“One of the reasons we’re still playing is we can’t take it that seriously,” he said before the band started their “14th Reunion Show” at the Middle Earth Music Hall Saturday night. “
Our biggest expectation is we’re going to have a good time and enjoy playing with each other.”
By those standards, it was “mission accomplished,” as five original members were joined by several others who’ve been Gully Boys through the years, romping through a spirited night of music. They played their favorite jam band songs, and also kicked around a few originals
A vintage Hammond organ helped spice up a track from “Diluvian Dreams,” their independently-released CD, which has sold a respectable 1,300 copies locally. “Big Rocks” is vintage Gully Boys, a kiss-off to the workaday world that the band escapes from every time they play.
The show also had a “Kumbaya” moment, when Temple introduced another original tune with the observation that “evolution is stronger than anything, but something that can help it along is love.” Then he coaxed the crowd to wave their arms high, “and suck some of that cosmic love from the sky.”
The only thing missing were cigarette lighters. The modern-day equivalent – glowing cell phone screens – might have been too anachronistic for this throng.
Other highlights included a slowed-down, sax-infused “Spanish Moon” that improved on the Little Feat original, and an epic-length version of “Scarlet Begonias” which morphed seamlessly into “Fire on the Mountain.” The floor in front of the stage stayed crowded with dancers all night. There were even a few toddlers, including Temple’s 2-year old son Gideon.
The party lasted till just a little before 1 in the morning, when rhythm guitarist (and original Gully Boy) John Sigarfoos unplugged. “That’s it, I’m done,” he reportedly said.
“He has a morning job,” explained Temple with a laugh.
That’s the essence of this working class band. They play when they can, because they want to. “We’re just a glorified garage band playing three-chord songs,” says Temple. “We haven’t had a rehearsal in two years.”
“I like to believe the music plays the band,” he says.
Keeping it simple keeps it going. “People have unrealistic expectations – that’s been the demise of a lot of good bands,” says Temple. “It’s such a buzz to be playing music for people; it makes you want to be a rock star. It’s like a drug – you get that hit and you want to play bigger gigs, you want to travel, you want all of it, the partying … realism doesn’t often enter into it.”
Their antidote to all that was apparent Saturday night, as the band squeezed every bit of pleasure out of tunes like “Wang Dang Doodle” and “Sugaree.” They’d start each set with a list of seven or eight songs, and end up playing five. With so many soloists on stage, that kept things both fair and fun.
The band employs no special effects, no posing or preening. They don’t even have a web site. “There’s only dial-up in South Royalton anyway,” Temple says.
The band coalesced around a Quechee show to memorialize Jerry Garcia, after the Grateful Dead guitarist died in 1995. They had so much fun that they moved the party to Seven Barrels Brewery. They still play the last Saturday of every month at the West Lebanon bar. “That’s what’s kept the band together – that gig,” says Temple.
In addition to Temple, two keyboard players, four bassists, six guitarists and a Spinal Tap-worthy eight drummers have done time with the band. There’s also been a harmonica player (original member Peter Meijer- his brother Rich joined on guitar four years ago) and a lone saxophonist.
By Temple’s count, 24 to 25 players have called themselves Gully Boys since the band’s loose beginnings in 1994.
Quite a few made the trip back for last weekend’s show, though the drummers are apparently the hardest to track down – and typically the quickest to leave.
“They have to haul the most stuff,” explains Temple matter-of-factly. “All the other factors – day jobs, families – and add to that you have to haul your drums, and take an extra hour to set up.”
So they burn out a little faster – and that’s fine, says Temple.
“If it ain’t fun, it ain’t worth doing.”