Photos by Dylan Stableford
We’ve seen plenty of important bands that start with the letter “P” reunite (or make plans to) in the past few years: Phish, the Police, Pavement — even the Pharcyde. But for a small but fervent group of music fans in New Hampshire, none were as important as Percy Hill, a band that’s seen more than it’s share of breakups and lineup changes in its two decades of existence.
On Friday, the bulk of the original lineup –guitarists Tom Powley and Joe Farrell, keyboardist Nate Wilson, percussionist Zack Wilson, bassist Jeremy Hill along with its second drummer Dylan Halacy — gathered with friends and family at the Stone Church for a sold-out reunion show that was generous, nostalgic and, at times, tighter and more transcendent than anyone could’ve expected.
Billing itself as “Old School Percy Hill,” the band opened with “Million Days,” showcasing the Steely Dan harmonies and Allman Brothers guitar lines that marked much Percy Hill’s earliest material. And it was certainly “old-school”; just one (“Fallen”) of the 15 songs scattered across three hours and two sets was from its last two studio albums – 1998’s Color in Bloom and its 2005 follow-up After All.
Instead, Percy Hill focused on the deep, early-to-mid 1990s songs (“Golden Bottle,” “Jasper,” “Sooner or Later”) that earned the group a steady following on the Northeast collegiate touring circuit and beyond.
Getting together on the same stage for the first time in more than 11 years, just down the road from Durham, New Hampshire where Percy Hill formed in 1993, the music could’ve been understandably secondary to the moment; luckily, for those in attendance Friday, it was anything but.
The band reached its peak during an 18-minute “Been So Long,” with a shredding, twisting, neck-hair-raising guitar solo from Farrell, which even earned a mid-jam bow from Powley. Wilson — whose Floyd-and-Zeppelin melding solo act opened the show — followed with a heavy Hammond solo of his own. If anything, Percy Hill climaxed too early, as the band sounded just a bit spent for rest of the second set.
By then, though, there was already talk of another show.
“This won’t be the last time,” Powley said later as he thanked the crowd, “I can tell you that.”
Percy Hill Reunion :: 12.11.09
Set 1: Million Days, Sooner or Later, Golden Bottle, Sunrise, Jasper, Lifetime, Casa De Vino > Othello
Set 2: Prison Sentence, Fallen, Been So Long, Seems Like the Time, Rush Hour Traffic, Setting the Boat Adrift, Way Back Home
Nate Wilson Group :: 12.11.09
Set 1: Hear the Echoes, Sticks and Stones, Yellow Woman, White Lantern, Beneath the Cover*, St. Lucilia**, For The Sun, Sound Overkill > Drums > Sound Overkill
*w/ Joe Farrell
**w/ Joe Farrell and Zack Wilson