BRAD at the World Cafe, Philadelphia, May 21, 2012

Posted: May 22, 2012 in My Seattle-Related Concert Experiences

Who is BRAD?

You could list BRAD under the “another Seattle side project” category, but this band is deeper than that.  Consisting of Malfunkshun’s Regan Hagar on drums, Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard on guitar, singer Shawn Smith, bassist Keith Lowe, and guitarist Happy Chichester, BRAD embraces the eclectic.

This band, I think, embodies what I call the “Spirit of ’88,” a moment in time when Seattle’s music scene had reached creative maturity before the commercial frenzy obliterated it.  At that point, everyone was in more than one band, whether you’re talking about Soundgarden’s Matt Cameron moonlighting in Couch of Sound; Skin Yard’s Jack Endino playing drums in Crypt Kicker 5; or Mudhoney’s Mark Arm forming parody side projects like the Wasted Landlords and Beergarden.  Northwest musicians are kind of antsy, and I mean that in a good way.  Stone could rest on his Pearl Jam laurels and call it a day, but he has a need to stretch his chops, to explore more of the musical spectrum…hence why he has recently played gigs with Green River, Barbara Ireland of the Fags, and others.

So what about this band?  I downloaded six BRAD songs for the train ride down to the World Cafe in West Philadelphia.  That would be the first six BRAD songs I’ve heard.  And I enjoyed them.  A lot.  Their early stuff sounds almost jam-bandish…and worked perfectly as a soundtrack for my trip.

I met my friend Joe at 30th Street Station after somehow missing the train he was on…(don’t ask, I have a train disability.)  We walked over to the World Cafe and had a beer before the opening act took the stage.  If you’ve never been to this venue, it’s kind of like “rock for adults.”  You can sit at a table, have a meal and a drink, watch the show, and then go home to your family and your job.  So, no moshing, crowd surfing, or fist-fighting with drunk patrons…which is cool with me.  To paraphrase Sergeant Hulka: “I’m getting too old for that shit.”

We chatted with a couple people sitting near us, both huge Pearl Jam fans.  I mentioned this show would be the second time I’d seen Stone play, but I’d never been to a PJ show. “What?!” they said in disbelief.  (I almost made it to a PJ show a few years back, but that’s a boring story for another time.)

Soon the opening act, Happy Chichester, took the stage.  Happy, according to a patron sitting across from us, previously played the role of BRAD roadie.  He came out alone and parked himself behind the keyboard.  You might figure that’d be boring.  (Game show buzzer.)  Think of a voice that sounds like a cross between Randy Newman and Howlin’ Wolf.  BRAD came on about 15 minutes after Happy finished his set, the keyboard player now taking on second guitarist duties.

BRAD soared through their various song structures, some of them ballad-oriented with Shawn on piano, some raucously Pearl Jam-ish with Stone blowing out jagged bluesy riffs, and some more in the jam band vein, with Keith kind of setting the tempo, playing a walking bass line in bare feet.  After the band completed its set, we of course demanded an encore.  Shawn came out alone initially, sat behind the keyboard and played Mother Love Bone’s “Crown of Thorns” for us.  The rest of BRAD soon followed, playing a rocking encore set.

Joe and I were blown away by how good these guys were…and by their variety of material.  I will dig into their catalog, especially the more riff-driven songs.

Pics to follow.

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