Green on Red
Valley Fever: Green on Red Live at The Rialto
Just over a year ago, Green on Red, the seminal 1980s Paisley Underground/alt-country/roots rock/whatever band, reconvened at Tucson's Rialto Theater to celebrate Hotel Congress' 20th anniversary as well as pay tribute to their fallen drummer, Alex Macnicol. The 16-song set was initially burdened by the band's don't-wanna-talk-about-it baggage, but shortly got to cookin'-and soon singer-songwriter-guitarist Dan Stuart's jokes got better and the four remaining members smiled, sweated and played like it was 1985 all over again. Guitarist Chuck Prophet discussed the event with Harp.
HARP: Shall we speak of Green on Red's "sloppy brilliance?"
Some people thought we were the saviors of rock 'n' roll, and a lot of other people thought we were pathetic. I think they were both right.
There is kind of a Wild Bunch element to Green on Red. But there's safety in numbers. We're all tight enough to just embrace the sloppiness when it happens, you know. Before we played the show, we went to London and rescheduled a show that was meant to be the last show of our tour, before we basically imploded. We had a huddle backstage and Dan said, "Okay, we're old. We know what to do."
HARP: Takes a big man to admit that.
Seriously, there were times when it meandered into brilliance and when it was pathetic.
HARP: Where were you brilliant and where were you pathetic?
Anybody that learned five cowboy chords at Catholic youth camp could probably play any of [Green on Red's] songs. At the same time, there was something about the collective thing that happened when we all played together. But, you know, to be honest, there's really not a lot of things I want to revisit from 18 years ago. We had to do the reunion because we all know things about each other that we don't want anyone to know.
HARP: You've been through a lot with these guys.
In the four years that we were really active toward the end, it was like we were running on the same nine-volt battery; things got pretty dim. We were all pretty dispirited and it got pretty unfriendly. But it didn't take long to stand back and squint and remember the good stuff.
HARP: So will you play the Hotel Congress festival every year?
I think somebody started that rumor, in the "If you book it they will come" spirit, but we don't wanna revisit that. Even though it had been a short time that we'd all been communicating, it didn't take long before we started bristling at each other's emails, I'll tell you that.
HARP: So-how hard did you have to squint to see the good stuff?
Gee, Dr. Phil, I don't know. Whatever it is, I guess we're still workin' through it. One thing I was thinking about today was how things have changed in the music business. One thing was, when we were touring around, our version of really making it was to have a gas card. And we had a gas card; we could fill up the van. In that way, we made it.
We get along creatively as humans, I think. There's a certain brotherhood to Green on Red, but I think for the uninitiated, if they were to see us all together, somebody didn't know us might think, "Gee, those guys don't seem to like each other very much."