Towards the end of their set, singer/guitarist Chick Graning deadpanned to the crowd “We got lost getting here to the show. We took a wrong turn about eleven years ago”.
Background. Scarce was the first band I fell in love with my freshman year of college. The open for Fugazi about two weeks into my freshman year, and I got to drink my first college beer with the program directors of our campus station beforehand. Scarce blew me away with their set of razor sharp power pop and overall absolute command of the stage. From that point on I was hooked. the release of a new single was cause for giddy celebration. I hosted a graveyard shift Saturday night radio show, and would play both sides back to back just so I could record it on the board and play it back on my cassette Walkman endlessly as I made my way around the campus during the week. Even as I transformed into a shaved head uberpunk that devoured every word of Maximum Rock and Roll as gospel, including their anti major label stance, I wanted Scarce to sell a million records. And they seemed to on the brink of becoming the hugest band in the world. Then it went south. Graning fell victim to a brain aneurysm, and as he recovered, Scarce’s label offered minimal support, for the band and the individuals (the whole story can be found in much in bassist Joyce Raskin’s new book Achin’ to Be, available here. End of story, right? Just another near miss in the dog-eat-dog music biz.
Nope. Buoyed by the book and not quite ready to close out the last chapter, Scarce has reunited. Unlike a lot of one off reunion gigs, this looks to be the real deal, with more shows soon and an album to be recorded in the near future, kicking things off with a show at TT’s in Cambridge.
All I can say is it sure as hell didn’t sound like eleven years had passed between shows. Playing to a packed room, Scarce served a reminder that some folks are just born to be rock stars. It took a couple songs for Graning’s raspy voice to break in, but the stage was his from the get-go. Some people are just born to front a band, and Graning is one of the rare few that can command a room’s attention with understated charisma. There’s no histrionics and carefully orchestrated emotional “outbursts” pr pandering to the audience. It’s in the simple nods of a head or casually flicking wave of an arm acknowledging the cheers of the crowd that serves notice that yep, this is exactly where the band belongs. It was obvious even to those crammed in the back of the club how much they enjoyed a return to the spotlight, and how much chemistry Raskin and Graning have on stage. The catalog dates back close to fifteen (!) years at this point, but Scarce’s brand of thumping early nineties guitar driven alternative rock. After blistering through the first few songs, including a spirited rendition of the high octane punish “Hope“, starring Raskin in the lead vocal role. The highlight of the evening came midway through the set with the midtempo-cum-howler Crimea River.Softly strummed and near whisper verses ruminating on long distance relationships give way to unabashed guitar mayhem over a pounded rhythm section. To say that Raskin “played bass guitar” would qualify as an understatement. Exorcising the frustration knowing this is what should have been all along, Raskin stomped wildly across the stage, her legs kicking in every direction as her feet stamped the stage, hair pinwheeling wildly about her face while never skipping a beat. After closing out their main set with two of their earliest A-sides, the opposite side of the coin jaunty sing along “Days Like This” followed by the abrasive noise fest of “All Sideways“, Scarce came back up for a pair of encores, closing the affair out with a sloppy and joyous rendition of AC/DC’s “Shook Me All Night Long”. I don’t think a single patron, witnessing some of their fondest show memories from yesteryear while gleefully awaiting what’s up the band’s sleeve next could argue for a minute weren’t shaken indeed.