by Herodotus

Choose a YEAR, or just scroll down....

80-88 Prehistory  *  Story Of The Name  * 1988  *  1989  *  1990

1991  *  1992  *  1993  *  1994  *  1995  *  1996  * 1997 * 1998

1980-1988 GSW Prehistory

 1980....Lo Faber and Tom Osander (Tomo), both age 13, meet for the first time at the Princeton Day School Fair, where Lo has a band performing; Lo's band's drummer gets stage fright and Tomo takes over.

 1981-83....Lo and Tomo play in a number of bands in the Princeton, NJ. area, among them The Natives, The Joe Sugar Band, The I. D.'s, and Taffy And The Wonder Bears. They also play together in the pit band for the Rider College production of Grease in 1982. Lo plays bass in all these bands.

 1983....Tomo leaves P.D.S. and goes to Hopewell Valley High School. Lo and Tomo form The Lucky Charms, their first all-original band, featuring songs written by Lo and Tomo. Lo plays guitar in a band for the first time. The Lucky Charms also include Hilary Grant, Mike Rorro, and Tomo's brother Chris Osander. They record a single, "Blind Intellect" b/w "A Little Look Inside". The music is highly influenced by Talking Heads, King Crimson, and Brian Eno.

 1984....Lo writes "Electrocute" and "Morning Cigarettes", intended to be played by the Lucky Charms; later these would become some of the first God Street Wine songs. Lo graduates from P.D.S., the Lucky Charms break up. Lo moves to Pennsylvania and goes to work for the Faber family business; Tomo drops out of Hopewell Valley High and goes to work for Princeton Volkswagen. Lo buys a Fostex 4-track cassette recorder and continues to write songs in all his spare time for the next three years.

 1985....6 months is enough to convince Lo he doesn't want to work for the family business for the rest of his life. He quits and moves back to Jersey, where he and Tomo form Aid To The Choking Victim, a band with Lo and Tomo on guitars, drummer Dave Vaggott, and for a brief moment, Bobby Sheehan on bass (later of Blues Traveler fame). He enrolls in New York University in the fall for lack of anything better to do. Lo also gets into Steely Dan and more jazz-influenced rock music; he borrows Tomo to sing lead vocals on the original demos of Imogene and Big Papa.

 1986....Lo meets Dan Pifer in his second year at N.Y.U. when they are both living at the Brittany Residence Hall on East 10th Street. Dan is studying jazz at N.Y.U. and Lo has recently begun teaching himself jazz, so they begin jamming in various jazz jam sessions, occasionally with Tomo or with drummer Ari Friedman, and numerous other musicians; they play several impromptu gigs with German tourists Arno Zucknick and Enno Kuck, who are accomplished jazz players and who convince Lo he should be playing music in life rather than studying economics at N.Y.U. They do not yet play with Dan's N.Y.U. friend Jon Liebowitz (Jon Bevo), a philosophy major.

 1987....Dan transfers from N.Y.U. to the Manhattan School Of Music; Lo heeds the Germans' advice and joins Dan in transferring to MSM. Lo and Dan move into a 5-story walkup apartment on West 113th Street. In the first two weeks of School they meet a fellow student named Aaron Maxwell Lieberman, whose father, Hal Lieberman, is also a trumpet and jazz improvisation teacher at MSM. It turns out that Aaron also has an apartment on West 113th Street, a block from Lo and Dan. Soon Lo is bringing Aaron over to sing lead vocals on his latest 4-track cassette compositions, songs like "Fortress Of Solitude", "Freight Train", and "Hungry Again".

