Monday, February 1, 2010

SPRING HEELED JACK

In December of 1995 I was living in Boston, MA. I had recently quit the band that I had been in for 2+ years (J.C. Superska for those of you keeping score at home) and was a full-time student at Berklee College of Music. I was in my dorm room one day and the phone rang. It was my buddy Dave Karcich.

Dave played drums for the "other ska band" in CT at the time, Spring Heeled Jack. The Jack was a little more ska/punk than Superska. From afar, I had always been a little envious of Spring Heeled Jack. They were a great live band, had fun songs, they seemed to get really cool opening slots for bands like The Toasters and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and were everything that I really thought a band should be.

I was a fan.

So Dave calls and says, "Hey man. Our sax player left the band and we need someone to fill in for us at the Bosstones's Hometown Throwdown at The Middle East. It's the 2nd one they're doing and we're playing. Can you do it?" That was the first gig with the band that would become the band I would spend the next 5 years of my life in. It was the first touring I ever did, the first record contract I ever signed, the first song I ever wrote for a record. I had a lot of firsts with Mike, Ron, Rick, Dave, Tyler and Chris.

In 2000 we decided it was time to call it a day. No regrets. It was time. We played a "farewell" show at Toad's Place in New Haven, CT in May. Unfortunately, Chris couldn't be there because his new band, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, were playing on The David Letterman Show that night. We asked the club if they would turn The Letterman Show on in the main room. When we saw the Bosstones start performing, we stopped in the middle of a song to watch him play on the big screen at Toad's. We called Chris from stage, congratulated him and then went into a cover of "Where'd You Go" with the new, more appropriate lyric, 'Where is Chris Rhodes?" It didn't matter the band was breaking up. We were family. We were brothers. We were each other's biggest fans. Even though endings are always sad, it was the beginning of a new chapter in all of our lives that night:

I went on to play with Less Than Jake. I'm still there to this day and loving every damn minute of it. Chris is still with the Bosstones. Tyler went on and did a stint with Reel Big Fish. Ron was in The Lost City Angels for years and has recently stared a new band called The Murder Mile. Rick, up until recently, ran a very successful indie night at BAR in New Haven for nearly 10 years, as well as playing in Crooked Hook and The Mountian Movers. Mike played in Cenzo with our friend Vinnie Nobile (Bim Skala Bim, The Pilfers), Lord Fowl and also with Ron in The Murder Mile and Lost City Angels. Dave went on to play with The Pilfers and Avoid One Thing.

In 2002, I was on tour in Albuquerque, NM when I was woken by my tour manager who said that Rick was trying to get in touch with me. In a daze, I looked at my cell phone and saw he had called several times. He answered the phone and proceeded to tell me that Dave was in the hospital. He had suffered a brain aneurysm and was in a coma. When I asked Rick what his chances of coming out of it were, he told me it wasn't good. Dave was basically brain dead. Even if he came out of it he would never be the same Dave we all knew and loved. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I didn't want to believe what was happening. And I sure as hell wasn't going to loose hope that Dave was gonna make it. I believed in miracles. And I was praying for one to happen in this case.

I hung up the phone and started running around asking Jeb, our tour manager, to book me a flight out of there to New York so I could be with my brother in the hospital. I had to be there. My phone kept ringing. It seemed every one of my closest friends were all in a similar state of shock and numbness. In all the running around and phones calls, finally I sat down to try to think. I tried to make some sense of all this insanity. The realization finally hit: There is NOTHING I can do. I felt helpless. Why Dave? He was too young. This was total bullshit. I was a sobbing mess and didn't even realize it. I had never felt a pain like this is my life. I played the show that night, but I didn't even know what I was doing. I couldn't tell you anything about that show because my mind was anywhere but there.

