The Grift
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The Grift

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"The Grift - 08.09.09 - Nectar's"

Words by: Jeff Sampson

The Grift :: 08.09.08 :: Nectar's :: Burlington, VT

Vermont's own jam titans The Grift returned to the hallowed grounds of Nectar's, the venerable Burlington club of Phish fame and the site of The Grift's popular own Live at Nectar's release. Taking the stage at midnight for a long set characterized by their trademark high-energy, turn-on-a-dime musicianship and shimmering layers of vocal harmonies, the local boys wowed the crowd.

Opening with "Bloom," from 2004's Life Beyond Aluminum, bassist Peter Day surveyed the room with a smile as he called down some sonorous thunder while drummer Jeff Vallone clipped off an angular rhythmic figure, which was in turn neatly mirrored by a distorted run from guitarist Clint Bierman. Before they even sidled into the first verse, "She moves me through the room chasing shadows away," the floor was packed shoulder to shoulder with dancers. This piece features some rather sophisticated changes in style and tempo. Organ tones from keyboardist Ryan Erskine that began with an almost Doors-like feel evolved to a delightfully choppy, growling '70s Philly funk sound with Day offering giant rubber band bass riffs and Bierman eliciting a progressively nastier tone as he picked some blistering runs.

Playing upward of 200 nights a year, The Grift are consummate entertainers, lending their musicianship to the higher service of the song while remaining adept at harnessing the energy of the crowd. The tune "Gettin' Some" about, well, getting some, is humorous on the face, a would-be pop confection replete with finger-popping bass, but brought to a delicious element of barbeque joint sleaze by Erskine's deeply funky organ, who plays with a refreshingly natural looseness that is not unlike fellow Vermonter Ray Paczkowski (Trey Anastasio Band).

"Too Bad" was darker in lyrical tone, featuring some impassioned vocal interplay between Day and Bierman, as well as some extended soloing from Bierman, who favors a deep, slightly dirty tone with massive sustain. Considering the maturity he displays, it is not surprising to learn that Bierman started his musical tutelage at the age of three (on piano). It is particularly satisfying to see a guitarist with the requisite monster chops take the time to develop a dynamically balanced solo and not succumb to the inclination to fill every second with sound. Additionally, his technique with regard to pedal effects is so discrete that entirely new tones are arrived at by what seems a totally organic means. That, and the guy can shred.

"Check One," an absolute romp infused with a tight hip-hop rhyme scheme and vocal flow, has more hooks than the local Lake Champlain pro fishing tournament and is such a signature Grift piece that many a hip bumper in New England was festooned with a sticker that simply asked, "Check One?" To give an idea of this song's popularity, I heard more than one person scream for it this particular evening literally hours after they had played it.

Taking it down to an easy simmer, "Come a Long Way" is a classic reggae number with a strong message of struggle, hope and pride. The Grift were actually the house band in a bar in Negril, Jamaica for a spell, so they know their way around a blackstrap molasses-thick down-tempo anthem. It is hard to imagine Jeff Vallone not behind the kit - he was actually the original bassist - because he displays such a gorgeous supple musicality to his drumming, eminently tasteful here and throughout the entire evening.

More than one lovely reveler swooned at "Stay With Me," a sumptuous new song penned by Peter Day about the joys of spending the whole day in bed with a lover. Day won a statewide songwriting competition presented by the Higher Ground last year, and it is not hard to see why. He crafts outstanding lyrics and melodies and works closely with Bierman to map out complex vocal arrangements.

Keeping with the theme of love, longing and sensuality, "Day and Night" allowed Bierman to step forward. A tricky call and response vocal conjured memories of Phish, so redolent in this space and Vermont in general. In fact, both Bierman and Day also play in the trio Honeywell with monster drummer Russ Lawton (Trey Anastasio Band, Strangefolk). You can't toss a stone in this little mountain community without arriving at some connection to the boys who made Nectar's more synonymous with music than gravy fries and the enigmatic and genial former owner, Nectar Rorris.

