Friday, June 11, 2010
For a few hours on a cool weeknight in early June it sort of felt like the mid to late 90's again at the newly re-opened Grape Room (nee Grape St. Pub) in Manayunk. It was my first trip to this landmark club in many years. Since I last was there, it had moved to more a elaborate Main St location where it thrived and then fizzled out, closed for good, and then reopened as the new Grape Room back at its original location on Grape St. earlier in 2010. The reason for my attendance was a short notice Huffamoose reunion show, since singer/guitarist Craig Elkins was in town visiting from his new home in Los Angeles for a few weeks.
The club looks largely the same as the last time I was there with the bottom floor a perfect intimate venue for 300 or so people. Former Stargazer Lily drummer Scooter bought the club, and they are kicking it old school with original live music almost every night of the week, with many new local artists and older faves from the 90's and early 00's.
Like for instance, Ben Arnold, who opened the show. I've seen Arnold play countless times over the years, usually sharing a bill with Huffamoose. And maybe my memory is clouded by time and a haze of alcohol, but I think this was one the best sets of his I've ever seen. Arnold and his band delivered about an hour's worth of twangy and bluesy rock tunes, recalling other local fave, Marah. While Huffamoose was setting up to play, Radiohead's The Bends played on the sound system, just adding to the nostalgic feeling of the mid to late 90's.
Huffamoose sounded great during their roughly 80 minute set, almost like they never broke up and stopped playing together for nearly 10 years. Maybe I'm reading too much into things, but the setlist seemed carefully chosen and not just thrown together for a quick reunion. I imagine quite of few of these songs required some additional rehearsals to pull off live after so long. Sure, the usual obligatory crowd favorites were in there like their minor hit "Wait", along with "She Don't Get It", "Buy You a Ring", and "James." But they also resurrected "Delusion" from their self-titled 1995 debut album, playing it live for the first time since 1993. And "Take You With", the one song from We've Been Had Again that I had never heard them ever play live before, made it into the setlist.
And they included 3 unreleased rarities in the set, 2 of which (I will call "1000 Hours" and "On Purpose Fellas" based on the lyrics in the song) were as familiar as many of their album tracks to fans who saw them play live frequently in the late 90's. Other song selections like "Beautiful Town" seemed purposeful for a reunion show in their hometown. "Snapshot Family" seems as if it could have been written by the band now, reflecting on their turbulent rise and fall in the late 90's during that era of record company mergers, downsizing, and reorganization which of course was followed by the advent of downloading which had an even more radical effect on the industry.
Present day 2010 intruded a little on the reunion vibe a few times. When Elkins introduced the band late in the set he made a joke thanking guitarist Kevin Hanson and bassist Jim Stager "of the Fractals" for helping them out tonight. And a few other times they plugged the new Fractals album that was just released in May. But it served as more of a reminder of what the band has accomplished and where they are heading now. Even if it turns out to be just a one-off gig, as it appears, for at least one night Huffamoose recaptured some of their past magic and reminded everyone why they were such an important band in their heyday.
Setlist (as best as I can remember):
1. Beautiful Town
2. 1000 Hours (unreleased)
4. She Don't Get It
6. Take You With
8. We've Been Had Again
10. Speeding Bullet
11. Snapshot Family
12. Buy You a Ring
14. Like a Weed (with Led Zeppelin's "Nobody's Fault But Mine" as an interlude I think...I'm bad remembering Zeppelin titles)
15. On Purpose Fellas (unreleased)
16. Sweet Thing? Yes Man? (old rarity I couldn't recall)