You have to wonder how this tour came together. Was it “hey, both of our last names are Phillips, we should tour together, it will confuse people.” Or was it “we both fronted popular indie bands in the 90’s, we have a similar audience, let’s tour together.” Grant Lee Phillips was the leader of Grant Lee Buffalo, who enjoyed a couple minor hits and was known as REM’s favorite band. That Phillips also starred as the troubadour on the Gilmore Girls, a show I always meant to watch for just that reason. Glen Phillips was the lead singer and songwriter for Toad the Wet Sprocket who had several ubiquitous hits. Both have remained active since their bands broke up, and I’ve seen both of them solo several times over the years.
The show was at Redamte Coffeehouse on State St. Located on the second floor of a multi-business complex, I’d never even noticed it before I heard about this show. My sister who was meeting me there wandered for quite awhile before looking up. It wasn’t a bad place to see a show, for a coffeehouse it was surprisingly big, and they had set up rows of chairs for the night. In fact, it would have been a great place to see a show except for the fact that it is a coffeehouse and the constant grinding and steam hissing were more than a little distracting. A good sized all ages crowd had packed the room, but it was hard to tell exactly who it was they were there to see.
I expected it to be Glen, but they failed to go crazy when he strummed the first couple chords of the Toad’s biggest hit “Walk on the Ocean.” In fact Grant Lee got just as strong a reaction for the old GLB songs “Mockingbird” and “Truly, Truly, Truly.” In fact, the response was good for every song, refreshing. Of Grant Lee’s solo catalog I’d been a big fan of Mobilize and 2010’s Little Moon, yet when he asked if anyone had a request I was struck mute. I had so many, which to ask for? Unfortunately, that must have happened to everyone because only silence greeted his request. He did just fine selecting songs on his own, in addition to the old stuff he played a few from this year’s still relatively new Walking in the Green Grass, including the infectious title track. From Little Moon he played “Sunken Treasure,” a good choice, though if my brain hadn’t failed me I would have asked for the upbeat “The Sun Shines on Jupiter.”
I was pleased that Glen went back to his first solo CD to play two of my favorite songs from that record. The instantly recognizable “Trainwreck” took me back instantly to his show at Café Montmarte a million years ago where he had covered that song accompanied by members of Nickel Creek. (I’d had the same experience after hearing Nick Jaina play it on his covers record.) The same thing happened with his heart-breaking and hilarious story of how he was the driver for drive-by shooting of the neighbor’s dog. (Don’t worry it all turns out OK.) The reason for that is Glen’s instantly familiar voice.
In fact, it would be hard to find two more distinct voices than these two Phillipses. Surprisingly they sounded pretty good together when they played a few songs as a duo at the end of the night. Good show boys.