As they launched into a flawless version of the Allman Brothers band classic "Jessica," a huge wedding party wandered into the main room and neckties suddenly met tie-dyes, big shiny dresses met dreads, the floor heaving with motion. Erskine followed Bierman's classic melody lines with a clean, straight piano solo that was so perfectly delicate and rollicking that you could have closed your eyes and assumed that Chuck Leavell was astride a Steinway nestled in a clear mountain stream.

I think is says something important that many folks I spoke with mentioned the quality of the Grift's vocals and songs first and foremost. Frankly, they simply sing better than pretty much any band toiling under the jam moniker. Really. Add to that precision arrangements and high-end instrumental artistry and one can see why this band is so popular on the East Coast touring circuit and poised for the next step up.

When I left, the wedding party was presiding over an arrangement of shots that would have made a sailor genuinely nervous, accompanied by outcries of "Could you just get us a few more orders of gravy fries, please?" Great music, flowing drinks, and the famous fries are still very much alive in the Queen City. - Jambase.com


"Whatzup, Ft. Wayne, IN"

"There are surprises aplenty with these guys. They have the talent to not only delve into different musical genres, but to pull it off with complete integrity, even authority."
- John DeGroff


"North Shore Sunday - Danvers, MA"

"The Grift is one of those bands that throws everything at you: solid songwriting, radio-ready tunes with big, happy hooks, strong melodies and Beatlesque harmonies and, when the occasion calls for it, pfat jams. ... Indie-minded band is grabbing attention with hooky-heavy tunes, literate lyrics and deft, intriguing arrangements ... The music and writing on "Aluminum," the bands fourth album.... is utterly subversive. The tunes sneak up on you and get under your skin like the black oil from the X-Files. You're humming the tunes before you even know them." - J.C. Lockwood


"Deerfield Scroll - Deerfield, MA"

"Life Beyond Aluminum" is better than a great deal of the alternative rock albums out there. It has clever beats, intelligent lyrics, and the eleven cuts blend together to form an eclectic but coherent album" - Katie Leist


"Seven Days - Burlington, VT"

"Funk rockers, The Grift, from Addison, VT offer fresh faces to the local scene. Road tested with gigs from Colorado to Maine, the group combines long lyrical jams and fiery funk with memorable melodies, creating catchy, booty shaking songs." - Ethan Covey


"The Stowe Reporter - Stowe, VT"

"The live record is a fusion of funky rhythms, whirlwind guitar licks and jazz inflicted drumming. In a word: unique." - Mike Schaefer


Discography

The Grift Live at Nectar's

Personnel
Clint Bierman: vocals, guitar
Peter Day - vocals, bass
Jeff Vallone - vocals, drums
Ryan "Big Time" Erskine - keys

Additional musicians
Russ Lawton: drums (tracks 7 & 8)
Fuzz : guitar (track 4)
Track 11 contains teases from Jay Z and Citizen Cope

© 2007 GlennSource Records

Recorded August 3, 2007 by Jamie Bright
Mixed at Chakra 5 Studios by Jamie Bright and Clint Bierman
Art Direction, front cover photo: Mark Favreau; back cover photo: Brad Pettengill

All Songs by The Grift

Tracks
1. Too Bad
2. Come A Long Way
3. Emily
4. Bloom
5. Block Me In
6. Day and Night
7. Cell Phone
8. Lifetime Guarantee
9. Brown
10. Next Train Out
11. Check One

Life Beyond Aluminum

Personnel
Clint Bierman: vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, piano
Peter Day - vocals, bass, acoustic guitar, trumpet, percussion
Jeff Vallone - vocals, turntables, keyboards,bass, percussion, programming
Neil Matthews - drums, vocals

Additional musicians
Gary Mallaber: conga, tambourine, shaker, string arrangement
Peter Nilsson: piano, organ
Dave Koltai: guitar
Greg Tobler: percussion

