Photo: Mike D


by Stace

Kill the Precedent, a great album with an impossibly clever title, is
Kalvin Koolidge's premiere release. It’s a sonic journey: each song
builds upon what has come before until the listener ends up a little
wiser and somewhere entirely different from where the journey began.
The band’s own journey involves Wales and New York City; a band can
learn a lot about itself during its first world tour—three friends, one
hired driver, and the world for their playground. Tommy Koolidge (as he
is credited on the album—there are at least four different names for
this guy) is the charismatic and affable singer/guitarist. He can
really play and write and has a wonderful rock ’n’ roll voice with a
larger-than-life personality to match. Kevin McDevitt, drummer and
current keeper of the band's cool facial hair, has been friends with
Tom for a very long time and only seems slightly understated in
comparison to Tom's extreme extroversion. Jonny Clancy, a classically
trained musician who tears it up on bass in this trio, is gregarious
and passionate, with an easy smile and several talents that he tries to
keep well hidden.

The very first night of the tour, the trepidatious trio hits a venue
in Wales. It can only be described as a biker bar. To the left of the
stage hangs a large American flag; to the right hangs an even larger
Confederate flag. The gang inside calls themselves the Patriots, which
Kalvin Koolidge hopes is a good sign. Blaring techno starts to pulse,
and sets a surreal scene. Kevin articulates what everyone is thinking:
"These guys are either going to start making out with each other, or
kick the shit out of us." Neither scenario materializes and Kalvin
Koolidge is warmly received throughout their set. The bikers insist
that the three join them after the show in a tribute to the great
American ability to pack away pints.

They eventually venture into a subterranean antechamber filled with
American war memorabilia where an unknown substance circulates and is
politely declined mostly because of the ambiguity of both the
intentions and the substance. When nothing untoward happens, an
American band is afforded the opportunity to embrace a cultural
difference; it turns out that in Wales, techno can be openly
appreciated by straight bikers.

Too drunk to even blow up an air mattress on that first night, they
use the uninflated cool vinyl as a blanket instead. When day breaks,
heady with success, they are whisked by their driver to the next gig
with the kind of reckless speed that is only reasonably afforded those
who know the roads extremely well. As they get out of the car, still
residually drunk from the night before, they notice a cow pasture
abutting the parking lot. Apparently the cows notice the band as well
and in one of those eerie yet inexplicable cow tides, a dozen or so
coalesce from nowhere to the fence edge. Some sort of connection has
clearly been established. Before even stopping to consider that one of
the large animals might be a bull or something decidedly not docile,
Tommy scales the fence. He finds himself at the center of the herd. He
takes out his video camera and starts filming. In a massive rush of
bovine inspiration, they take off, the entire herd running as one. What
does Tommy, Kalvin Koolidge’s spiritual leader, do in a situation like
this? Run with them of course. His feet slap onto the pasture in
a perfect beastly rhythm. There is just enough time for everyone to
momentarily register, wait, couldn't this be terribly dangerous?, when
Tom's foot plants squarely upon a large cow patty, upending him,
slamming him onto his back, rampaging hooves just inches from his
vitals. This of course, minus any real gore, is the funniest thing
anyone has ever seen.

Once inside the club for the gig, things get shuffled and Kalvin
Koolidge is forced to go on first to try to coax to life into an older
and resistant crowd. Perhaps this was a poorly selected venue. Jonny
chucks down his bass in disgust at the end of the set and just walks
out the door. Contemplative yet pissed, he decides to walk it off in
between the rows of a cornfield. An hour into his solitary sojourn, he
realizes that he is completely lost. Plus the band is leaving town that
night, and now the sun has set and the light of the moon only
occasionally lifts the utter darkness. His anger totally dissipated, he
decides it is best to keep moving.

