I’ve been a Pernice Brothers fan for many years now but the only full album I own is 06’s “Live a Little” which was their last. I have five or six tracks from every other record. I think there are four others. Unfortunately iTunes won’t let me “Compete My Album” for any of them. The first track I ever heard was “Baby in Two” and then I was hooked. I was delighted to hear more upbeat tracks as I sampled more of their music including “Clear Spot” which was apparently on the Gilmore Girls soundtrack. This is a point of confusion that I will address later in the post. Like I had said, I’ve been listening to them for a few years now and I’m still not sure if there are actual Pernice “Brothers” or if that is just Joe Pernice’s name for when he plays with a backing band. I think his brother is/was in the band. I know the band is 100% of Massachusetts origin (home of indie music legends such as Dinosaur Jr, Sebadoh, Pixies etc) born and bred in Dorchester Mass. Joe Pernice also has been in two other bands – The Scud Mountain Boys & Chappaquiddick Skyline - which I just recently learned about. Joe also has written a novel called “It Feels So Good When I Stop” which was just released. Everything is starting to make sense to me. Joe has to have three different bands and a book because he has too much to say.
For me personally, the one thing that makes the Pernice Brothers different from any other band I listen to (and I listen to many) is the lyrics. The lyrics really get to me. My girlfriend laughs because I am definitely a “tunes first, ask questions about the lyrics later” kind of guy. Plus unlike her I don’t read many “books” per se. I read a lot of content on the web, city papers and magazines…that counts right? Its called AADD…look it up. The music is important of course but Joe Pernice tells a short story in every song which has always drawn me closer to his personal story. The songs/stories often deal with women, money, love, drugs, booze, social standing etc but not in the typical rock-star lyrical formula you’re used to. It’s hard to explain but for me personally, the songs are very relatable yet unrealistic in the same vein. They remind me of situations I’ve been in throughout my adult life but I couldn’t give exact matching contextual detail if you asked me to. You’ll see when you download tracks like “Blinded by the Stars”, “One Foot in the Grave”, “PCH One”, “How Can I Compare”, “Clear Spot, “Working Girls” and “Somerville”. I’ve been trying to keep tabs on Joe Pernice as the years went on hoping to catch a show. After the last album was released, every so often I’d read an article about Joe moving to Canada (he lives in Toronto) or him guest lecturing at UMass (he has an MFA in creative writing) or some other side project. So when I read that Joe had written a book and more importantly was playing music to compliment/support it I was pretty psyched. There were two weekend dates in close proximity to me geographically. Friday at the Bowery on NYC or Saturday at the Tin Angel in Philly. I attended the Tin Angel performance…
I had never been to the Tin Angel. The venue is located in the Old City section of Philadelphia. It is a small upstairs venue with table seating/singular waitress service…a far cry from the sweaty venues I normally frequent (aka it was refreshing). Seeing as Joe played at the Bowery Ballroom the night before I guess I expected something slightly smaller but nothing like this…the place was tiny. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I thought in the back of my mind that Joe just might get up there solo with an electric acoustic. I was right. We walked in and he had a small table set up by the sound board with copies of his books, the IFSGWIS album and some Pernice Brothers recordings. He also had some eco-friendly cloth grocery bags with his label logo (“Ashmont Recordings”) on them. The opening act was a comedy duo consisting of two brothers from Mass called “The Walsh Brothers” (I think?). Pretty hilarious improv. Then Joe came on stage. Surprisingly he had a noticeable Boston accent. His singing voice sounds 180 degrees different then his speaking voice. Honestly…I was scared as you know when you really get into a band but never had seen them perform (or even any photos) so you have a certain expectation of how they’ll look or act? The way they appear in your mind when you hear the tracks on your iPod or in your car. You are afraid “the real deal” will ruin it. I know it sounds silly but it’s true…at least in my case. Luckily Joe looked and acted how I expected. He was a little more average-Joe (no pun intended) in personality than I thought but it really didn’t matter.
The whole show was kinda mellow and laid back that I felt like he was playing on my friends back porch or something. There also wasn’t any mention of the city he was playing in. There wasn’t any cliché greetings like “Hello Philly”, “Great to be back in Philly” or “Philly…hell of a town”. This was again…refreshing. However he was very conversational with the crowd. He got up and joked around, explained what he was going to do which was read some passages from his book then play some of the covers from the album. He opened with a passage from the book. The story of the novel revolves around a young NYC struggling musician who meets the love of his life then leaves the city her after one day of marriage and heads to Cap Cod/South Shore Boston. The story goes back and forth from the past to the present (which reminds me of 500 Days of Summer). Of course this is how the book is described and what I felt from the readings. I haven’t read it yet. The passages were hilarious and well written (a la Joe Pernice). One passage involves a funny story about Joe meeting Lou Barlow from Sebadoh/Dinosaur Jr outside the late Brownies music club in NYC. Apparently in real-life Joe called Lou and told him he was putting him in the novel but not to worry because he made him out to be a good guy. Lou basically said to Joe – Thanks for the heads up but you can write me in as a total dick if you want.
I’m calling it now. If the entire book is anything like what he read that night…this will be turned into a High-Fidelity-esque indie film years from now. Again…just a hunch…I have to read it first. Joe actually makes reference to High Fidelity in some interviews (that he’s trying to stay away from that comparison) and is apparently friends with Nick Hornby.
The covers he played are amongst his favorite songs that had a significant impact on his life and thus translated well to the story line of the book. I heard of most of the bands but never heard any of the tracks he played except for the Sebadoh track “Soul and Fire”. There was one song “I’m Your Puppet” by Bobby & James Purify that I particularly enjoyed. Most of the bands were obscure and pretty old school (in my eyes at least). I guess the Pernice Brothers have an older skewing fan base judging by the attendees at the show which were in their late 30s/early 40s. I think we were the youngest people there besides the waitress. Given the press I’ve seen and the Gilmore Girls association I thought maybe he appealed to a younger sect as well. Why do I even care? All I’m saying is that it was just noticeable. Regardless the songs were great. I shouldn’t judge. I’m a Blink-182 fan (dead serious).
Then after Joe was done with the book reading and song covers he said he was going to play a few Pernice Brothers songs. My eyes lit up. TOTALLY unexpected. He picked a few tracks he thought would translate better to acoustic versions including “How Can I Compare” which has significance to me personally and one of my favorites so I was pretty blown away. After the show was over I immediately bought a book (yeah) and walked over to Joe to introduce myself and get it signed. He was a really nice guy. I was completely star-struck…you’d think after seeing celebs on pretty much a monthly basis living in NYC for 8 years I’d play it cool. It’s different when you meet someone who created something that has such a significant impact on your life. He asked me who I should make the autograph out to and I said “Tommy” (like I’m fucking 10 years old). My girlfriend seeing that I was incapacitated, stepped in and asked Joe if he could make it out to “Cuge”. Thanks T. I might as well of had a bib on…however I hope I never lose that level admiration for musicians…at any age.
BOOK EXCERPT: http://tinyurl.com/lcc8w8
DOWNLOAD THESE: Somerville, Blinded By the Stars, PCH One, Clear Spot, How Can I Compare, Baby in Two, Lightheaded