© 2004 GlennSource Records
(P) 2004 GlennSource Records

Produced by Gary Mallaber, Greg Tobler, Dave Koltai, and The Grift
Recorded June 2004 at Audio Magic, Buffalo, NY
Engineered by Greg "Tobi-Wan" Tobler
Mixed by Gary Mallaber, Mike Rorick, Greg Tobler
Mastered by David St. Onge at DMS Productions

All Songs by The Grift except Curtain Call by The Grift and Gary Mallaber

Tracks
1. Check One
2. Too Long
3. Bloom
4. In Between Takes
5. Three Minutes and Counting
6. Vegas
7. Aluminum
8. Too Bad
9. Like I Do
10. Day and Night
11. Curtain Call

Live 2003

Personnel
Clint Bierman: Vocals, Guitars
Jeff Vallone: Bass
Neil Matthews: Drums

© 2003 GlennSource Records/Vallonetone Music
(P) 2003 GlennSource Records

Produced by The Grift
Recorded and Mixed by Rian Alfiero
Mastered at Charles Eller Studios, Charlotte, VT

All music by The Grift
All lyrics by The Grift except 1 & 9 with Ryan Tansiel, 2 with Rich Price, 3 with Wil Rothman, 5 with Jared Mackenzie.

Tracks
1. Territory
2. You Say
3. Next Train Out
4. Too Long
5. Welcome to Jonesville
6. Cobalt Blue
7. Day and Night
8. Bloom
9. Bide My Time

Sleeping Policeman

Personnel
Chris Misner: Drums, Percussion
Rian Alfiero: Keyboards, Vocals
Clint Bierman: Vocals, Acoustic and Electric Guitars
Jeff Vallone: Basses, Vocals, Nylon String Guitar
Ben Lively: Acoustic and Electric Violins

Additional Musicians
Pat Knightly: Drums on 1, 3, 9
Sally Van Meter: Dobro on 8
Phoebe Chase: Backing vocals on 7, 15
Liz, Neil, John, Anastacia: Backing vocals on 15
Ryan: Backing vocals on 8

© 2001 GlennSource Records/Vallonetone Music
(P) 2001 GlennSource Records

Produced by Clint Bierman, Rian Alfiero, Jeff Vallone
Coproduced by Ben Lively

Tracks
1. Territory
2. Ambisinister (Barry's Tune)
3. Tranquility Base
4. And Then...
5. Cobalt Blue
6. Tasty
7. What Could Be
8. Bide My Time
9. 25
10. Prelude No. 2
11. Song for Liz
12. All at Once (The Pop Tune)
13. Prelude No. 1
14. East Meets West
15. Oxygen

The Free Disc

© 2002 GlennSource Records/Vallonetone Music
(P) 2002 GlennSource Records

1. One More Drop
2. Over It
3. WRP

We recorded this 3-track disc as a demo and free giveaway disc on 7 July, 2002. This is the first recording with Clint on guitar, Jeff on bass, and Neil on drums. It's now officially a collector's item.

Photos

Bio

The Grift is an independent band from Burlington, VT. Their sound defies easy categorization – one concertgoer described their sound as "post-jam pop-rock rooted in classic rock" – but this much is sure: they are talented musicians with a knack for reading their audience. They can rock, they can groove, and they can charm you with original songs that stick in your head long after the show. Their original songs have radio-friendly hooks, witty lyrics, and tight vocal harmonies. At the root of it all, their musicianship is impeccable. Their live shows are energetic and memorable – it’s not unusual for band members to swap instruments, play two at a time, or for the whole band to perform a brand new song, improvising music and lyrics on the fly. With a deep catalogue of original music that blends rock and pop and jam, and an equally deep catalogue of cover songs from many different genres, The Grift throws their diverse array of musical influences into the oven and cooks up tasty sonic treats for everyone to enjoy.

The Grift has played more than 130 gigs a year since 2003 with 2007 shaping up to be around 165.