 1988....The idea of forming a band becomes a topic of discussion between Lo, Dan, and Aaron. Tomo comes to jam with the other three several times, but also spends much of this year on Grateful Dead tour. Lo and Aaron move to Cape Cod for the summer, where Lo works as a Cumberland Farms cashier, Aaron works as the steward of a yacht club, and the two work six nights a week at two local restaurants as a jazz guitar duo (Dos Heteros). Finally in the fall Lo persuades Tomo to move into the city and join the band; Lo, Tomo, and Aaron get an apartment on West 82nd Street, and Tomo gets a job at Tower Records. Dan gets a part-time job at Sounds Of Joy (S.O.J.) Studios, a small rehearsal room on West 46th Street, and the band starts jamming there after midnight most nights; Dan brings his N.Y.U. buddy Jon to these jam sessions, and he becomes the band's keyboardist and fifth member. The band spends September and October learning enough material to play a show, and trying to think of a name. Lo's then-ex-girlfriend (they later got back together, then broke up again) Lia Miller is brought in as the band's first manager.



 On the wall of Tomo, Lo, and Aaron's apartment was a list of band name suggestions, most of which were stupid jokes; one of these became the band's original (somewhat joking) name. Several nights later, the band met Jennifer Ellen Ahern, from Florida, on a street corner after a late night rehearsal, and chatted long enough to get her phone number. When Jon called Jennifer the following night to invite her to a party, they told her the name of the band, but Jennifer was intoxicated; she mispronounced or garbled the name they told her and said "What....god street wine?" At which point the band members agreed that "God Street Wine" was a much better name than the original, and it was promptly changed; since then the original name has not been revealed to anyone outside the band. And Jennifer Ellen Ahern, from Florida, has never been heard from again to this day.


1988-The Present: The Story Of God Street Wine

 1988. The band records a five song demo at S.O.J. featuring Electrocute, Freight Train, She Said Dark, Fortress Of Solitude, and Other Shore. The first God Street Wine performance for other people is November 29th at a party at The Love House, a commune of S.U.N.Y. Purchase students in Byram, Connecticut; the first paying gig is at the Nightingale Bar on East 13th Street on December 13th. God Street Wine meets Blues Traveler, another band with roots in the Princeton NJ. area who are beginning to draw huge crowds at the Nightingale; they will play many gigs opening for Traveler and another Princeton-spawned band called the Spin Doctors over the next year or so. Meanwhile rehearsals continue and the bands learns April Rain, Dirty Little Secret, and In The Lighthouse, among many others. New Years Eve is another party at the Love House, where #1 Fan Paul Ducharme sees the band for the first time.

 1989. GSW becomes a regular act at the Nightingale, and also at the 712 Club, a semi-legal venue located on West 125th Street under the West Side Highway. They also play frequently at the Bleecker Street bars, including Mondo Perso, Mondo Cane, the Bitter End, and the Speakeasy. The band makes its first full-length studio recording, an 8-song cassette simply entitled God Street Wine recorded at C&J Studios on West 43rd Street; John Popper is featured as guest soloist on one song. 500 copies of the tape are spun, all of which are eventually sold at gigs and through the bands growing mailing list. Dan goes to England to visit family for 6 weeks and is temporarily replaced by ex-Lucky Charms bassist Mike Rorro; one of the shows played during this period is a party in Ridgewood, NJ at the home of Ed and Ben Looram, which spreads the reputation of the band to a lot of kids from the Ridgewood area who become the original winos, coming to virtually every show for about a year thereafter. In the fall, Aaron, Lo, and Tomo move into the top story of a house on Kennedy Boulevard in Jersey City, and Lo drops out of college; Lia is fired as band manager and Lo and Tomo run the booking and business of the band full-time. The band begins to play some shows with a four-piece horn section headed by an old MSM classmate, trumpet player Howard Collins. Eventually the full horn section proves too costly and troublesome to maintain on a gig by gig basis, but Howard stays in the band as trumpet player for the next year or so.

