Thursday, November 11, 2010

Triple Gang - This Nation's Saving Grace (Cover Version)

In the summer of 2000, a short-lived pickup band composed of national and local recording artists residing in the Bay Area played two shows three weeks apart at small venues in San Francisco. Normally, events like this happen all the time in cities around the globe, and are little noticed nor long remembered, even by the participants and attendees. What made this particular pair of concerts so memorable was that the band, Triple Gang, decided that instead of playing a set full of hoary rock chestnuts, they would challenge themselves and their audience by mastering and covering, in its entirety, The Fall's 1988 magnum opus, This Nation's Saving Grace.

This Nation's Saving Grace is one of my favorite Fall albums, a release from the band's heady mid-80s period, when they could do no wrong (at least as far as their fans were concerned) and pumped out classic album after classic album: Hex Enduction Hour, The Wonderful & Frightening World Of The Fall, Bend Sinister. TNSG is the apex of the band's output during that time, but it's also one of their densest and most challenging recordings, sonically and lyrically. It's very much a product of Mark E. Smith, The Fall's founding member, lead singer and quasi-dictator, and as such, one would think that it would be pure hubris and/or insanity for any band other than The Fall to cover it.

And yet, that's just what Triple Gang set out to do.

Triple Gang was composed of: Matt Jervis, the ex-lead singer for local S.F. band Kingdom First; Billy Gould, the former bassist for Faith No More; Alex Newport, who used to play guitar for Fudge Tunnel; drummer Jon Weiss, formerly of Horsey; and keyboardist Miya Osaki. The two shows they played that summer were at Kimo's that July 14th and at the Covered Wagon on August 3rd (both venues still exist, and still showcase local music almost nightly).

I can't remember how I heard about these shows. I was living in Texas at the time, and as such had no chance of getting out to San Francisco to see these events - would have loved to have attended, though. I probably got wind of them through the Fallnet message boards active back then.

The SF Weekly ran a long article about Triple Gang and this project in an issue released prior to the first show - here's the link, in case you're interested.

These two shows were the only performances ever conducted by this band lineup. Immediately afterwards, Triple Gang broke up, and the band members moved on to over things. Jervis currently lives in Berkeley, doing illustrations and producing the occasional concert poster. Weiss and Gould are currently collaborating with Jello Biafra on one of the latter's latest projects, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine. Newport owns a recording studio in New York and is an in-demand producer, working with such names as Death Cab For Cutie and Japan's Polysics. And Osaki has worked with a number of small Bay Area and L.A. indie bands.

The Triple Gang shows were never officially recorded for release. But fortunately, someone had the foresight to tape one of these events for posterity (specifically, the first show, at Kimo's), and as fortune would have it, I obtained a copy of the bootleg. But for a bootleg, the sound quality is actually pretty good.

I suspect that the audience for this posting will be extremely limited to folks with knowledge of/nostalgia for the old Bay Area music scene, as well as hardcore Fall fans interested in a different take on a classic Fall album. If you count yourself a member of one of these groups, well, here you go - enjoy. As always, let me know what you think:

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  1. Thanks, Linda! It's nice (and rather humbling) to see that I was sort of missed . . . Thanks for not giving up on me or this blog!

  2. Regarding the poll: where's Joni Mitchell (my vote), Robbie Robertson, Bruce Cockburn, Jane Siberry, etc, etc?

  3. I know, I know . . . I left off a ton of musicians who could have been on the list. I don't know how I missed Joni Mitchell: I thought sure I'd pur her on there, until I looked again - my bad. As for the others . . . some of them are sort of unknown to the vast majority of visitors here (I'm sure I'm like one of the few here who can name Robbie Robertson's or Bruce Cockburn's biggest U.S. hits ("Somewhere Down The Crazy River" and "Wondering Where The Lions Are", for those of you keeping score)). I tried to put a good mix of folks in the poll, but knew I would leave plenty of people out (hence, the "Other" box). Thanks for voting though!

  4. Cheers for the share!

    As a Fall fan who has always admired Billy Gould's bassism, the show was an interesting listen. The songs are more up tempo, somewhat "harder core" (check out "Couldn't Get Ahead" for an example) and definitely more American (or S.F.) sounding than The Fall originals. Sounds like the band and the audience were having a good time. Definitely worth a listen.

    Thanks again.