spammy jammy.

(It’s been brought to my attention that I got some specifics wrong in this story. Apparently we didn’t go home after the show – we actually stayed in Fairfield at some hotel, using some sort of points or coupon or something. Also, Frank was with us – and he was “grumpy.” But I’m going to leave the post intact as I wrote it – any other changes, feel free to leave comments. I don’t remember this one that well.)

Spam Jam was (seems like maybe it still is) some sort of music festival that happens at Fairfield University in Connecticut.  In 1993, Foostone was asked to play Spam Jam on some beach on a Saturday afternoon, along with (Ralph tells me) a band called Bricks, which featured someone from Superchunk.

I still think that Spent was playing at that show, but Ralph tells me I’m wrong.  Ralph tends to know details about his own band better than me.

Anyway, Rich, Sandy and I drove up to Connecticut that day in the Probe, listening to PJ Harvey’s Dry the whole way up.  Rich had received Dry in the mail (another free record for Indier Than Thou!) and we were listening to it in the car.  I had never heard her before, and was blown away by the drums in “Oh Stella” – I tend to be the kind of person who overplays a song in one sitting, meaning I’ll hear something I like and sit there and listen to it over and over again.  By the time we got to Fairfield Rich and Sandy wanted to kill me.

When we arrived at the beach we hooked up with the Footstone guys almost immediately.  They brought us straight to the keg, and then Ralph pulled me aside.

“I wanted to tell you something,” he said, a somber look on his face.

I was unaccustomed to serious conversations with Ralph.  “What’s up?”

“Guy is leaving the band,” he told me.  Guy was their lead guitar player – in an earlier post I described him as relying too much on the wah-wah, but the reality was that he was really, really good.

“Why?” I asked.

“He’s moving away.”  I think it was Colorado.

I thought about the implications of that for a minute.  At the time, much of Footstone’s sound depended upon Guy’s constant soloing over the body of the song.  I couldn’t imagine another guitar player being able to fit into the band and do what Guy did.

“When is he leaving?” I asked.

“This is our last show with him,” Ralph replied.

“What are you going to do?”

“We’re leaning toward trying to go as a four-piece,” Ralph said.  “I’ll take over on second guitar.”

I didn’t even know Ralph could play guitar.  He was a lead singer; he stood up at the front of the stage and cracked jokes and entertained people, and then he’d grab the mic and sing – at that point I already thought he had one of the best voices I’d heard for their type of music.  But I couldn’t picture him with a guitar.  “I didn’t know you could play guitar,” I said.

“I can’t.”

“You can’t?” I was sort of astonished.  

“Well, a little,” he said.  “We’ll see how it goes.”

Footstone took the stage shortly after that.  They played a few songs from the original demo tape they had sent me, and also played “Polaroid,” from their recent demo (which I posted in an earlier entry).  They played a few new songs I hadn’t heard before.  Ralph said some nice things about Guy, and told everyone that this was Guy’s last show.  He seemed wistful.  The show ended.

Afterwards, I grabbed Mark.  “Nice set.”

“Thanks.”

“I get the feeling you don’t like the songs from the new demo.” I said.  When they played those songs, they seemed bored.

“We hate those songs,” Mark told me.  “We’ve already got a bunch of new stuff that we like better.”

This was starting to be a pattern with Footstone.  They’d write new songs, play them live a few times, and go into the studio to record them.  By the time the new songs were recorded, the band had already begun the pattern again, writing more new songs.  By the time the demo tapes of the new songs were ready, the band had stopped playing the songs live and replaced them with newer songs.

“Where’s Ralph?” I asked.

“He’s really bummed,” Mark said.  “Not sure where he went.”

We hung around for a while and caught another band or two, but it was a hot day and we had a long ride.  The Footstone guys had a lot of friends at the show, so the three of us were just sort of standing around, doing nothing.  We found Mark and Guy, and said goodbye.  We wished Guy luck.

In the car, Rich said “No way they’re going to be together much longer.”

I felt the same way.  Footstone’s music at that point was basically Guy’s guitar solos and Ralph’s voice, set over a decent groove and the occasional crunchy riff.  A lot of their songs were repetitive, though, and a long guitar solo helped mask some of that.  Without the guitar solo, there was a big piece missing.

“What if they found a new guitar player?” I asked.  

“These guys have been together forever,” Rich said.  “They know everything about each other.  They practically think each other’s thoughts.  How do you find a new guitar player and fit him into that?”

We were quiet for a while.

“I’m gonna miss those guys,” I said.  We listened to PJ Harvey some more.

~ by Al on February 8, 2009.

4 Responses to “spammy jammy.”

  1. I think the other band at Spam Jam that year was “Our American Cousin” with John King… who moved on to do Spent.

  2. Man, Ralph and I had a whole thread on Facebook about this show. He said it was a band called Bricks. I could have sworn it was actually Spent that played.

    I really struggled to remember this story. It wasn’t until after the post was made that Sandy told me that we spent that night at a hotel in Fairfield. She also remembered that Frank was with us.

    Two days ago she told me that Dave’s dog died the night before the show, and that he was actually crying during the day.

    All I remembered was generalities, PJ Harvey, Guy’s last show, and Ralph disappearing after your set.

  3. […] Spammy Jammy.  The Fairfield, CT beach concert featuring Footstone, American Standard, and another band that […]

  4. […] Spammy Jammy.  Attending Footstone’s last show with their original guitarist, at an outdoor festival in […]

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