A few days later I got news Dave had passed away. I couldn't tell you exactly how many days because between self medicating and not sleeping, I was lost. I headed back to Connecticut for the funeral. I was a complete emotional disaster. I kept thinking I was going to have a brain aneurysm. I was having massive panic attacks. I never thought I would feel normal again. I lost my brother. We had a banner that we would hang at every show. As the now surviving members of Spring Heeled Jack, we decided that the banner and the band would rest in peace with Dave. As I write this, I'm realizing how much I still miss Dave. Those that knew him know he was a great man. We also know that we are all better people for having had him in our lives. We did a small reunion at the end of 2002 at Toad's Place and raised over $8,000 for a scholarship fund that was set up in his name. At the end of that performance, we were all pretty certain that was the last time Spring Heeled Jack, in any form, would play a live show.

Until Last Week.

We decided that we need one more chance. I always hated when people would "come out of retirement". I had some very harsh things to say about Brett Farve making his comebacks. Same with Michael Jordan. We had always talked in the van how lame the Kiss reunions were and that if and when we ever broke up we would never EVER do a reunion. Well, at this point we've already done one, but that was very last minute and very thrown together, but for a good cause. The ends more than justified the means.

We all discussed it and decided that we would do one more show. Maybe two. But one show, for sure. We are in the process of booking it now. I can't really tell you anything more than that, but for those of you who didn't know of my life before Less Than Jake, there is the history. We are going to re-release both of our full length records (Static World View and Songs From Suburbia) on vinyl for this show and will also have some new and classic merchandise available online soon. You can check back here for updates on this, but I am very excited to get together with this talented group of friends of mine and play some songs that I hold very dear to my heart. Hope to maybe see you there.

OH! And let me be the first to officially say it:

SPRING HEELED JACK IS BACK.

21 comments:

  1. reading this reminded me of the few, but wonderful memories i have of living in connecticut. i love boston, but the scene we had in connecticut was more than i could ever hope for now a days.

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  2. Holy shit I will travel wherever this is to see a SHJ reunion!

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  3. Great blog post JR, I'll spread the world about the reunion on readjunk.com

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  4. Awesome news JR! Thanks for taking us through some of the history of the band and the sad news that came from it too. It was a very sad in the Ska world when Dave passed.

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  5. I really hope this show is in Boston. I will definitely go and bring everyone I can. Is Less than Jake going to play too? Dear god, this could be epic.

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  6. this is awesome news. i hope i get to see the show.

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  7. I look forward to seeing some great ska in Boston. Maybe we can all forget about the freezing cold for just one night!!!

    Elissa
    Http://pinkmonkeychatter.com

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  8. I don't think this would be in Boston, more then likely somewhere in Connecticut

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  9. Toad's Place (I'm assuming)

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  10. The CT scene was amazing back then, and SHJ was always a great show! You guys were booked to play a crappy festival at my tiny college (LIU Southampton), but it got rained out. You guys drove all the way out anyway, and ended up playing in my dorm basement for about 20 people. It was an awesome time, and it showed what sort of band SHJ was. A lot of bands wouldn't have bothered to show up. You guys were honest, hard-working, and really talented. I can't wait to see another SHJ show!

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  11. JR,
    Thanks for the solemn and soulful recount of the SHJ days. At risk of sounding insane, I'd like to confess that I have literally day-dreamed about you guys playing again since the last reunion. I admit to having grown out of some of my old favorite bands, but Spring Heeled Jack remains my number one. Maybe it's a CT bias, or maybe it's the memories tied to your shows. Regardless, I'm hysterically excited for the come-back. And now you know.

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  12. I am so there. Forget Florida I wanna see SHJ!!

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  13. Maybe I'll wear my 5 Giant Bars longsleeve.

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  14. you guys should play the Newtown Teen Center again. Let's get Sgt. Scagnetti to open.. it'll be like old times

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  15. Loved when you played a little indie record store in Ft Myers, FL (Offbeat Music) became and instant fan and saw SHJ every time you played here in FLA. We all miss Dave and hope to be able to travel to see your reunion show!

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  16. JC Superska should reunite too.

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  17. We've been gone for so long, that is doesn't really matter where we're going to...

    Sweet memories coming alive!

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  18. any date for the shj reunion yet? toads place i'm assuming

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  19. Re-pete,
    is there still a scholarship in Dave's name?
    if so, can i get the info?
    thanks.

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