Grant Lee Buffalo – Mercury Lounge NYC – 5/13/97

Years ago I remember reading Mike Stipe quoted as saying that Grant Lee Buffalo was the greatest rock band making music today. Mostly Stipe was referring to the unique vocals and thoughtful lyrics of singer Grant Lee Phillips, and was making these comments sometime between the release of their third (and best) album “Mighty Joe Moon” and their second (and second best) album “Fuzzy.” Since then Grant Lee and company have released only “Copperopolis” and haven’t really toured the East Coast for a couple years.

But on this hot summery Wednesday night, the chubby cheeked black blazered Phillips appeared infected with an almost Kerouac kind of energy. Bouncing and swaying with that “I’m feeling this real cool vibe” kind of kinetic swagger, he delivered hysterical monologues between songs and managed to play the perfect combination of old favs and new songs from their forthcoming release entitled “Jubilee.”

To see Grant Lee Buffalo live is to recognize almost instantly just how professional they are both as musicians and performers. After seeing as many indie-rock gigs as I have, featuring creative but often sloppy execution, it is refreshing to see an old school “professional” rock band, complete with measured and rehearsed transitions and equally compelling improvisation.

To see this band play the cozy Mercury Lounge as a practice run before the release of their new album, and considerably larger venue tour, is a real treat. Grant Lee Buffalo is all about creating an intimacy that unfortunately gets lost in a big space. This was one for the scrapbook- a show that deserves to be remembered.