 1990. GSW records three nights of shows at the 712 Club that are edited by Lo, Dan, and Jon in Los bedroom in Jersey City into Live at The 712 Club, Volumes 1 and 2, which are pressed as two 90-minute cassettes. Volume One is sold at gigs for the next year or so; Volume Two is never really released (many copies still sit in boxes in the GSW archives). Meanwhile the band plays more gigs than ever, including its first show more than an hour away from New York city, at the Rhinecliff Hotel in upstate New York, which will become a regular gig spot for the next three years. Jon graduates from N.Y.U. with a degree in Philosophy. Los brother Tony Faber manages the band for a brief time. After Los family station wagon burns to a blackened crisp one Sunday afternoon on the Jersey Turnpike, the first God Street Wine van is purchased, a 1985 white Chevy Sport Van. Blues Traveler and the Spin Doctors both sign record deals, and God Street figures its time cant be far behind (little do they know).

 1991. The band decides having a lone trumpet player without a horn section doesnt make much sense, and has an amicable parting with Howard, who goes on to form funk-jazz ensemble The Question and release Mystery Rodent (featuring one Lo Faber composition) on his own label later in the year. Meanwhile, GSW feels the frustration of all working day jobs to get by, along with their meager band earnings. Not having gotten a record deal like the other bands on the scene, the band figures they must build their career on a grass-roots level. Ed Looram becomes the bands manager, and the fans of GSW start packing the Wetlands (a classier venue than the Nightingale or 712 Club, which would become the bands home venue for the next three years). Emboldened by their growing success at the Wetlands and at the Rhinecliff Hotel, where fans are now crowding in by the hundreds to see GSW, the band decides in September to quit their jobs and move out of the city, into a big house in Ossining , NY., not far from where Jon grew up in Westchester county. In the fall God Street plays gigs in the colleges and college towns that would become the cornerstones of GSW fan support outside of New York: Burlington, Vermont (Slade Hall at UVM), Ithaca, New York (The Haunt), St. Lawrence University, and Lehigh University.

 1992. Living  together in The Great Northern, with no jobs and no time pressures, the band learns an incredible amount of new material, from pop songs like Goodnight Gretchen and Nightingale (a tip of the hat to GSWs first venue) to complex instrumental compositions of Los like Stupid Hat, Mantoloking, and Crazy Iranian. By the end of 1992 the band is hardly playing any of the material from the first show at the Nightingale (although Electrocute and Fortress remain in the repertoire to this day). Meanwhile, John Bell of Family Tree Productions in Burlington, VT become the bands booking agent, and starts booking a schedule of clubs, colleges, and frat parties that builds GSWs following across the East Coast. Ed Looram quits as the bands manager in the spring, and the band is self-managed for the next year. In March GSW begins recording what would become Bag, the first studio recording to be released on CD and the first to be sold in record stores. Bag is recorded in various sporadic sessions at the House Of Music in West Orange, New Jersey, and at Crossroads Studio in Manhattan, where GSWs friend Joe Rogers was staff engineer--and could thus sneak the band in after midnight to record. The album is released in November with a show at the Wetlands. Around the same time Lo and Tomo meet with Scott McGhee, manager of Bon Jovi, the Scorpions, and Skid Row; he does not want to manage the band, but seems interested in signing them to a record deal, the only problem being that he has no record label (this will later change). Desperate for management, the band steals a copy of Pollstar magazine from the office at the Wetlands and tour manager Mike Weiss starts calling randomly selected management companies and pitching the band to them. One of the people called turns out to be Scott Reilly (aka Bullethead), who that very week had noticed a huge crowd outside the Nightingale Bar one night that God Street was playing there.