Something starts to seep into his consciousness. Rhythmic
sounds—it’s music! He must have somehow walked in a large circle. He
follows the happy sound, triumphantly sees the club, and, surprised to
hear the crowd so lively, peers through the window from the parking
lot. The bands have combined into a musical supergroup, and it's a pant
party. A pant party happens once in a blue moon and is hilarious, all
sloppy and funky. It is the celebration of a magical convergence of
events; the proper ratio of fun, libation, and a funky groove that
spontaneously causes every musician to de-pant, if you will. A
celebration of anything goes, and to think, Jonny almost missed it.
Instead he removes his pants right on the spot, leaves them in the
parking lot and dashes inside. He sees a slight glow in the distance.
It seems impossible that he didn't notice it before. There, in the
middle of the room, is a stripper pole. Jonny bounds over to it; his
deceptively lythe body twirling, defying gravity, master of a forbidden
dance that stuns everyone who witnesses it. Kevin recalls of that
night, "Not only do we learn that Clancy, in the first time that he has
ever grabbed the mic, has a natural talent for scatting, but also this
guy can play around a stripper pole as if he works at the Golden
Banana!" "I mean, to the point where the crowd is only clapping for his
moves around the pole." To think they thought they knew Jonny before.

In New York City, one girl was so interested in getting to know
Jonny a little better after a show that she was willing to have all
three guys back to her place. They should have suspected that they were
in for an interesting night when even at 4:00 AM, a formal doorman was
at their service to drolly welcome and assist them into the elevator.
Especially when the risked the bends in the Manhattan elevator that
just went up and up and up to ear popping heights. When the doors
finally opened, they found an almost royal, three-level apartment with
all the trimmings at their debaucherous disposal. This might have been
Tommy's night for the ritual death that they all reported experiencing
on one night or other during this tour. He is the first to pass out at
any rate. This affords the others the opportunity to paint his full,
pouty, rockstar lips a vibrant, seemingly permanent purple while he
slept blissfully unaware. The only thing that could rouse him the next
morning was the urgent insistence of his bladder that he find one of
the many bathrooms and find it in a hurry. He burst into the kitchen
shirtless and resplendent with his purple mouth only to find their new
friend's mom shocked at his appearance. "Where is the bathroom?" he
uncomfortably demanded of her, unaware of his somewhat odd countenance.

Over time, these stories take on the flavor of lore and legend.
Kevin seems to have, on at least on some occasions, developed into the
voice of reason: "Are you sure you want to tell THAT story Clance? I
mean you are the one who didn't want to mention the time you 'paid the
rent' for us in New York." Jonny thinks for a second and opts to plow
forward. Kevin gives away the ending well in advance by pointing out,
"All of Clancy's stories end with [Kevin summons his best Rick James
affect] ‘I told ya, bitch!’”

Certainly it is at least an exaggeration, if not a flat out
fabrication when Tommy recounts that the mansion mom was actually so
turned on by his purple-lipped glam look that she burst through the
bathroom door and started to make out with him mid-piss. It has to be
poetic license when he describes her removing her bra in order to
attach it to his bare torso. But hey, it is New York. You never know
for sure.

Much like the journey that unfolds before the listener with a good
album like Kill the Precedent, you find out that you thought you knew
yourself before you experienced it, but it turns out that you really
didn't. On tour, as it is in life, you never know when something that
seems bad can actually surprise you and turn out great. Once upon a
time the crowd was pretty old and tired, and Jonny stalked off that
night, and everyone was feeling down. Kevin recalled, "Like, why did we
even come here? Then an hour later, we're having a pant party and
laughing our asses off. The next show at a local University turned out
to be the best night ever." Back in the States, Kalvin Koolidge is just
hitting their stride. The closeness that can only come from the road is
evident onstage in the perfect way they compliment each other. The
camaraderie has strengthened their sound. It is amazing what can be
learned about oneself and others in a quintessential journey such as
this. Valor, the willingness to take one for the team, and strange
experiences allow previously unrevealed traits and talents to bubble up
to the surface at the most unexpected but perfectly epic moments.



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