Monday, May 28, 2012


photo credit: Maria Ives 

You can’t call Brad a “side-project” anymore, they’ve been around for almost 20 years.  They’re a band… a funky band and a great one. Singer/multi-instrumentalist Shawn Smith, drummer Regan Hagar and guitarist Stone Gossard have been together for a long time, and they play like it (even though there are sometimes long breaks between albums).  They now feature bassist Keith Lowe and are often accompanied by multi-instrumentalist/singer Happy Chichester

When Brad first came out, Pearl Jam were the biggest, hottest band in the world, and I guess it was annoying to Stone and the other guys that people were showing up to their gigs hoping to hear Pearl Jam. That has, thankfully, faded.  And maintaining that they are their own thing has definitely paid off.  While Shawn Smith is the focal point of the group (he’s one of the greatest singers around), people go to see the band.  Everyone has their favorite songs, and favorite periods. I know: they skipped some of my favorite tunes! 

They opened with “Waters Deep,” a song that they gave away for free on their website, and went into a set that drew from their five album catalog.  For me, the highlight was “Every Whisper,” from their last album, Best Friends? (I wish they’d played “Bless Me Father” from that album as well, but I was lucky enough to film them performing it a few years ago). Two other highlights were their most rocking songs from their second album, Interiors, “Secret Girl” and “Sweet Al George.”

Photo Credit: Maria Ives 
But their most popular album is still their debut, Shame (indeed, when I posted to my Facebook page that I was at a Brad show, a friend immediately commented that Shame is one of her favorite albums ever).  I was totally stoked that they drew heavily from it towards the end of the show, playing “20th Century,” “Buttercup” and “Screen.”

There were some great covers also: Shawn sat at the keyboard by himself for a solo segment, where he played Mother Love Bone’s “Crown Of Thorns,” and Prince’s “Purple Rain.”*  That was incredible, and a good reminder that Shawn has his own solo career, which is worth following as well.   As a band, they performed Neil Young’s amazing “Don’t Cry” (from his Freedom album).

photo credit: Maria Ives 
I don’t know what it takes to keep Brad on the road. I'm sure there's lots of scheduling issues involved, and I know it's not cheap to get them out there.  I know last time they toured they got a break when Band Of Horses offered them an opening spot (I’d have to think that they’d blow them away nightly). So, here’s hoping they get the break they need, because twenty years in, more people need to see this incredible band. I know they're reissuing their catalog this year, so it's the perfect time for people who have been missing out to get into this band.  Trust me, you'll dig it! 

*In a funny sidenote, I once filmed an interview with champion surfer Kelly Slater guest DJ-ing on Pearl Jam Radio, where he described going to see Brad and Shawn performing “ a couple of Prince songs.”   I tweeted the video once, and Shawn tweeted back at me that he only played one – “Purple Rain” – but he was flattered that Slater thought the rest of the songs were by Prince.  

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