 1993. Scott Reilly becomes GSW manager and the band sets out on its longest tour yet, including four weeks in Colorado, which turns out to be a home away from home for the band. Many of the shows on this tour are taped and later become the live album Whos Driving, released in October. Scott makes a deal for Bag to be distributed by RipenReady Records, and the bands first album enters record stores for the first time. The Chevy Sport Van finally breaks down and, in need of transportation, GSW agrees to provide RipenReady with a 60 minute live album in exchange for a new van; this becomes Whos Driving, with the new van commemorated in the cover painting. The band plays Irving Plaza in New York in June for the first time and sells it out, returning for the Whos Driving record release in October. Record label interest starts to develop for the first time in GSWs career due to the indie success of Bag and their reputation as the best unsigned band in the country. The touring continues year round and also includes many shows in GSWs backyard at the ForenAft in White Plains, New York. Meanwhile Scott and Doc McGhee conclude a partnership deal with Geffen Records to sign their own artists to their own sub-label on Geffen, and they offer the band a deal with Geffen. The band weighs this offer against one made by Epic Records, and decides to sign the McGhee-Geffen deal. Lo comes down with pneumonia, and the band has to cancel 3 weeks worth of shows; the rest of the year is spent recording demos of the material that would comprise the Geffen album (some of these demos have circulated as the Bedroom Tapes).

 1994. More demos are recorded and the search for a producer and studio for the Geffen album begins. Finally the band travels to Memphis to record with producer Jim Dickinson. $1.99 Romances is recorded in six weeks at Beale Street Studios in Memphis, where the band also meets engineer Malcolm Springer. Eventually the record label, the band, and the bands management all have a falling out with Dickinson over money and over the mix, culminating with Dickinson threatening Lo that he would drown the master reels in the Mississippi River; eventually the album is mixed in June in New York by Nick Didia and Lo. Meanwhile the touring continues (that is pretty much the theme for 1992-1996). The band returns twice to Colorado and plays new towns in the South and Midwest as well. Lo keeps a journal of the touring for much of the year. Geffen money buys the band their third van in the fall, a brand new Dodge extended van with a cassette stereo (a first). 1.99 Romances is released in September; it sells slowly at first but soon becomes a fan favorite and picks up a moderate amount of airplay around the country. On the fall tour Dean Mullin quits as GSW sound tech and is replaced in mid-tour by Brian Duffy. The band returns to play a 3-set New Years Eve at Irving Plaza.

 1995. Early optimism over the Geffen deal turns to disillusionment as power struggles within the company leave GSW without any supporters at the label, and the McGhee brothers are all but pushed out of the deal. In January the album reaches number 27 on the AAA radio charts; the next week the band is told the company will no longer be promoting it. GSWs lawyer begins negotiations to get the band out of its deal, which finally come to fruition in June with the bands official release from Geffen Records. Meanwhile, striving for financial self-sufficiency, the band switches booking agents to Jonathan Levine and adopts an aggressive touring policy of playing lucrative colleges and prep school gigs across the country, sometimes two shows in one day, throughout the spring. It pays off as the band has enough money to build its own studio by the summertime. Lo and Brian construct a studio in The Great Northern and the band flies Malcolm Springer up from Memphis to engineer the recording sessions as the band begins to work in June on recording new material. The new songs, inspired by Los breakup with his fiancé and by the bands frustration with the outcome of the Geffen deal, show a more introspective side of God Street Wine, and the bands learns to enjoy studio recording for the first time. Also Jon makes his debut as a GSW songwriter, with a number of his songs figuring prominently in the new recordings. In the summer the band puts recording on hold to tour with the HORDE, with the Black Crowes, G Love, Joan Osborne, and old friends Blues Traveler. Travelers single Runaround is a hit and the tour is a huge success; GSW also befriends the Crowes, whose influence makes its way into the GSW home studio later that summer. When the home recordings are finished they are independently released by the band as red; however, Danny Goldberg, president of Mercury Records, sees the band around this time at the Beacon Theater and offers GSW a deal including the release of red as the first Mercury album; the album is duly withdrawn from circulation so that Mercury can release it in 1996. In the fall tour GSW finally plays the West Coast for the first time, with a sold-out show at San Franciscos Great American Music Hall. At the end of the tour they are so burnt out from riding in a van that they take Magic Markers and cover the entire ceiling of the Dodge van with the words 'I hate this van' in tiny lettering thousands of times over.

