“Late night diner meals, so many white-knuckle snowstorm drives to gigs, post-show-glow as we compare notes afterwards, wrapping cables and packing up our instruments, writing songs with the guys holed up in a cheap motel somewhere waiting for something on the van to get repaired. Again.”
These are the memories Peter Day thinks of when he looks back on the last two decades with beloved Vermont-spun band the Grift.
“No one can be told what the Grift is,” the band’s promotional video says. “You have to hear them for yourself.”
Known for its experimental, original and, most of all, fun, style, the Grift doesn’t fit into any one category or genre, and it’s won it the kind of longevity so many bands never quite get to. From 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, the Grift celebrates its 20th anniversary with a live concert at Mad River Glen ski area.
The band name came from a 1999 episode of “The Simpsons,” where Bart and Homer became grifters. “It just sounded cool,” said founding member Clint Bierman. “But now we say our grift is to be able to do what we love as our job.”
Bierman formed the band in 1999 with Jeff Vallone. In 2002, they joined forces with Day, a songwriter, and they became the core of the Grift as it’s known today. Other musicians have come and gone, but the Grift has been a full-time gig for 17 years for the original members. The upcoming show will reunite more than a dozen of the band’s members from the past two decades with its current configuration of Bierman on guitar, Day on bass, Vallone on drums and keyboardist Andrew Moroz.
Dance covers and originals are its specialty, with a focus on tight songs and three-part harmonies, but the band has never shied away from trying new things.
“Depending on what we’re listening to we’ve gone through different phases musically,” Bierman said. “We’ll go through four or five years of exploring different genres, but the core of the group is really based around singing and songwriting.
“I’m a strong believer in the craft of songwriting,” Bierman added. “My phone is full of one-liners. I’m writing constantly, and I get inspired by that process. And then something will happen, a melody, a riff, and then that’s when I get inspired to keep going.”
One of the perks of a band with so much history is the natural chemistry that allows an effortless flow. “We don’t rehearse ever,” Bierman said. “We learn everything on our own and before shows during sound check or backstage because it’s so hard to get together.
“Over the course of five to 20 shows, a song sort of refines itself into what it becomes,” he explained. “Having played together for so long it just comes naturally from doing it so often.
“The vision was to sell out Madison Square Garden when you’re in your early 20s,” he concluded, “but just be able to do it and raise a family doing it, I feel very lucky. So the vision has changed in that respect, but musically it’s always been to just keep it funky and fun and danceable.”
This will be the last time to see the band for a little while. The next public show takes place Oct. 4 at Middlebury Town Hall Theater. (For information, go online to www.townhalltheater.org.)