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By Jessica Letkemann

All of the Brad, Stone Gossard, Stachel, not to mention Pearl Jam fans over in Australia must be overjoyed at the news that Brad and Pearl Jam will be playing down under at the start of the new year. Once Brad finishes it's three week run all over Australia and New Zealand, Stone rejoins Pearl Jam and does it all again come February.


No one can say that Stone hasn't been having a good time playing with Brad over the course of the last year. Recorded last December, Brad's second album, Interiors, made it into the eager hands of Brad's small but ardent fan base in June and then, much to the surprise of anyone who'd never thought they'd see Stone play in a place with a capacity any smaller than, say, several thousand, Brad went on tour in 500 to 1,000 person clubs across the United States and Canada at the begining of July. I managed to see them on June 15th at New York's Supper Club. I got there not long before the opening act, Verbow, came on stage and as I walked in I passed Shawn Smith casually standing out on the sidewalk talking to Brad's tour manager. Since then, I've heard from many many people across the country who encountered similar things. In fact, the Brad tour this summer was the forum for countless friendly, casual encounters between the members of Brad and their fans. Considering how different the environment is at a Pearl Jam show, that was certainly a very pleasant surprise.

Once inside, I saw several other Pearl Jam fans already gathered as well as a number of Satchel fans and even some Jeremy Toback fans (though Jeremy wasn't around for the tour). During the course of the show it was really cool how everyone (the audience and the band) seemed so happy to be there. I went to see Three Fish last year at a similarly small show and though I was sure no one was stupid enough to do it, one idiot yelled "where's Eddie?" This Brad show was a long ways from that insensitivity. No one asked for Pearl Jam songs or were at all dissapointed in the souldful, funky music that Brad plays. Most of the audience seemed well acquainted with either Shame or Interiors, or both, not to mention the number of people mouthing the words to the Satchel songs they played.
Shawn was rocking his feather-boa draped keyboard and Regan was sitting back and hammering hapily and expertly away at his kit. Mike Berg, Satchel's bassist who was filling in for Jeremy Toback, was posted at stage right nailing the basslines, and Stone was marching around and snapping his neck in his trademark way as they all jammed through great stuff from Interiors like "Lift," Secret Girl," and especially the first single "The Day Brings" as well as staples from Shame like "Buttercup" and "Screen." It didn't have to wait long before they played the song I was most hoping they'd play, "20th Century."

From the very first time I heard Shame, I wondered just how Stone played the riff on that song. It was sort of a finger-twisting double triplet riff that sounded like it required him to stretch his fingers to cover several notes spanning like six frets or something in less than ten seconds. He couldn't possibly being playing it straight through. I certainly believe that he's an amazing guitar player, but anyone's fingers would get exhausted after playing that a couple of times through. Now I was standing there at the Supper Club and they were playing this song, and there was Stone, marching around at stage left tackling his fret board mouthing along to the notes he was hitting and all through that gorgeous song, all six minutes of it. Stone didn't even shake his hands or crack his knuckles over, they just went on into the next song, "Nadine," another, more brooding one from Shame.

I can admit that Iam not that familiar with Satchel's music. I saw them once back in late '94 at a place much bigger than the Supper Club and all I can remember is that there was a guy named Shawn with a beautiful falsetto and some major skills on the piano. It was cool to get a strong dose of Satchel mixed in with the Brad at the Supper Club. They played more than a handful of Shawn's slow-buring Satchel piano ballads. But lest anyone get to used to what their set might contain, the all too short evening ended with, if you can believe it, a Van Halen song called "Unchained."
Ultimately the Van Halen song wasn't the weirdest thing that night happened that night. I was standing down front and center that night and at some point I looked up to see who was in the balcony and saw a wierd looking guy I was trying to convince myself did not look like Marilyn Manson. The next day, not only did the local radio station, K-Rock, mention that Manson had been there, but they got a little soundbyte of him saying something about Brad.

Brad surprised me again towards the very end of the summer when it was announced that they were touring the country again. They came back to New York and played Tramps on October 13. On my way over there after work that night (I work a few blocks from there), I couldn't help but think that back in April of 1995 I'd seen Eddie play with Hovercraft and Mike Watt at the same place. This Brad show was even better than the Supper Club. The people there seemed either to be hard core Satchel or Brad fans with a few Pearl Jam fans sprinkled through out the crowd. Shawn, Stone, Regan, and Mike were having an asolutely great time, laughing and making little jokes with each other, charging into each song giddily. I didn't manage to write down the set list, but I do remember that they played a stellar version of "The Day Brings" and also that everyone in the play was yelling their approval when they headed into "Buttercup." Shawn was singing with all of his voice hitting his highest high note and slamming into his keyboard. Stone had a smile plastered across his face the whole time. He marched around and sang every riff turning back around to Regan every so often to trade knowing glances. Just looking at the two of them interact on stage it's not hard to picture how close their friendship is and how much fun they must have running Loosegroove. During the course of the show, they did another great version of "20th Century," Stone grinning and ripping into his intricate riff with masterful aplomb. In fact Stone was amazing that night.

I really think that the reason I can't remember what exactly they played that night is because they were playing a ton of new material. It sounded intended for Brad, it was more on the funky-rock side where Satchel is generally more comtemplative ballads. These new songs were along the lines of Brad's catchiest, most rocking a'la "Lift" and "Those Three Words" and most notably Stone was all over them playing tricky, irressitible little riffs thatevolved slowly throughout the song so that he was never playing the same thing twice. By the time the hole in the song where the solo goes came, Stone stepped up and peeled out finger acrobatics that I don't think I knew he was capable of. As clichéd as it sounds, I wouldn't have been surprised if smoke started wafting from his hands. I love a good guitar solo, but the several he played in the ocurse of those new songs were different than most I've heard. They were technically great, rocked, he made them look easy, sure, but the rhythmic element to them was tangibly unfamiliar, magnetic. He managed to be funky, to rock, and to somehow incorporate the rhythm of hip-hop all on his one instrument. A vein in the center of his head bulged out, his fingers, flew, he was smiling. It was pure visceral and sonic ambrosia.

Again, the weird part of the night came at the end. When they came back out for their encore, at first Shawn came out alone and sang Prince's "Purple Rain" accompanying himself on the piano. Then the rest of the band joined him, but Stone exchanged bemused glances with his bandmates and stopped short at stage right and strapped on a bass this time. They played, are you ready?, Elton John's "Benny and the Jets." They made it sound so good. Turns out that Mike Berg is a good guitarist and that Stone is a proficient bassist. They all thumped along amiably through the song, almost unable to stop themselves from laughing. Then they left. No one seemed ready to go home.
copyright 1997 Tickle My Nausea / J. Letkemann