In the 1990s, God Street Wine helped define the emerging jamband scene in New York. Along with moe., the group was one of the many improvisational-based bands to score a major label deal in the wake of Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors, Dave Matthews Band and Phish’s successes. The group established a national following in the later part of the ‘90s and, closer to home, grew from New York’s downtown bars to headlining shows at Wetlands and Irving Plaza. The members of the band went their separate ways in 1999 but reunited just two years later for a gig as part of the closing of the Wetlands celebration. Rumors of a more formal reunion started to spread after the band picked up some traction on Facebook and frontman/guitarist Lo Faber started posting vintage recordings and videos online. Finally, God Street Wine’s five core members—Faber, guitarist Aaron Maxwell, bassist Dan Pifer, keyboardist Jon Bevo and drummer Tom Osander—came together last summer for a memorial concert and will reunite this summer for shows at New York’s Gramercy Theater (7/9-10) and Irving Plaza (7/16-17).
Last week, Osander walked Jambands.com through the band’s upcoming reunion plans and looked back on the past ten years away from the stage.
God Street Wine will reunite for four shows this summer. With the exception of a few sets as part of a memorial last year, these will be the band’s first shows since 2001. What initially spurred on this reunion?
It came as a result of two things, really. Mike Weiss, who used to work for the band in the capacity of lighting designer, tour manager and everything-guy was diagnosed with MS several years back. He’s done an awful lot of fundraising and helped raise awareness about the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in the States. He sent an e-mail around in October of last year asking us if we could do something to help. I’m the tricky one because of my location in Ireland and because of my work, but it was a very resounding “Yes.”
At the same time, as you said, we did a show last year for a guy named Paul Ducharme. Paul was a very early fan and the very first taper of God Street Wine—just a real character. The closest thing I could compare him to in the Grateful Dead would be our Neal Cassady. He was a bit mad but full of love and absolutely would do anything for music and for his friends. Paul passed away last year in the early spring and when Paul died and the news came to me, the first thought I had was “We should play a show for him.”
I thought, “It is 3,000 miles away, and I’m going to leave Ireland to be at whatever service happens, and I think that the band should probably play.” The band hadn’t played together in eight years since we came together for a closing of Wetlands reunion show in 2001. So last summer we did this day of shows for Paul. We played in Ridgewood, New Jersey in the park—one of the very first places the band ever played outside of New York City—for a lot of very early fans. A lot of our very early fans were all from Ridgewood, which is where our guitarist Aaron is from. So, the area itself had a lot of significance. It was a really amazing day. We finished that evening playing in the basement of a house we played in the very early days of God Street Wine in Wyckoff, New Jersey. So it was all of these familiar faces, albeit, older, grayer and less-haired. We hadn’t rehearsed for those shows so it was a muscle memory kind of thing but still a great time. We ended up playing three sets and just had a blast.
After the shows we all went our separate ways, and I came back to Ireland. But when Mike asked us about doing something to raise some money for MS and honor Paul around the anniversary of his passing we decided to go for it.
How much time does God Street Wine plan to spend rehearsing for these reunion shows?
As of now everyone has been rehearsing on their own but we are going to get together a few days before the shows when I come to New York. Things have changed a lot since we were a band. Thanks to technology we can send MP3s of specific versions of songs around really easily and everybody can work on them on their own. God Street Wine had a pretty large catalogue of original songs and covers. Lo was behind the organization of the songs to pick for these gigs, while others were doing different things to get ready for the shows. I’ve been at the business end of things and organizing the actual dates and the logistics. Lo put together a huge list of songs and then sent them out to everybody. We each got to pick about 40 songs we absolutely want to play, 10 or so we probably should play and a few we absolutely don’t want to play. Then he added, subtracted and mixed around the songs and came up with four shows of music. We might not definitely stick to that list because, though we’ve been practicing those songs and relearning them for a few months, we still don’t know what it’s going to be like to play them together. When we get into a room next week together, and we have some rehearsals, we’ll see where they all stand and we’ll know what’s going to work and what might not and go from there.