoped, and how I had barely any creative outlets. I was still writing songs but had to satisfy the creative and performing itch with the occasional 2 or 3 song “set” at one of the open mic nights around town...
“Well,” Clint asked, “What do you want to do for the rest of your life?”
That was the question that, as it turns out, would change my life in so many positive ways.
“Why don’t you move back to Vermont and join the band full time? We’re shifting the lineup around so Jefe can do more scratching, and we want you to play bass. We even have a room for you here at Neil’s place in West Addison! Think about it.”
I realized pretty quickly that was, in fact, what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. (Wait, I can do that??) I had some commitments to fulfill at the ATL job but the countdown was on! I arrived in Vermont in October 2003 and my first gig was October 15 (actually, gigs - my first day in the band we had back-to-back shows, first on campus at UVM for the DREAM Benefit and that night at the Mad Mountain Tavern! Get after it! And two weeks later we played another gig on campus at UVM where I met Emily, and only in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that almost 20 years later the band would still be rocking - stronger than ever! - and that Emily and I would be celebrating over a decade of marriage. 2003 was in many ways one of the best years of my life, and it only got better from there!