Saturday, August 20, 2005

Version 1: The San Francisco Line-Ups

There were essentially 4 different versions of the Experience, each one spanning a distinct period in the history of the group. There was the San Francisco version, the Rochester version pre-UK tour, the Rochester touring period and then the post-touring period.
The SF version began with Chuck, Kevin, Gene Tighe and me. Gene Tighe traveled out west us ostensibly to play bass. He had been a member of the original Water Street Boys, Oswego’s first official jugband that also included Chuck, Scott “Kid” Regan, Dirty Jim Sherpa, and Rush Tattered.
Gene had never played bass put he possessed a voice that sent chills down the spine. Chuck, in true 70’s punk fashion, thought Gene would simply learn the bass once we arrived out west. Trouble was, Gene had absolutely no instinct for the bass. His approach was like that of his guitar with the WSBs: he would lock his fingers in a pentatonic scale pattern and just start wandering up and down.
In all fairness, Gene’s heart was not in it. Gene had loved playing with the Water St. boys and he loved playing jugband music in general. He had traveled to New Orleans dozens of times, crashing in pad above the original Tipitina’s and playing on the streets with other jugband musicians. As of this writing, the Water Street Boys still play from time to time and Gene is still providing his Sam Cooke-style tenor and his wandering acoustic lead guitar.
He and I lived together in a house on Potrero Hill for a very brief time during which he booked to New Orleans for the Mardi Gras and remained out-of-touch for a couple of months. By the time he returned to SF, he had been replaced with Oswego native and a high school pal of mine, Thad Iorizzo.
Thaddeus was and is a completely original character and one of the few people capable of pissing you off and leaving you in stitches at the same time. He deserves and will receive his own chapter.
After Thad left the band for the 2nd time, he was replaced by another Oswego native, Danny O’Donnell. Danny stayed with the band until our Upstate New York tour in August of 1982, whereupon he decided to stay east while the group returned to SF.
The final San Francisco version included Dave Fisher on bass and a wild pot-head ‘bone player from Keuka, Iowa named Scott Young. This was the line-up that recorded “Why’d the Boy Throw the Clock Out the Window?” at Peter Miller’s studio. On that recording, the band was also joined by Peter Strauss on alto saxophone. Peter played with the band only for a few months but was present at the legendary Banaan Street Art Gallery gig on March 24th, 1984.
In later years, Chuck referred to the gig often when speaking about genesis of the sound and vibe of the Rochester version. The band included horn players, as he always wanted, and the audience was filled with local artists, poets and kooks who did not display the customary arms-folded stone-faced “prove-yourself” look that we had come to expect with SF club-goers. The people paid attention to the words and the songs and responded with smiles, laughs and dancing. It was really the only gig in SF that felt even remotely like a White Caps gig.

1 comment:

Michael said...

I wish I could say that the typical SF club-goer has changed in the intervening 20 years, but he hasn't. I have more or less resigned myself to it now, but I remember in my early months here being deeply dismayed and distressed by the sight of young club-goers who--I thought--should be ENJOYING the music and MOVING...or something--even booing or heckling would have been some kind of lively and valid response, but instead I've seen really stand-out performances greeted by mannequin-like stand-offishness. I don't understand what that is. I know I'm an unwholesome music freak and a dyed-in-the-wool romantic, but even your more pedestrian garden-variety citizen should be able to manage a little more enthusiasm than I've seen out here...one of a very small handful of disappointments with my adopted home.