The good old days
by Charmie Gholson
When Porchsleeper guitarists Brian Raleigh and Derek Vertin were seniors in high school, they had a mutual friend who needed a place to stay. He spent the last part of the year moving between their two houses. Apparently, when he would act up, his two friends would threaten to banish him to the porch. Eventually, they just referred to him as Porchsleeper.
I wonder where that guy is now. I wonder if he knows that his two friends, now grown and married, with desk jobs and mortgages, have formed a weekend-warrior alt-roots/
country-rock band and named it after him. Perhaps he is in the long list of people who get an apology from the band in the liner notes of its wonderfully depressing first CD, Every Day Is Better than the Next.
I saw Porchsleeper in the barnlike performance space above Rubber Soul Records in Ypsilanti. Raleigh, Vertin, and bassist Zac Johnson manhandled the guitars. Leery of the small space, they played a set of lovely lyrical story songs that left me feeling quite melancholy. Johnson even played a banjo at one point.
Then Raleigh said, "Okay, we're through being quiet now." The drummer gave a fast eight count, and we got a look at the real soul of this band as they launched into an up-tempo rock tune with twangy riffs and simple, direct lyrics: "You're the kind of girl I like the kind that don't like me." The previously cautious drummer, Steve Bekkala, gave those skins something to think about, and all three guitarists sang harmonies. It reminded me of the rock scene in this town in the 1980s, when lots of bands played straight-up, honest rock 'n' roll, served with plenty of drinking.
These guys are either recovering assholes or great liars. In the ballad "If I Told You," they sing about basically stalking an ex-lover and lament, "Now I know I let you down every time I slept around." But I
hung out with these guys after the show, and they're polite as choirboys and obviously devoted to their wives. Either way, their songwriting brings back delightfully painful memories of what it was like before the kids and mortgage drinking and crying and fighting and drinking and making up all set to catchy, driving, unpretentious, and unapologetic rock.
I can honestly say there wasn't a song in that set that I didn't like. Better yet, Porchsleeper's back-to-basics drinkin' and cheatin' heartbreak college rock put me in the mood
for some trouble. I don't know about you, but in my midlife, diaper-changing, stable life, there is some room for drinking and cheating and crying and drinking and making up. So serve it up, turn it up, and don't blame me in the morning.
Porchsleeper opens for Havilland at Frenchie's in Ypsilanti's Depot Town on Saturday, June 12, and for Grand Champeen at the Blind Pig on Wednesday, June 16.
[Originally published in June, 2004.]