Photo of Clint and Jeff from the band's trip to Ireland in 2006
The year was 2006, and as Jeff says in one of his posts, the only thing that has remained constant in the life of The Grift is change - and 2006 saw even more change. The beginning of the year saw the regular flurry of shows leading up to one of our largest run of shows yet. We had been playing at Nectar's and Deerfield Academy for awhile. Through those connections, we met some people who ran a college spring break company. Every year, they had been hiring a "house band" to play for 3 weeks in a row in Negril, Jamaica. Hearing about this gig from the outside around Nectar's and Vermont, it was the absolute dream when we got tapped for this one. We spent 3 amazing weeks in the sun. We didn't get paid, but all expenses were paid, including unlimited Red Stripe and Appleton Rum. To this day, those remain some of the band's best memories.
One of the biggest changes that occurred in 2006 was another lineup change. Neil got married and had a baby on the way, so he decided to leave the band to tend to his domestic duties. As such, the band decided to continue on as a trio. After returning from Jamaica, the band embarked on another Southern tour with Greg Tobler (remember him from Life Beyond Aluminum? Turns out he is an amazing drummer as well...) on drums. Greg ultimately was not looking to join a band, so Jeff was able to make the transition to drums. It wasn't a huge stretch, as hey were actually his first instrument.
The final highlight of the year was the trip that the new trio took to Ireland. The band all performed different functions at a wedding for one of Jeff's childhood friends. And then the year finished out with the addition of Ryan Erskine as a full-time member on keyboards. As always, we have some memories below of the year - and of course some pictures. Peter and Clint also put together a video of the song Tell Me, which was definitely a live staple in that year. Onto the memories...
In a long span of epic years for the band, 2006 may hold the title. It really began with our trip to Jamaica, playing at Margaritaville Negril for Spring Break. We were there for most of March, pretty much living on the beach, every day reliving the Spring Breaks we never took. There was a lot of catching up to do. It wasn’t quite as hedonistic as you might be thinking (for example, neither myself nor O-Dubs even drank), but it WAS as fun as you might be thinking. We were scheduled to play two “parties” per week, but the first ones went off so well, they eventually made it three. The whole thing actually went so well, we were the first band they asked to come back the next year...so we did.
We got home from that crazy trip and I think a whole week went by before we got on a plane headed for Ireland. My good friend, Tad, was getting married outside Dublin and asked if we would play. Getting the whole band there was too complicated, so we agreed Peter and Clint would play the cocktail hour and I would DJ the reception. I had never been to Ireland (land of most of my ancestors) and was super-excited. It was a quick trip, but we had a couple days before the wedding to explore Dublin. The wedding itself was at The Powerscourt Mansion and was straight out of a movie set.
I think even two weeks went by before we left again for a long southern tour that went as far south as Miami. While we played a mix of new and old places, it was unique in that our friend, Greg Tobler, played drums on the tour. Neil had designs on starting a family with his new bride and living in a van making “living in a van” wages didn’t seem like the most sustainable way to do so. He was still running the pizza restaurant and decided focusing on that and his new family was the direction he wanted to move.
It was a successful tour and Greg played great, but he couldn’t really commit to full time with the band. We decided it made the most sense to scale down and play for a while as a trio. That meant me moving to drums. Drums were actually my first instrument, so while I was a bit rusty, it wasn’t a completely foreign concept. It was fitting that my first full show with the band on drums was May 5th in my hometown of Rochester, NY. You could really feel it was a nexus point for the band. Even all three of our families were randomly there: mine because they lived there, Pete’s sister who stopped on her way back east to Ipswich, MA, and Clint’s dad, Big Gil, who was headed west back to Indiana (and saved us by towing the trailer to the gig when our van’s bearings decided to fail 10 miles from Rochester...).
Soon after that, we got a couple shows at The Perfect Wife in Manchester, VT that turned into a weekly Wednesday night gig for the next several years. Manchester is a tourist town, so Wednesday nights were when the locals went out. They became pretty big shows and we made lifelong friends playing there. We only missed a few Wednesdays in three years, mostly due to touring, and only one because of weather.
Between that regular gig, tours, boarding schools, and our normal New England circuit, we stayed very busy. We played mostly as a trio, but had our friends sit in on as many gigs as we could. That turned into a more permanent arrangement (and continuing to prove the only constant in this band is change) when Ryan Erskine became our full-time keyboard player. One of his first shows with us was on NYE at Mad River Glen, followed by our drive home in the worst ice storm in years. A fittingly epic end to an epic year.
Wow! Thinking back on 2006 I guess it really was quite an eventful year, especially in the life of The Grift! I’m not going to try to cover all of it, and I’m sure the other guys will have some great things to say. So here are a few things I learned in 2006 when we went to Jamaica to be the house band at Margaritaville Negril for 3 consecutive weeks of spring break… (my deep sense of gratitude to Pete Nilsson for facilitating this opportunity only grows more profound with every passing year.)
