The Grift | 08.09.08 | Vermont

Words by: Jeff Sampson | Images by: Mr. Bloom

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

Clint Bierman - The Grift :: 08.09 :: 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.

Ryan Erskine - The Grift :: 08.09 :: VT
"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.

Peter Day - The Grift :: 08.09 :: VT
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.

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[Published on: 9/9/08]

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lovemusicfood star Tue 9/9/2008 12:13PM
Show -6 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
LuvMuscle777 Tue 9/9/2008 03:39PM
Show -8 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} Wed 9/10/2008 05:28AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

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Playing upward of 200 nights a year. why is this the first time we hear about them?? I love funk,but this is new to me .

freeheelvrmnt starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/10/2008 06:54AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Great show - It's always nice to see them play close to (my) home, and even better when it's Nectars because of the talent on the sound board. Clint & Peter have been doing some amazing songwriting lately; it's fun to hear something new every show mixed in with the old favorites. Looking forward to their next show!

HCLefty starstarstarstar Wed 9/10/2008 07:03AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Three comments and the "conversation" has already descended to a depth that most Jambase "conversations" don't reach until there have been at least 8 or 10 comments. Incredible! Anyway, it sounds like these guys are a killer band...would like to hear some of their stuff on LMA. And I'm glad to hear that B-Town is still putting out some great bands.

gion starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/10/2008 08:51AM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Great review. I was at this show and see The Grift on a regular basis. They clearly love what thay do and rock at it. If you haven't seen them, you should check them out. Awesome musicians(people),great vocals and song writing. You can't help but dance.

tchampagne starstarstarstar Wed 9/10/2008 10:52AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

That show rocked! I can't wait to see them play again!

jewadamandtheisraelites Wed 9/10/2008 10:53AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

These guys sound pretty cool - any grifters here have a live download link I could hop on?

mfouts starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/10/2008 11:08AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

It is exciting to finally see a review of the Grift on here. The article succinctly captures the energy, talent and professionalism of the band. Living in Vermont, I am fortunate enough to see them play frequently and they never fail to get the crowd and me shaking. These guys are fantastic songwriters and performers as well as great people and know how to energize their audience. Check them out if you get the chance. All of their music is available on itunes- best pick is their 2007 live CD and Life Beyond Aluminum. They also have pages on myspace and facebook.

iyadog starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/10/2008 11:53AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Great show that night...and the wedding party meets music fans was all danced together. Fun home way to late! Go see these guys!

breadloaf starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/10/2008 12:50PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

milesgone, I believe the bulk of their dates are in the densely populated Northeast corridor. Defining jam is impossible these days, but I can say from observation that they do not wank on scales endlessly, what used to be a jam "trademark" for better or worse, depending on your personal taste. There is more of a pop element with emphasis on vocals. Russ Lawton (classic TAB drums)sits in with them sometimes and also plays in a trio with 2 of them, known as Honeywell, mostly local Vermont gigs. Peace.

OWP starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/10/2008 12:59PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Yah, mon! These guys rock.

Way to go, Cletus!

ImOnMyWay starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/10/2008 01:07PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Love to see this great band getting some recognition! It's rare to find a band that's this tight that actually has this much fun! Check one baby!

jclarkmidd starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/10/2008 01:28PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

In short, the Grift are versatile. Indeed, they have some songs laced with pop elements,as a review of the well produced Beyond Aluminum C.D. will reveal,and I love it. Yet as anyone who has witnessed more than one show can attest, these guys can rock, "get funky", do a bit of hip-hop and infuse their jams with jazz elements. And they can SING! While, one can debate the state or definition of "jam", these can guys, if they choose to, can compete with the best. The Grift write well crafted songs, and are skilled musicians. Go see them--you won't be disappointed. Great article

aprmusic starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/10/2008 01:37PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Always the best party in Northern Vermont!

jpaflas Wed 9/10/2008 01:46PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I have known Clint since he was a grade schooler and last saw the Grift at the Wise Fools pup in Chicago. As a fellow musician and guit player I can say the Grift know how to guit it! Clint bring the band to the Bluebird in Bloomington soon. JDP

TwelveBurgers starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/10/2008 02:48PM
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God, I miss seeing these guys. Bring the madness to LA!!!!

VTfunklove starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/10/2008 03:25PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

These guys always know how to put the funk into my night. I've yet to see a dance floor that they couldn't fill. The vibe that spills out of their speakers spreads like wildfire throughout the crowd. They're funny, sincere, amazingly talented, and so appreciative of their fans. Truly amazing individuals- incredibly talented- fabulous musicians- these boys really know how to spread the love.

bogey2 starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/10/2008 04:09PM
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These guys totally rock! They are the most fun band around and can play so many great covers as well. They keep the dance floor groovin all nite long!

LincolnAVL starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/10/2008 05:00PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Yes, these guys are awesome. Incredible musicians, funny as hell and some of the best entertainers on the East coast. I can't wait until they are able to come play in the Asheville area again!

dcozy starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/10/2008 10:18PM
-2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

"Writing about music," as Thelonious Monk probably didn't say, "is like dancing ab out architecture. But damn it! This Jeff Delilah fellow can do it.

dcozy starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/10/2008 10:19PM
Show -3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
lovemusicfood star Wed 9/10/2008 11:22PM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

If jambase is worth anything they would take this shameless promotion down right now.

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} Thu 9/11/2008 03:53AM
-2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

yeah musicfood, it looks like the same person logged in with about 15 different names to use this article for shameless promotion.

except for breadloaf. and thats cool about Russ Lawton, I did not know that, I used to see him with gordon stone.

