Live at Philly’s Grape Room after a long, long absence.
BY JOHN B. MOORE
Boston-based pop/rock trio The Push Stars had all the makings of the next big band. After a couple of small releases, they locked in with Capitol Records. They put out a near-flawless record with 1999’s After The Party, combining influences as diverse as The Blake Babies and Cheap Trick; they were added to a handful of soundtracks and scored some decent opening slots on tours. But, once the record failed to live up to Capitol’s expectations (one and done), they moved on.
A couple of indie release later and the band went on hiatus in 2004. So, a decade on, many were surprised that the band decided to reunite for a fall northeast tour.
The fans that greeted The Push Stars inside The Grape Room in Philly on Saturday only numbered around 100, but the band showed no signs of disappointment – and neither did the crowd.
“This is our first time playing here in a really long time,” said singer/guitarist Chris Trapper, who’s been recording and touring steadily as a solo act in the band’s absence. The Push Stars did their best making up for lost time. Trapper, along with drummer Ryan MacMillan and bassist/keyboardist Dan McLoughlin, kicked into a remarkably tight walk through their records with a crowd that, with a little prodding, was right there with them.
“You’re all singing pretty good, but you sound like you’re in church on a Sunday,” said Trapper, goading the crowd to sing louder on the band’s brilliant funeral singalong “Keg On My Coffin”. “Sing like you’re in a bar on Saturday night!” And they did! For the rest of the set.
Just about every song they segued into seemed to be somebody’s favorite, with Trapper and the band clearly basking in the adoration. Always a stellar group lyrically, the years away from playing the songs show the three have grown as musicians, quickly locking into a groove that didn’t let up until the end.
Realizing that the dressing room was all the way upstairs, the band waited all of 20 seconds after the last chord rang out in the set before settling into the encore. “This is our encore,” Trapper shrugged. “We just don’t want to waste anyone’s time.”
The Push Stars, may no longer be touring arenas opening for folks like Matchbox 20 (at a point when Rob Thomas and team were the biggest band on the planet), but they played every note of every song like they were trying to win the crowd over for the first time on Saturday night.
Screw the arenas! The beer is overpriced and the stage is always too far away. The Push Stars are proving one show at a time that global domination may have alluded them, but they may just be one of the best bar bands touring today. And that doesn’t seem to bother them a bit.
This tour comes as the group has just finished recording their latest, crowd-funded album at the legendary Ardent Studios in Memphis, TN.