Sunday, June 07, 2009

SST Weekend - Grant Hart returns!

It was an SST weekend in Pittsburgh. Friday night the Meat Puppets played, although I didn't make it to that show. Last night, Grant Hart - the once and forever drummer/vocalist of Husker Du - played at Howler's. Opening the show was none other than Ed fROMOHIO, the once and forever vocalist/guitarist of fIREHOSE. Ed has lived in Pittsburgh for a couple years now, but, other than an appearance at the Who Tribute show earlier this year, this is the first time I saw him play a set. I think his arrival coincided with Donovan's arrival into this world.
Funny thing, the Meat Puppets' original drummer, Derrick Bostrom, didn't join the reunited band. He's working for the same company I work for, although he's in Tuscon and I'm in Pittsburgh. What are the odds? (Answer: not all that unusual).
Anyhow, the evening at Howler's began after the Penguins got crushed 5-0. (I'm tired of hockey [sorry, everyone] but even I know that was AWFUL.) Then Moonlight Motel played, which features one of my bff's Mike Moran (vocals), along with Steve Seel (bass), Steve Morrison (acoustic guitar), Sam Matthews (mandolin) and Kip Ruefle (hand percussion). Mike has an amazing voice and it's great to hear him in this context, which not only brings together guys of different musical backgrounds, but puts them in a context that could appeal to acoustic fans without loosing people who know them from the noisier settings. One of the songs was called "The Ballad of Edward Moran," which is about Mike's grandfather, and I swear in one verse he sang in a brogue and it sounded really natural.
I loved fIREHOSE and saw them nearly every time they played Pittsburgh in the '80s. Mike Watt was my bass hero but I always thought Ed was a great player and singer too. One song into his set, he had me wanting to pound my table to show my enthusiasm for his band. They were catchy and edgey with all kinds of chord changes that you didn't expect. He pulled out a couple of fIREHOSE tunes that took me back and he even did a spirited version of the Minutemen's "Corona," which also did my heart good.
Then a few minutes after Ed and his crew wrapped up, a thin guy dressed in a cap, with a guitar got up onstage and plugged in. "So that's him," I asked my friend John. "Yep," was the reply. Of course a lot of years have passed since Grant Hart had long ratty hair and was a little pudgy. Still it took me by surprise to see him, and when John kidded me, "Maybe it's a scam. Maybe it's not really him," I did wonder for a second. It could be his twin brother Brant. Or maybe someone named Harte Grant. However, his voice was pretty unmistakable so I knew it was really him.
The other surprise came with his set. John and I were kidding that we should yell out Husker song titles, thinking that if we did, we'd get our asses kicked. But sure enough, he played "The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill," [note the verb tense there, Post-Gazette] a couple songs in - right when I was at the bar trying to get a drink. Then, he started asking, "Anything you want to hear?"; "Any requests?" A couple times I yelled "Now That You Know Me" from Intolerance, but when that went unheeded, I yelled "Keep Hanging On" which I still find to be one of the most inspirational punk songs ever (if you've heard the version on Flip Your Wig you know why). His delivery last night wasn't as frantic as in the original, but it still got me feeling a tad ferklempt.
Other highlights included "Terms of Psychic Warfare," "2541" and one newer, almost torch song number, during which he stopped and asked a loud talker, "Am I interrupting anything?" After that one, he asked us, "Ok, who paid $16 to get in here tonight?" Silence. "Who paid $24?" Silence. "Who paid $32?" Silence. "OK, well let's have a little respect for the people who paid $8." He added some subtle-but-cutting comment about how it's always the hipsters who disrupt things. Whoever had been talking then shut-up.
Afterwards we were talking to him a little and without any prodding, he started trashing Bob Mould. I don't think it's telling tales out of school to mention this because he wasn't revealing any big secrets, and besides Bob's no angel. Some guy talking to him said it sounded like there'd be no Husker Du reunion and I wanted to smack him and say, "DUH!" That band fueled mostly by aggression anyway and the hostility that exists between the two of them wouldn't be a good way to run a band now anyway. Grant just said that it would be a shell of what it once was.
I asked him how it came together that he and Bob played a benefit for the late bass player of Soul Asylum. He said Bob called him about it and used it as a way to one-up Paul Westerberg, who also played the show. Notice he just kind of skipped over "Bob called me" to get to a rant about Westerberg. What was the call like? What was it like going onstage? Was it fun? At all?
By that time, I figured I needed to go home anyhow, so I left it at that. If I get to interview him when he comes through next time (he has an album coming out), maybe I'll follow up with him about it.


Frog said...

Hey, good text. Here are bootlegs of the two shows...


Grant Hart

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