The Grift has shared the stage with:

GRACE POTTER
DISPATCH
ZOX
RUSTIC OVERTONES
SEEKING HOMER
LIQUID SOUL
MAX CREEK
BADFISH
THE MOTET
ACOUSTIC JUNCTION
LLOYD BANKS
RUSS LAWTON (TREY ANASTASIO BAND)
FUZZ (DEEP BANANA BLACKOUT)

The Grift has played these Colleges:

University of Hartford (Hartford, CT)
University of Illinois (Champaign, IL)
Depauw University (Greencastle, IN)
Bentley College (Waltham, MA)
Colby-Sawyer College (New London, NH)
Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH)
Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)
Colgate University (Hamilton, NY)
Skidmore College (Saratoga Springs, NY)
St. Lawrence University (Canton, NY)
Green Mountain College (Poultney, VT)
Johnson State College (Johnson, VT
Middlebury College (Middlebury, VT)
St. Michael's College (Colchester, VT)
Lyndon State College (Lyndon, VT)
Castleton State College (Castleton, VT)
University of Vermont (Burlington, VT)
Unity College (Unity, ME)

The Grift has played these Secondary Schools:

Choate Academy (Wallingford, CT)
Loomis Chaffee (Windsor, CT)
Pomfret School (Pomfret, CT)
Canterbury School (Ft. Wayne, IN)
Cushing Academy (Ashburnham, MA)
Deerfield Academy (Deerfield, MA)
Governor Dummer Academy (Byfield, MA)
Groton School (Groton, MA)
Middlesex Academy (Concord, MA)
Milton Academy (Milton, MA)
Miss Hall's School (Pittsfield, MA)
St. Mark's School (Southborough, MA)
Tabor Academy (Marion, MA)
The Waring School (Beverly, MA)
Williston-Northampton (Easthampton, MA)
Camp Belknap (Wolfboro, NH)
Holderness (Plymouth, NH)
Clayton A. Bouton HS (albany, NY)
Christ School (Arden, NC)
St. George's Academy (Newport, RI)
Otter Valley UHS (Brandon, VT)
Gailer School (Middlebury, VT)
Middlebury Union HS (Middlebury, VT)
Vermont Academy (Saxton's River, VT)
Episcopal HS (Alexandria, VA)

The Grift has played these Clubs:

The Pickle Barrel Nightclub (Killington, VT)
Paradise Lounge (Boston, MA)
Tammany Hall, (Worcester, MA)
Sully's Pub (Hartford, CT)
Stone Church Music Hall (Newmarket, NH)
Higher Ground (Burlington, VT)
Nectar's (Burlington, VT)
The Iron Horse (Northampton, MA)
The Middle East (Cambridge, MA)
Harper's Ferry (Boston, MA)
The Boulder Theatre (Boulder, CO)
Wise Fool's Pub (Chicago, IL)
The Trilogy Lounge (Boulder, CO)
The Brandy House (Atlanta, GA)
Eddie's Attic (Atlanta, GA)
Hoghead McDunna's (Chicago, IL)
The Bluebird (Bloomington, IN)
The House of Blues (Cambridge, MA)
T.C.'s Speakeasy (Ann Arbor, MI)
The Barley House (Concord, NH)
The Lucky Dog (Plymouth, NH)
Knitting Factory (NY,NY)
Tribeca Rock Club (NY,NY)
The Mad Frog (Cincinnati, OH)
The Flying Saucer (Columbia, SC)
Main St. Cafe (Lexington, SC)
The Pour House (Charleston, SC)
Boardwalk Cafe (Nashville, TN)
Club Metronome (Burlington, VT)
The Rusty Nail (Stowe, VT)
The Velvet Lounge (Washington, DC)
Whitlow's on Wilson (Arlington, VA)
The Big Easy Saloon (Paoli, PA)
The Perfect Wife (Manchester, VT)
Manchester Bar & Grill (Manchester, VT)
Archie's (Ludlow, VT)
Grizzly's (Stratton Mtn, VT)