Who shot rock and roll?

Drinking around town with Mellow Bravo
By BARRY THOMPSON  |  September 7, 2010

TAVERN ROCK “We want to be the baddest bar band around, but play original stuff,” proclaims Keith Pierce. “That would make us able to play anyplace in the USA and kick the shit out of everybody.”

Sometimes, bad choices don't seem so bad when we're making them. Sometimes, dangerously irresponsible decisions pan out. Sometimes, it doesn't matter, because it's already too late to turn back.

A few weeks ago, I signed up to spend an afternoon bar-hopping with a strange man. Upon noticing that he'd pounded a Guinness before I could down half a PBR, I wondered whether I hadn't gotten in over my head.

"I definitely am a weekend warrior," Mellow Bravo pulpiteer Keith Pierce tells me. "This is abnormal for me, to be out on a weekday drinking."

We're at Flann O'Brien's on Tremont Street in Roxbury, just a shade after 3 pm on a Thursday. Those of us with real drinking problems know 3 pm doesn't count as daytime, and Thursday is too close to Friday to count as a weekday. But this occasion marks a milestone for Pierce — a less abrasive, slimmer facsimile of Jack Black in High Fidelity who makes noises with his mouth akin to those of David Lee Roth and James Brown. He's spent many years plugging away in Boston rock circles. Now, Mellow Bravo — who unload their first long-player, Strut (self-released), on an unprepared society this Friday at the Middle East — have earned him his first newspaper interview.

And though the band have caroused for little more than a year, they're positioned to encourage other people to make many, many more-dubious choices. "I think the fact that musicians, on a whole, are in front of everybody all the time makes their drunkenness a little better documented," Pierce muses. "We're all pretty drunk."

This becomes a perpetual truism as our afternoon progresses from Flann's to Bukowski's to the Middle East Restaurant to Mellow Bravo's jam pad at New Alliance. The conversation drifts from local derelict street performers to how Eddie Vedder probably feels guilty about accidentally ruining music for 10 years to why Pierce's relationship with keyboardist and co-vocalist Jess Collins has yet to generate any band drama. But his mind never strays too far from rock and roll. Neither, it seems, does the collective cranium of Mellow Bravo — a congregation of former and current stoner-rockers and crust-punkers rechristened into a strange denomination of classic-rock revivalism.

Pierce mentions something about deconstructing old-school classic and roots rock, then putting the preferred pieces back together. This could account for how Mellow Bravo manage to sound archival without reflecting a specific erstwhile decade or staple band. Except for when they're deliberately mimicking Van Halen.

"We want to be the baddest bar band around, but play original stuff," Pierce proclaims. "That would make us able to play anyplace in the USA and kick the shit out of everybody."

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