Mightyquinn star Thu 9/11/2008 07:18AM
Show -3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
mfouts Thu 9/11/2008 07:20AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


why don't you listen to their music or go see them live before you write any more ignorant comments- then go find a more mature and productive way to share your opinions!

mfouts Thu 9/11/2008 07:25AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

lovemusic food- apologies- confused you with another commenter who was rude- you were not- but do give them a listen before you keep insisting this is not worthy press!

breadloaf Thu 9/11/2008 12:03PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Mightyquinn, the article is not fake, there is an approval process, so please be careful about unfounded accusations- and, they draw excellent crowds, so you are incorrect on that count as well. So, as a long time Burlington resident, you no doubt recall that Phish themselves at one time played smaller venues all over the East as they worked their way up- for many years. Why the negativity? What is wrong with the positive posts? Are you a working musician? Typically, you practice endlessley in your formative years, write and rehearse, travel all over the country in a van that breaks down and smells like too many people but you love them anyway, you set up your own gear, sound check, play your heart out, tear down, sell your recent disc at a loss, and, hopefully, make someone smile along the way. Sound familiar? And if you are lucky, you pay the rent and keep your relationship together, maybe have a blast and honor your muse while your at it. Sound familiar? I would never, evr begrudge a fellow musician a small moment in the sun as recompense for their myriad sacrifice. While I fully appreciate your right to have differing musical tastes, I do wonder if you would have the temrity to say such things without the filter of anonymity that the internet provides; I have often wondered why so many threads on JamBase degrade so precipitously into abjsect negativity, and have surmised that a good chunk of it can be traced simply to juvenile angst. As a Vermonter, surely you know the strength of the local movement- I would invite you to consider celebrating it in all its wonderful diversity. Have a great day. Peace.

funkykeys starstarstar Thu 9/11/2008 12:10PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Mightyquinn ..first off as a long time burlington resident can you leave the city ...? we would all be better off....And dude...You are the one who is a disgrace to live music.... .That show was awesome ! Iv been seeing these guys for years and its awesome to see them getting some love..

JSNYC starstarstarstar Thu 9/11/2008 02:22PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Great live band. We saw these guys tear it up in NYC at The Cutting Room and liked them so much we had them play our wedding this summer in Manchester, VT. Great move. When it was time to wind down at the end of the night, the floor was still packed. Love their originals as much as their covers (they make Scarlet/Fire their own). So, ignore the pointless arguments over who's more authentic (reminds me of tired conversations from Europe '90 with the Dead). Check 'em out!

VTfunklove starstarstarstarstar Thu 9/11/2008 04:15PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Fellow JamBase fans- "MightyQuinn" is a member from another band in Burlington- a band whose calender remains empty- a band whose shows remain empty- also they have been following The Grift to look for any reason to turn fans away...but it's simply not happening. They are a member of a band whose name I will not say, but certainly if you look at their profile- you'll see. Because we do not agree with trying to tear apart someone else's hard work- The Grift works their asses off- they play their asses off- and they deserve every ounce of publicity that comes their way.

larryireland33 starstarstarstar Thu 9/11/2008 04:34PM
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I have been following this band for longer than they have existed I suppose and as I have watched and learned from Sam, and the musicians he gathered around himself, it is a delight to say that no #*&&#$%!! they just keep getting better and better. Sam is a rockstar in his heart, and I know the stages will only continue to open up in front of him and the Grift, so keep your eyes on them and just watch.

hoopdees27 starstarstarstarstar Tue 9/16/2008 07:39AM
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So so so so proud of the Grift! I've been doing the live show "jamband" circuit for 15 years, worked in bars the whole time and there is nothing out there even remotely like their sound. Completely original. The Grift rolled through the Barley House in Concord years ago and I was hooked. Since then I've watched them evolve into a good feelin, blow me away powerhouse. Not to mention, literally THE nicest guys on the scene. I have no doubt whatsoever that I'll be seing them on the main stage very soon. They've worked so hard, spread so much love and inspired so many. As soon as they bust out into the festival scene I'll be front and center literally bursting with pride. Congrats on the on point write up.

PS mightyquinn, get you head out of your ass. Straight insulting these guys is the equivilant of kicking a puppy.....completely unchill

Mightyquinn star Tue 9/16/2008 08:23AM
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Sorry for the corosive comments. I apologize for acting rudely on presumptions. However, this is an extremely poorly written article. I know these guys work really hard, but the bias point of view does nothing to coax learned readers into thinking this a band they should check out. It comes across as more of a promotional bio than a review of the show.

amanda18 starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/17/2008 11:44AM
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These guys are not only RIDICULOUSLY TALENTED musicians, they are also very kind and down to earth fellows. If you appreciate music of any kind this band is definitely worth checking out. If you live anywhere near the Middlebury, Vermont area, PLEASE come check out a show at Two Brother's Tavern! There is usually no cost or cover charge, so you have nothing to lose, but PLENTY to gain. If you haven't seen a Grift live show you are missing out people!!! Come support your local musicians and dance your hearts out!! CLINT, PETER, JEFF, and RYAN; I am SOOOO proud of you guys for being signed. I had no doubt things would start happening for you! I am just surprised it has taken this long. I love you guys to death. More cookies for you soon!! AMANDA

dalbert42 starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/17/2008 01:13PM
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It is not often that a band with such great talent is full of great people. Clint and the boys play fantastic music, their own and the covers, and they also are great people to work with. I can't say enough good things about them, other than I hope that they play down in the Boston area again soon. Doug A.