WATERSHED / 1992 or so
A little deep background: I met Watershed in 1990 when I was a roadie for Willie Phoenix & the True Soul Rockers and they were still called The Wire. The Wire would open for the True Soul Rockers one Saturday night a month at a Columbus, Ohio, club called Ruby Tuesday where Willie maintained a monthly residency. To make a long story short: 3 or 4 months into their opening slots – after they had changed their name to Watershed – they somehow wrote an entirely new set of KILLER power-pop originals since the previous month (including “Rise,” my earliest favorite Watershed tune), got their asses moving onstage, and soundly blew the True Soul Rockers off the stage at Ruby’s. (Ironically that Great Leap Forward was probably largely due to Willie’s tutelage as he produced their first six-song e.p.) They also got 86’d as the opening band for that impertinence, of course, but from that point on I caught them live every time I could. From 1990 to 2005 I bet I saw ‘em close to a hundred times. From 2005 when I joined their road crew to now, I’ve seen ‘em a couple hundred more. And I’ve never ONCE been disappointed.
Which brings us to this past weekend: from being on the crew I’ve seen Watershed three nights in a row any number of times, but never in three more widely-varied rock & roll circumstances as The Watershed Hullabaloo.
The Friday night show at Natalie’s Coal Fired Pizza – Columbus’ absolutely premier listening room (as opposed to rock & roll dive) – found Colin & Joe seated on secondhand living room furniture that road manager extraordinaire/all-around Watershed tech mastermind Michael “Biggie” McDermott had somehow procured in some kind of time warp from the early 1970’s. Truthfully, I’m not crazy about the idea of rock & rollers performing sitting down, but it fit the concept of “two old friends swapping stories & songs around the campfire” vibe that Watershed was going for the first night of the Hullabaloo.
Opening with “Sensational Things” – a tune I’m DEARLY hoping opens the upcoming Watershed CD – Joe & Colin strummed through maybe a dozen songs, old AND new, peppering the set with the stories behind the songs, or just yarns that filled in the history of the band, and that’s a RICH history, boys & girls. They were then joined by middle-period Watershed powerhouse Mr. Dave Masica for a standing-up set of Watershed rockers, albeit it in a bass-less, acoustic, quiet hollow-body electric kinda frame of mind. A night of “Soft Rock Watershed” as the appearance was billed. They still woulda blown Bread off the stage. (Set-list for this show and the Saturday & Sunday gigs will appear in a future Pencil Storm blog entry.)
Friday night highlights: “Sensational Things,” “Plan B,” “American Muscle,” “Manifesto,” and Joe Peppercorn’s (the only past member of Watershed unable to make an appearance during Hullabaloo Weekend) “Set The World On Fire.”
At heart Watershed has always been a Saturday night rock & roll band. When they played on a Wednesday night after a (now-defunct) Columbus Chill hockey game in the mid-1990’s, they were a Saturday night rock & roll band; when they played third on the bill on a Tuesday night at some long-forgotten rock club during one of their innumerable Southern swings in the early 2000’s, they were a Saturday night rock & roll band; when they opened for Cheap Trick at a huge downtown outdoor festival on a Friday night, they were a Saturday night rock & roll band.
So, when you put Colin, Joe, Herb & Rick Kinsinger in front of a sold-out crowd of Watershed super-fans at Marcy Mays’ Ace of Cups – Columbus’ coolest rock club – on a warm August Saturday night you’d best believe you’re gonna get a fucking KILLER set of rock & roll music. So let’s check off the boxes on the rock & roll checklist:
1) Rockers – You got your “You Need Me,” you got your “Suckerpunch,” you got your “Black Concert T-shirt.” Check.
2) You got your heartbreaker ballads/slow tunes that set Watershed apart from the one-trick pony bands who only know how to pound, but never how to charm, because Colin & Joe always keep in mind that more hearts get broken on Saturday night than any other time of the week: “Over Too Soon,” “New Depression,” and “Anniversary,” for Chrissakes, one of the great power-pop ballads of all time. Check.
3) You’ve got your brace of brand-new songs, ‘cuz Watershed is never gonna be just a nostalgia act, chums: “Blow It Up Before It Breaks” and the GREAT new “Another Night In The Ruts.” Check. (By the way, the band enlisted Pencil Storm scribe Scott Carr to help out with stage duties to free up Biggie for the killer light display witnessed Saturday night, and Scott & I were trying to figure WHO’s song that was a cover of, before I checked with Colin on Sunday and discovered it is, in fact, another choice new original.) (But Jesus H. Christ, WHY didn’t they bust out “Sensational Things” at Ace of Cups? I’d have LOVED to get a full band Watershed airing of that on Saturday night.) Check.
4) Audience participation. You want audience participation? How about “How Do You Feel” and “Can’t Be Myself”? Check.
5) Flat-out great songs that should have been hits: “Obvious,” “Small Doses,” “Little Mistakes,” “5th Of July,” “The Best Is Yet To Come,” really too many too mention. Check & check.
Prime extra-musical moments of the Saturday night set: Joe throwing a tantrum AND his bass when his tuner kept screwing up; Mark “Pooch” Borror bringing the energy level up several notches in his guest slot on “Can’t Be Myself and “Anniversary.” Rick is a solid player and a stabilizing force in the band, but Pooch brings out some special sense of abandon and flat-out JOY when he’s up there with Watershed; Colin calling the show over seven songs into the set after “Black Concert T-Shirt,” and the band playing another 17 songs or so as an encore, before the “second encore” of “Sad Drive” and “Mercurochrome.” Genius performance move.
Okay, I’m already over my allotted 1000 words and haven’t dealt with Day Three of the Hullabaloo Weekend yet. Sunday was billed as “Watershed & Friends” and those friends included Jim Johnson (Willie Phoenix/League Bowlers), Dan Cochran (League Bowlers/Hilltop Lager), Marcy May (Scrawl/Ace of Cups) and Mike Sammons (Twin Cam.) Innumerable Watershed/League Bowlers/Lonely Bones/Colin solo songs and cover tunes from Willie Phoenix, Georgia Satellites, Cheap Trick & Chuck Berry all got played, the beer flowed freely, and – from my view at the side of the stage – the assembled multitudes had a rockin’ good time. (Again, set-list from Sunday to follow in a later Colin blog about Hullabaloo Weekend.)
Musical highlights of the Sunday show: “Battleship Chains,” “Twister,” “High Roller.”
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I’ve got the best job in the world. – Ricki C. / August 13th, 2019