In January of 2001, I was hanging out a lot with my friend Jason. He was friends with a girl named Meredith, someone I knew but didn’t really know. They had been spending some time in New York City with her brother Graham and his wife Michelle. But as of January of 2001, they had all moved back to Lock Haven.
Graham told Jason he wanted to start a band. He taught Meredith how to play bass, bought himself a new guitar, and Michelle just happened to have one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard. All they needed was a drummer. That’s where I came in.
Just like with Meredith, I knew Graham, but I didn’t really know him. We went to high school together and played in various music groups together, but I wouldn’t say we were ever close. And I knew that his life post-high school had moved even further from any life I knew. I had no idea what to expect when he came over one night in January. I had my drums set up in the basement so I invited him down. He sat down on this rickety wooden chair across from me and played one of his songs.
It was ‘Carried Away,’ a slow, soft, simple, beautiful melody. He sang in a voice that seemed weary. When he finished I told him it was beautiful and I wanted in. And that’s how we became Minus Bluff.
Over the next six months, Graham, Meredith, Michelle, and I spent nearly every day together. Graham would write a new song — seemingly everyday — and show Meredith her part and teach Michelle her lines. Then he’d just ask me to do whatever I thought sounded best. A lot of his songs were pretty weighty at first. It seemed like there was a lot going on with him and this was his way of expressing it. But over time, he seemed to get happier. And as he got happier, his songwriting changed. Minus Bluff got tighter as a band and found our strengths. He let me experiment more and that led him to try new things.
We recorded a dozen songs and cut an album. We played coffee shops and…no, actually it was just coffee shops. But by the summer we were really good. Jason and my friend Amy were our hard core fans (and roadies). We played, we made new fans and new friends, we spent a lot of hot summer days at the river. No real jobs, no real responsibilities. And at some point, we all moved in to Amy’s house.
We stopped playing coffee shops and started playing bars. We actually booked The Crowbar in State College, which is a big deal because at least two of us had never really done anything like this before. It was crazy, and his songs were so good, so fun. He wrote one called ‘Four Steps From the Top’ because that’s exactly where his head was. On stage, in between songs, he’d just start chanting, “This train is bound for glory, this train…”
This was all very bittersweet for me, because I knew at the end of the summer, I was going to say goodbye. Cathy and I were moving to Illinois. She got accepted to grad school at The University of Illinois, and I was going with her because she was where I wanted to be; my heart belonged to her. I can’t say it was the hardest decision I’ve ever made because I never really contemplated staying with the band. BUT. To this day, it was the hardest goodbye I’ve ever had to make.
We played our last show at a picnic ground, I think it was some kind of party for Amy. It was beautiful, and so incredibly sad. I had the car packed up because I was literally leaving from the picnic to drive to Illinois. After Graham helped me load up the last of my stuff, he looked at me and said, “you never know where life’s going to take you,” and I cried all over myself.
They moved to Philly after I left but it didn’t last long. Meredith moved to Austin (and is actually kind of a bad-ass rock star right now) and Graham and Michelle split up. I’m not saying all that happened because I left. I just think the four of us made each other better. Probably in more ways than one.
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