 1996. The year begins with the band still in their home studio with Malcolm, writing and recording new songs for the next Mercury album. Many of these songs will end up on 1997s God Street Wine--but not without going through many changes and rearrangements. Lo hosts the Ominous Seapods at the Great Northern and takes two weeks off from GSW to produce their album Jet Smooth Ride. Red is released officially by Mercury on April 1st (of course, it is old to hardcore GSW fans by this time). For the first time in five years, God Street does not come out with a new album in ë96. Instead they tour the country approximately three times, including extended runs as a headliner and opening slots on HORDE, with the Allman Brothers, and with the Black Crowes. They are touring in a tour bus for the first time which enables them to do longer tours with less burnout. At the same time Lo and Jon, inspired by the home studio and by the grass roots success story of red, are writing more songs than ever. Demo sessions in Ossining continue in September and again in November, but by this time the band has decided they want to record the next album in a professional studio with a producer. At one point the band hands Scott 41 songs worth of studio demos of new material; but the band ends the year still uncertain as to which ones they want to record or how they want to go about making the next record.

 1997. The band finally moves out of the Great Northern (at least, Lo, Jon, and Tomo do, Aaron and Dan having moved out about two years previously). Lo, Dan, and Aaron now get apartments in New York and the band rents loft/rehearsal space on West 23rd Street, getting back to its Manhattan roots. In the bands longest period off the road of its career, GSW spends some two months in the loft space, rehearsing, arranging, and sorting through the large amount of new (and old) material under consideration for the new record. The highly studioized sonically weird style of red has proved difficult to reproduce on the road, so one priority is to make a record that had a live sound that fit in with the live GSW show. To this end the band rehearses the new songs painstakingly and performs three nights of private shows in the loft space, in front of family, friends, and longtime fans, to test the new songs live. GSW also goes to Europe for the first time, playing a two week stand at the Chesterfield Café in Paris, France, where they continue to give the new tunes nightly workouts onstage. At about the same time as the Paris trip the band meets producer Bill Wray, and it is an instant match. Bill agrees to come to New York to produce the new album, and Malcolm is hired again as engineer; sessions start at Sear Sound on West 48th Street in April. The album is completed over the next 3 months in various studios in Manhattan. It ends up including 12 songs of the 18 recorded for the album; guests artists including keyboardist Bill Payne of Little Feat, percussionist Denny Fongheiser, and old friend John Popper on harmonica are brought in to complement the bands live sound. The band spends the summer playing weekend dates, and rehearsing intensively with the goal of getting back to a more improvisational, jam-oriented show in the style of their earlier days. The album comes out October 7th; sales are once again slow, but fan reaction to the new material at shows on the fall tour is very positive.

1998. The band kicks off '98 with the very successful Shindig Tour, in which acoustic renditions of GSW songs are mixed with the guys' favorite covers, the band performs seated on bar stools, and numerous audience guests sit ion with the band onstage. Another full electric tour follows but in the spring, Jon and Tomo make known their lack of desire to tour in the immediate future. This opens up a rift in the band because Dan, Aaron, and Lo want to continue touring. In the end the latter three hold auditions for new members for a summer tour and end up hiring Pete Levin on keyboards and Aubrey Dayle on drums. Jon Bevo gets married to Toni Feliu. The guys work with Aubrey and Pete for a mere 3 weeks, teaching them 40 songs, and play "dress rehearsal" gigs at the Muse in Nantucket and the Rhinecliff Hotel before debuting the new band to a very enthusiastic Irving Plaza crowd in June. In July the new lineup tours the East Coast and goes into the studio to make a record, with now-ex-keyboardist Bevo accompanying them. They finish the record in August and go back on the road in the fall, but the future of the album is unclear because of the sale of Polygram to Seagram's/Universal in the fall. The band plays their 10th Anniversary show in Baltimore, Maryland, where they reprise the same set they played their first show ever in Baltimore.

1999. Here we are!



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