I learned on the very first day that when you travel to a foreign country, you probably shouldn’t bring your passport in your backpack when you head in to the beach resort in a cab. And if you do, (as I did), I learned that you should not then leave that backpack in the cab. I also quickly learned that the angel of a cab driver who was chillin’ at Margaritaville waiting for other fares was extremely perceptive and extremely kind, and when I had finished my full-on freak out, he calmly walked over to me and said ‘you leave something in that cab?’ ‘Uh huh,’ I nodded, tearily. ‘No problem. I can find him. Get in, mon!’ Off we sped. And thanks to him, within 20 minutes I had my backpack - and passport, and iPod, and wallet, and sunscreen! Very important. Jamaica is sunny. - back.
I learned that the ambient key of Negril Jamaica is Ab. (Which is likely why when Clint went out for a walk from our humble quarters at PJ’s Villa and came back with the song Come A Long Way entirely composed in his head, it was in Ab.)
I learned that Red Stripe is delicious. It’s beer! Hooray beer! And just right for drinking lots of it out on the beach in the sun while “making connections” with the college kids (which was literally one of our responsibilities that was outlined to us on the first day by the Margaritaville party planners, the amazing Wicked Son crew AWWW YEAH! We all agreed that, yes, we could and should take on that important responsibility, even if it meant having to leave the water trampoline to join everybody doing the cha-cha slide every day at 4 PM. That song will forever hold a very dear place in my heart.)
I learned that Dj Craig Mitchell spins an impeccable sunset chill-out set of music. Shout out!
As a band we learned what it meant to plan and hone multiple sets of music to perfection designed to keep a party (foam, beads, sand, you know) absolutely ROCKING. Which turned out to be an excellent and very useful skill for us in the long run.
I learned that when you are planning that set of party music and Jefe suggests “don’t stop believing” by journey, it is very wise to listen to him. I still believe to this day that we, at his prescient suggestion, single-handedly brought that song roaring back into the mainstream popularity that it continues to enjoy.
Finally, I learned from the drunk girl from Georgia who invited herself up on stage to sing Margaritaville with us that “some people claim there’s a woman to blame… But I know… It’s my own damn fault!
My own - damn - FAULT!”
(Somewhere we have an audio clip from the soundboard recording of that show of her proclaiming this, followed by an impassioned plea to her fellow revelers to “git f@$#ed up and GIT NAY-KED!” We will do our best to post it for your listening pleasure at some point in the future.)
Man, 2006 was a crazy year for me. After getting married over the holidays in 2005, my life was about to drastically change. I still had the pizza place, the guys had all moved out, and I was newly married. I remember starting to feel a bit overwhelmed at all of the responsibility that I had piled on myself, but I was still loving playing music - and the trip to Jamaica was such a fun opportunity that remains one of my greatest memories of that year. I literally can’t wait to go back someday. I think we will definitely have to set up a reunion show in Negril at some point. It was definitely a next level gig for us. I remember thinking it was pretty cool that the drum set I was using (rented from a local place for me. fancy.) had just been used by the band Lifehouse. At the time, they had just had a hit on the radio called “Waiting on a Moment” that I enjoyed.
As fun as Jamaica was, I still have a funny regret that stays with me to this day that makes me chuckle. I don’t have many regrets in life, but this is definitely one of them. In Negril, there is this place called Rick’s Cafe. It is honestly one of the most unique places I have ever seen. A music venue, a bar, set on the cliffs of the ocean with tons of people jumping off the cliffs - one of the coolest venues I had ever seen - with the backdrop of the stage as the wide open ocean. At any rate, while we were in Jamaica, the band 311 had a concert there on one of our off nights. The tickets were $40, which was just too much to spend. We were so used to getting stuff for free, and there were so many fun things to do, we were all like, not necessary. To this day, I still wish I had gone to that show. I wish I could go back and give my young self that $40. Damn. No sleep was lost, though - and I got an opportunity to see them live (finally) a couple of years ago in Middlebury. Full circle. And they are a great band. So funny the memories that pop up.
Jamaica Baby? The answer to that question was a yes, and in December of 2006 my daughter Calliope was born. She’s 14 (I did the math for you), and we live in Southern California now. Teenagers are SO fun, but that’s a whole different story. As soon as I knew she was on the way, I kind of freaked out. I knew that I was not going to be an absent father. I was definitely the first in the band to have a little one, and I just didn’t feel like I could travel anymore. I also had this other business that made A LOT MORE money when I was around. I could absorb one (or maybe even two) paychecks, and that cash meant a lot at the time with a baby on the way. So, I told the guys that I didn’t want to be the guy who broke up the band, and I would definitely stay if they needed me. But, with Calli coming, I wasn’t sure that my heart was in it anymore. I knew I didn’t want to travel, I needed to shift my focus, and I definitely didn’t want to hold the rest of the band back at all. And, the way friends and brothers do, they were completely supportive of what I was going through. They couldn’t have been cooler. They were like, we can handle it. We will make it work. We remained the best of friends, and I am writing this today - very much back in the fold.
I have played with the band a number of times since I left the stage in 2006, and I think that number is only going to grow in the coming years. Even though I am now based on the West Coast (the weather has totally sucked me in), I am SO EXCITED to be working with the band again. If you’ve read this far, I can’t wait to see you at a show in the coming months and years - I will definitely be around a bit more often when we can move freely around the country again...
Pictures from 2006