I swallowed the last bite of my delicious Ruben sandwich and thought about the night to come. "Wow," I thought. "I’m in Worcester." I attended Clark University in Worcester, MA from 1991-1995, but have since moved to Portland, OR. Being in Wormtown made me wax nostalgic on more than a few occasions. "That’s where I lived my junior and senior year," I’d say to my friends. "I wonder if so and so restaurant is still there?" As we walked out of the Irish restaurant right across from the Palladium, one memory came rushing back to me in vivid detail. Worcester is cold. Damn cold.
We peered across the street to see the masses beginning to gather in front of The Palladium. They were hunched together and standing in line, but seemed to be very excited about The Disco Biscuits show they were about to see. As we walked up Main Street I thought to myself, "How many of those folks have really even listened to much Jiggle?" I knew their show was gonna be great, but I was extremely psyched for the musical performance I was about to experience in a much smaller and intimate setting. We turned up Pleasant St. and walked up the little frozen hill until we came to the Tammany Club.
Tammany is a classic "Wistah Baah." The bar is along the wall on the right, while the left side is divided from the right by another wall with some open spaces in it. There are pool tables on the left and there is a dance floor on the right, just in front of the small stage. The stage was decked out in streamers, festive balloons, a Happy New Year sign, a strange Yoda alien laying behind the keyboards, and a large green alien hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the stage. There were also little glow lights wrapped around the guitar player, Gary Backstrom’s, mike stand that lit on and off randomly throughout the show. The crowd started to really fill in by 9:30pm just as Jiggle took the stage.
The first set kicked in at about the same time as my "good feelings." The jack-n-cokes had been going down smoothly all night and served to accent my psychedelic mood perfectly. Tonight was about music, ritual, and celebration. I was feeling good, others looked like they were feeling good, and the band definitely seemed to be feeling good. "Good," I thought. "Everyone is good."
I smiled as the band started up their acoustic mini-set (approx. 30 minutes long). It was a nice little warm up set that stretched a fairly broad range. An old timey sounding number, Who’s That Knockin’? opened up the set and was a fun little upbeat ditty. Then the band went on to play some covers like Hot To Go by Lyle Lovett, Water of Love by Dire Straits and Dire Wolf by the Dead. After a beautifully played old-school Jiggle original called Break the Light that is very mellow but builds to a great melodic jam and climax, they ended things off with the old bluegrass standard Salty Dog, sung by bassist Chris Q. This very fast song had the crowd shakin’ their hips quite a bit and everyone cheered as the short set ended.
Smiles and laughter pretty much describe the time between the first and second set. It seemed that everyone either knew each other or were happily meeting and greeting one another. The happy family vibe was heavy in the air. As the band took the stage at a little after 10:00pm, the now packed house were ready to groove. The band kicked it in with a relatively old Jiggle classic called Easy Street, which reflects the feelings of a hard-working small band very well. The band then went through a couple of shorter numbers. Another bluegrass tune presumably left over from the first set led to a very concise melody called Really Should Know, written by keyboardist Paul Wolstencroft. This second of the shorter tunes is one of my favorites. It is relatively new and captures something special with its passionate vocals and interesting flow.
These tunes led into the jam-centered tune, Reflection. The song has a vocal section at the beginning but then kicks in to a killer trance like jam that just seemed to be getting farther and farther out there on this night. Greg Vasso’s drumming was syncing up well with the percussion playing of Jiggle’s newest member, Miguel Pujado. ‘Pujats,’ as he is known to some, brings quite a breath of fresh energy to the band. He was set up with some congas, bongos, and various cymbals. As this long and furiously jammed song started to wind down, the band segued into their song Everything, which wisely reminds us that "everything you do comes back to you." The heat from the crowd was starting to even out as Jiggle slammed into the set closer Lost and Found. This song just flat out rocked. There were bodies moving frantically as beer suds and sweat drops flew here and there. If the full house was happy at the end of the first set, they were absolutely ecstatic now. Two sets down, one great big New Year set left to go!!
As the clock ticked closer and closer to midnight we all talked and drank. The tension built slowly as 2001 was about to peer its head around the corner of last year. Our good feelings surged as the band took the stage at about ten minutes until midnight. The invisible streams of energy were being flung around by the band and everyone in attendance as the beginning notes to Walk Right Out rang out. This intensely jammin’ opener wailed, plain and simple. Just as the jam was getting to incomprehensible levels, the band stopped abruptly and started the New Year’s count down in unison. The obligatory kisses, hugs, and champagne were bandied about freely. A happy new year, indeed! Just as we seemed to be slightly beginning our decent out of this joyous other-worldliness, the band kicked into the song Fine Line. Everyone’s attention snapped back to the stage as Jiggle fiercely played through their disco staple.
Boy in the Bubble? Huh? What was happening? Somehow Fine Line slowly evolved into Paul Simon’s Boy in the Bubble, which quickly reminded me that Jiggle had covered the entire Graceland album this past summer at Berkfest. I was happy to get a little taste of it and they really ripped through an impressive and faithful interpretation of the tune with some added Jiggle flavor. This went back into Fine Line for a rollicking disco climax. Whew! After a few tunes the band played a very nice version of the old Jiggle classic Invisible. The crowd was basically a throbbing mass at this point. It was about 1:00am and people were passing various beverages and smokables to and fro. We all moved as one as the band pounded out some very high-energy music.
What we didn’t know, however, was that we were only now approaching the best part of the show. A slightly shaky Oye Como Va was great to hear as Pujado’s playing added the percussive flavor this tune calls for. Next was an original song called Turn Myself Back Home. Maybe Jiggle was playing it as a nod to the fact they were in Tucson, AZ for last year’s big New Year’s celebration? As I looked around the room to see a swirl of smiling faces and people in their various groove trances, I seemed to remember thinking about the song Terrapin Station. Just as the thought entered my mind, I turned around towards the stage as the band played the opening chords to that very song. The very end part slowed down to nothing and then came thundering back in a sweet ebb and flow of musical energy. Then out of nowhere they start into Santana’s Black Magic Woman. It rocked. Pujado was going absolutely crazy as he banged away on an extended solo. Bass player Chris Q was leaning back and smiling with his eyes closed as Gary shredded away on the guitar like a mad man. The entire thing peaked wonderfully. Very nice stuff!
We cheered for more and were treated to a double encore at about 2:00am. First was a personal favorite of mine, the Jiggle original and straight ahead rocker Wastin’ Time. Then they closed the night with a look back on the year. Good Times Bad Times seemed to sum it all up very nicely. It rocked even harder than the first encore and inspired me to try and have a music filled 2001. As the set ended and the lights came on, the happy faces of the crowd had a new feature to them. They also looked tired now. We all had had quite a workout. It had been a serious celebration. We milled about and said our good byes. Eventually, we had to go out into the bitter cold Worcester night. "I can’t wait to see them again," I thought as we drove back to our hotel through the frozen darkness.
by John R. Zinkand