God Street Wine Coast to Coast with Aaron Maxwell and Lo Faber
Isaac: You got some shows in the books for August and you did some in 2010. I’m just wondering how that decision came about to start playing shows again and what those conversations were like.
Lo: I’ll tell you exactly how it came about. It came about in ’09. It was really a tragic thing that brought it about. There was a guy named Paul Ducharme and when we started out in the late 80s, early 90s, Paul was sort of singlehandedly the reason we were able to built a following. Paul was the proselytizer for the band. He was this little sort of surfer and skateboard guy who we used to drive around to Grateful Dead shows in this beat up old VW Fox and he was the pied piper. He would bring dozens of kids from all over New Jersey, introducing them to the world to live music. He was at every show and he taped every show. He was totally crazy and from time to time, he would have a big hissy fit and get mad at us for something and stop seeing us for three weeks and then go back to we were the greatest band that ever lived and so on. In the years since GSW broke up, we had all sort of lost touch with Paul.
Long story short, Paul died very tragically and accidentally in the spring of 2009. And even though at that point, the guys in the band, we hadn’t really seen much of each other for eight or nine years at that point, we just kind of knew we would all have to get together and play for Paul’s memorial service which we did which was a very nice occasion and then we sort of played outdoors in the park with about a hundred of ours and Paul’s close friends. We all flew to do this with no notice and no rehearsal. That night, we played, they set up beer for us in the basement of a neighbor’s house and we played till about four in the morning.
It was an amazing experience and of course a very sad experience because of the reason that we were all there. And adding even more to the intensity of all this was the fact that in the months before he died, Paul had been posting on Facebook, “God Street Wine needs to get back together.” And of course we were like, “oh yeah Paul, right sure, whatever,” but then when you suddenly die, things like that start to get taken very seriously. So that really led to thinking, “god, it’s really fun to play and there are people out there who still remember our stuff and so let’s really do some gigs for the public in 2010.” It also came about that our former tour manager, Michael Weiss, has multiple sclerosis and he’s very active with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society so we did those gigs as a benefit for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and they were very successful. It was really a great experience for everybody. No one should have the impression that we’re sort of back doing this full time because it’s still a very much once in a great while thing. As long as there are people who are willing to come out and see us, we’ll try and get together every so often.
Isaac: What about the prospects for new original songs?
Lo: You know, we sort of flirted with that idea. I have some new material. I guess it was sort of a close thing but I guess we decided not to do it this time around. On the other hand, we have some very old material that is so obscure that many of our audiences have never heard of it. We’ll pull a lot of that stuff out too. We won’t just play the greatest hits that are on our albums and stuff.
Isaac: And you’ve really had a successful and busy academic career. You’ve been in school. Has it been weird to come back to the idea of playing gigs after that or has it been natural?
Lo: Yeah in the first four years of working on my PHD, I barely had time to pick up a guitar. I was perfectly happy with that to be honest with you. I was very wrapped up in the academic setting. There was one time when moe. was playing in New Jersey, this was ’06 or ’07 I think, and Al had tendonitis or something and so they were inviting guest guitar players. So I played a show with moe. and that was really great fun. Little things like that. I sat in with a bunch of other bands, I played a few solo shows during that period. For the most part, I was full time on my research and writing and some teaching as well. It is hard to get back into it. I am very much a perfectionist about my playing so I have to practice an hour a day at least just to get my hands feeling like I’m good enough to be seen in public.
Isaac: So you have this date at Bob Weir’s TRI Studio…
Lo: That’s a really cool thing. Although I haven’t been there in person yet, I’ve checked out all the pictures and it looks just awesome. It’s like state of the art recording system, state of the art Internet connection and broadcast facilities and each musician gets to have an iPad at their station with their own monitor mix software set up on an iPad. We have a very special plan for this broadcast also. I don’t know if I am allowed to tell you.
Isaac: Have you stayed a part of the jam scene during the hiatus?
Lo: I haven’t been as involved with it as I ought to be which is really a shame because when I do see bands, I think they’re really awesome. When I sat in with moe., that was the first time I had seen them probably since when they opened for us like fifteen years ago or something. And Phish, I love Phish, and we have the Princeton connection as well. I’ve only seen Phish three times in my life. I’ve only seen the Grateful Dead three times in my life as well. I’ve never been a very much “go out to see music” kind of person, one reason is because I’m short and I always end up standing behind someone who is six foot eight and looking at their back. I just don’t have time honestly. I love to play so much and if I’m an audience member at a great show, all it does is frustrates me. It’s like “I wish I could be up there playing,” or “I just wanna go home and write a song because I’m so inspired by this.” I can never just sit back and enjoy the show. It seems like the jamband scene has really taken off since when we were doing it. It was really kind of marginal when GSW was together back in the nineties. There was the H.O.R.D.E. tour and that did pretty well but it never grew to the same scale it has now. There was no such thing as Bonnaroo. That’s huge.
Isaac: In the time you’ve been away, have you been surprised by the way things have evolved?
Lo: I think there’s no question that social media and streaming and downloading and all those basically technological changes over the last twenty years have made a huge difference in bands’ abilities to reach niche audiences and specialized audiences that really care about them. When we were together in the nineties, we were really ahead of the curve on technology and we could see where it was going. None of this is a surprise. It was frustrating that it wasn’t happening fast enough. In the nineties, it was still the World Wide Web and everyone had a dial up connection and if you wanted to have video, it took 45 minutes to load. We were really psyched for all of these developments to happen but they didn’t really happen in a way that made much difference to us before we broke up in ’99. It is awesome. It’s a great time to be a music fan. There are so many ways to connect with bands and find new music.
Isaac: It has gotten huge.
Lo: It seems like the Dead and Phish are still the big anchors of the scene but there’s room for hundreds of other bands and genres. It’s definitely not one monolithic thing.