Willard Grant Conspiracy
with Erin Harp, The Rev. Lee Mitchell, and Duncan Wilder Johnson
The Lizard Lounge, Cambridge, MA • February 23, 1999
Every Tuesday evening, Memphis’s own Skeeter Johnson hosts his Grassroots Revival showcase at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, MA. It is a look at all the different arts that “move yer insides”; from blues to gospel to spoken word. And always featuring the Drunkard’s Dream served in Mason Jars! Coming from Florida, I felt right at home.
This past Tuesday’s showcase was headlined by Cambridge’s own Willard Grant Conspiracy. The show was opened by Skeeter’s Artist of the Month, Erin Harp, followed by the oldest band in Boston, going on 53 years, the Rev. Lee Mitchell, and then spoken word artist Duncan Wilder Johnson. The Rev. Lee Mitchell is not so much of a band like a rock band, but a group of actual Reverends that get together to sing gospel. They play all over the Boston area at churches, schools, and yes…clubs! Not all of the members have been with the Rev. Lee Mitchell for the entire 53 years — the “baby” just joined 5 years ago. Erin Harp delivered delta blues while Duncan Johnson spoke of things like his passionate love for Slayer.
Unfortunately, there were no more than 30 people at the Lizard Lounge, although it probably made it more enjoyable to hear the Willard Grant Conspiracy without the hum of a crowd. This great little venue really housed WGC well, with their melancholy sound. A completely red-lit room down in the basement of a restaurant no bigger then the size of a standard Taco Bell’s dining area, you really felt like you were invited to someone’s house to listen to just some band. But instead, this was a real treat!
WGC was started as a project just to “test” a friend’s new recording equipment. So there was never a real “band,” says singer Robert Fisher. That is why you may never see the same line up twice. Obviously, Robert will be there, since he is the singer, but they frequently ask others to join them on stage. Most of the time there are no drums, and there were no drums this evening. Their set up basically consists of guitars, violin, and mandolin.
WGC is Boston’s contribution to the post-shoegazer melancholy scene that has been so popular over the past few years. Bands like Bedhead, Red House Painters, and Low come to mind when I think of WGC. They can be very dynamic, with such passion, and yet, so emotionally quiet. The intricate arrangements between the different stringed instruments creates a finely woven net in which you feel you could just fall. You felt…comfortable. Unlike some bands riding the same wave, you did not feel as if you were going to fall asleep.
The WGC will be doing a residency at the Lizard Lounge during the months of April and May before they head off to promote their newest album, Mojave , which features Edith Frost. The tour will mostly be held in Europe, where WGC has been treated exceptionally well. Robert had told me that when they tour Europe, everyone makes enough money to actually pay their bills. But when they travel in the states, that never happens. So, off to Europe!