Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mighty Mighty moments from nearly 30 years with the Bosstones

Posted By on Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 7:51 AM

  • Joelle Andres
  • Joe Gittleman (left) and Ben Carr bring the rest of the legendary Mighty Mighty Bosstones back to Atlanta this weekend

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this post misidentified Ben Carr in the photo featured above.

Since its humble beginnings as a Boston bar band in the early 1980's, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones' signature fusion of ska, punk, and hardcore has taken the band around the world and back again. Spanning a nearly three-decade career, the Bosstones have been credited with helping define the ska punk genre and driving the crest of third wave ska through the 1990's, culminating financially with the platinum-selling 1997 release "Let's Face It."

"But the Bosstones and similar bands had been touring for a longtime before that moment came, and continued touring for a longtime after that moment had sort of gone," founding Bosstoner and bassist Joe Gittleman said. "I think it's much more about the hardcore, kind of committed fans of ska music, as opposed to those who just came in contact with the Bosstones in the summer of '97."

Today, members of the eight-piece — still active after coming off a more than three-year hiatus in 2007 — are spread out around the country and the globe. Singer Dicky Barrett is an announcer on the Jimmy Kimmel show, saxophonist Tim Burton moved to Florida to pursue a passion of boating, and other saxist Kevin Lenear transplanted to Helsinki, Finland.

"We obviously don't tour like we used to, at least not in terms of dates on the road," Gittleman said, now a music professor at Lyndon State College in Vermont. "So when we get together it tends to be around a fun show, like playing the Masquerade."

Before the band brings their legendary antics back to Atlanta this weekend, we caught up with Gittleman to talk about Metallica's Enter Sandman, Dicky pissing off his parents, and other career highlights from over the years.

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, with Soul Radics and Groove Stain. Sat., Nov. 3, 7 p.m. $22-$26. The Masquerade.


What: Defining the Bosstones ...
When: 1984
Where: The Down Under, Boston

Our very first show was at this place called the Down Under in Boston. I was in high school and my father came to the show. I didn’t tell Dicky or the other guys my dad was coming. I was young and thought it was SO uncool.

There were maybe 20 people in the room when we went on, and my father and stepmother were sitting at a table with their drinks. Dicky was running around like crazy. That was all he could do to sort of whip up a frenzy back in those days.

We were just kids, so green, you know? He was running around the club and jumped up on my dad’s table and knocked it over. Drinks crashed everywhere and a Sea Breeze splashed on my stepmother or whatever. I was just like, “Oh no!” For a kid it was humiliating. That was our very first show, and that’s what I remember of it.


What: “You know the guy Ben who dances in the band?” ...
When: 1984
Where: Pretty sure it was at Chet’s Last Call, Boston

You know the guy Ben who dances in the band? Back then we never thought anyone would ask us why there’s a guy dancing on stage, but it happened our second or third show. Ben was our roadie at the time, but because most of us were underage age and playing bars, they wouldn’t let you in as a roadie. You could only be in the club if you were actually in the band.

It was right before doors [opened] and we were getting hand stamps as underage. The doorman said to Ben, “You can’t come in, you know, you’re not in the band.” Dicky quickly said, “no, no, Ben’s in the band. He IS in the band.” And Ben got a stamp.

Then Dicky said, “You better do something up there or they’re going to throw you out.” So Ben got up there and just started dancing and doing back up vocals. That’s how he got in the band. He was just our friend that didn’t play an instrument.


What: Paradise at the Paradise ...
When: 1990
Where: The Paradise, Boston

The first time we sold out a show in Boston was kind of a big deal. We were headlining a place called the Paradise that holds 750 people. It had to be around 1990, after we got signed to Taang! Records and were really able to draw a crowd.

I remember showing up there and asking the lighting guy, “So what’s the capacity here?” He couldn’t have gave a shit about us. He said, “Why the fuck do you want to know the capacity in this place?” [He was acting] like we’d never fill it, but we ultimately did.


What: Enter Sandman ...
When: 1992
Where: Downtown Denver, Colo.

When we were in Denver we bumped into James Hetfield and Brian Slagel, who owns Metal Blade Records. They were just walking by our trailer in downtown and Hetfield was laughing because we had a picture of a duck on our U-Haul. All the trailers used to be themed for, like, different states and stuff. So this was one that, for whatever reason, had a big duck on it. Hetfield was a big duck hunter, so he was laughing.

We’re just like, “Holy shit, James Hetfield!” At like a million miles a minute we tried to explain to him that we were a band, and we’ve done this, and recorded this, and all that kind of stuff. We invited him to the show [and kind of laughed it off, not expecting him to come].

But you couldn’t have written the script any better. At the end of our set we were going outside and around to our dressing rooms when James Hetfield and a bunch of guys pulled up in a limo. They had just finished there show at the big arena while we’re playing a 200 person bar room.

The crowd was still in there, like, wanting more, you know, and we got Hetfield to come out and do Enter Sandman with us. That was huge. It was sort of the major thing that happened in our career at that point.


What: Thousands of shows ...
When: Spanning 30 years
Where: Everywhere

I guess the last thing I’ll say ... there are thousands of individual little moments with all the shows we played. It could be during any song, that moment when the crowd is really with us, singing along full voice, loud and proud. The greatest moments sometimes happen every night you play, know what I mean? There are high points during every show.

That, ultimately, is what keeps us going. We’re not out here hoping that Hetfield is going to jump up on stage again. You still just kind of chase that high of enjoying the show and the comradery of touring with your friends, stuff like that. I think the moments that are most meaningful are sort of non-descript in some ways. It’s one of those killer nights when you had a good time.

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