Review of Eric Gaffney live at Café Du Nord

CD Release Party for Eric Gaffney
The guy who started Sebadoh
"Uncharted Waters"
October 4th, 2006

Listening to Sir Eric Gaffney playing guitar was like being in a room with Chuck Prophet, Billy Zoom, Frank Black, D. Boon, Jimmy Hendrix, Paul Weller, Steven Stills, Mark Mothersbaugh, Kurt Cobain, Thurston Moore, John Fahey, Billy Bragg, David Bowie, Roger Daltrey and Richard Buckner all at once, but better. Rumor has it that he was originally set to play with Mike Watt, but Watt had to go to Europe. Instead he turned up with Richard Marshall (Alice Donut, Heavy Hindenberg), and Jesse Parsons (Tuff School), who backed him solidly as "Fields of Gaffney."

The low turnout for the CD release party was disheartening. I know there are numerous dedicated fans of Gaffney’s songwriting, melodious finger picking, pretty voice, and unique ability to change rhythms and tunings in the middle of a song, here in what he referred to as "deafeningly dark" SF. The way Eric employs spacey pedal effects, sudden, cleanly rendered starts and stops, alternate tunings, harmonics and downright weird changes seem to come from a place of not-too-serious, playful improvisation, with a twisted humor and wry sarcastic, yet somehow sincere, or at least knowing, charm, backed by years of hubris tempered by humbling experiences. Gaffney was playing minor grungy chords in lo-fi before grunge ever hit in Seattle. He rides the melodic punk turning into masterful feedback herding, roots of Sonic Youthiness like new shoes on wet pavement. Oh, and his flamboyant Judie Garlandish hair-shaking stage presence mocks anyone who takes it all too seriously. By the way, he said it was his last show in SF. I’m not sure if that means it was his last show with this band, or his last show in the area for a while, or if he’s just saying so, so we’ll really have to beg. I think what he really means is that this is his last show with his bandmates in their current incarnation, "Fields of Gaffney."

Gaffney played like the place was packed, even though the floor was sparsely populated. There were only a few dozen attendees, and we managed to snag the side stage bar stools without reservations, which never happens at Café du Nord.

I made the mistake of requesting (during the special requests part of the show) a song off of Sebadoh’s "Harmacy", later learning that he had already left Sebadoh by the time "Harmacy" was born. "Following 1993's Sebadoh - Bubble and Scrape, however, Gaffney left the band. His replacement, Bob Fay, appeared on the band's most acclaimed and consistent effort, 1994's Sebadoh - Bakesale, which saw the emergence of the songwriting talents of multi-instrumentalist Jason Loewenstein, and the follow-up Sebadoh - Harmacy in 1996."

My brother literally bought the very first ever sold Eric Gaffney CD at the show. It’s fucking amazing. The Sebadoh III CD he touted is good too.

Eric played a Troggs b-side and a Daniel Johnston piece. He had opened for Daniel Johnston during Noise Pop in 2002. I think I wet myself when he pulled another surprise cover out of his velvety pocket, "Love Locket" by the Ramones. Into the handbag went my earplugs. I finally had the opportunity to pogo dance in the front row (well, let’s call it a front row, really it was a wide open space), and (as I was doing so) the band vociferously noted a "sweet Proustian memory odor" wafting up when I approached the stage. It must have been my new perfume from Spain, Aqua di Parma "Iris".

I’m trying to get a set list of all the songs Eric played last night.

The show scored five loaves of rye from Sister Rye (5/5), profoundly perfect tunes, unexpected cover tunes, inspired dancing by myself, short/tight songs, not too crowded, and with good audience/artist banter between sets.

Sebadoh With Eric Gaffney

* Sebadoh - The Freed Man (1989)
* Sebadoh - Weed Forestin' (1990)
* Sebadoh - The Freed Weed (1990)
* Sebadoh - III (1992)
* Sebadoh - Rocking the Forest (1992)
* Sebadoh - Sebadoh vs. Helmet (1990)
* Sebadoh - Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock (1992)
* Sebadoh - Bubble and Scrape (1993)

Sebadoh Without Eric Gaffney

* Sebadoh - Bakesale (1994)
* Sebadoh - Local Band Feel (Live) (1995)
* Sebadoh - Harmacy (1996)
* Sebadoh - The Sebadoh (1999)

[quote and discography from Last.fm Music Wiki]


Anonymous said...

I was one of the few, proud attendees of the show as well. Never seen Eric before and liked what I saw, but had to leave a bit early to head back to the East Bay.

He did Bouquet For A Siren, which made me very happy :)


- Alex

Solomon Grundy said...

Yeah, that incarnation of the band just played in NYC and were excellent...

Michelle said...

Just in case you haven't heard:
Feb. 28th - Sebadoh in their original line-up at GAMH.