Grandaddy are part of a four-band bill this Saturday at the House of Blues, and if you've loved them since their 2000 breakthrough, The Sophtware Slump, and have already plopped down the $22.50 for a ticket and are pee-your-shorts giddy for this show, you have me to thank. Me, me, me! Not that college-radio DJ who first turned you on to Grandaddy when you were too drunk to get up and listen to something else. Not the record-store clerk who recommended Grandaddy to you because you asked for something "spacey." Not that glossy-magazine writer who pretty much rewrote everything I'd been saying about Grandaddy since 1996. No, nobody else. ME!
I'm the one—me!—who stumbled across Grandaddy at South by Southwest eight years ago, one of those wonderful, revelatory, gimme-a-thesaurus moments when you come across a band so stunning you want to invent new adjectives. Their hairy mugs, flannel shirts and trucker-hats-before-anybody-called-them-trucker-hats made them look like they should be janitors or cult members, almost anything but the sweet, dreamy, electronic-lo-fi-as-filtered-through-Pet Sounds band they were. They played gorgeous, moody songs with oddball titles such as "Kim, You Bore Me to Death," "Nonphenomenal Lineage," "Collective Dreamwish of Upperclass Elegance" and "Poisoned at Hartsy Thai Food." I remember sitting in the sparsely packed theater, slack-jawed, drowning in their beatific aural soundscapes and the lazy, paranoid, just-got-kicked-in-the-balls falsetto of singer/band architect Jason Lytle. I also remember coming away with a choice to make: Do I not tell anyone about Grandaddy and keep them all to myself like an evil fucking greedy bastard—They're from Modesto! No one's gonna know about 'em anyway!—or do I do what I'm paid to do and tell the world?
Christ, I wish I'd been more selfish, but I just had to go telling everybody, oblivious to the potential consequences. I rang up Grandaddy's then-label, a tiny indie in Washington state called Will Records. The guy I spoke with seemed shocked someone from a newspaper would be calling and asking about Grandaddy and actually want to write about them. He mailed me their EP A Pretty Mess By This One Band and a vinyl seven-inch of "Kim" put out on an even tinier label out of Long Beach called Big Jesus, which, I'm told, would fetch me a bundle now on eBay.
I felt like selling the disc on eBay for a while after I got all pissed-off at them. Grandaddy put out their first full-length, Under the Western Freeway, in 1997, and something crappy happened: other people started liking them! I began seeing articles about Grandaddy in a slew of slick national magazines. By the time of The Sophtware Slump, Grandaddy were everywhere, even in tastemaking English magazines. When the LA Times' Robert Hilburn started wrapping his withered lips around Grandaddy's metaphoric love muscle, I hit my breaking point. This great, closely held secret, this terrific little unknown band—that had been mine! All mine!—now belonged to the world. Up yours, world!
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Grandaddy released a fine new album last year, Sumday, but a weird thing's gone down. Instead of the band getting even huger, instead of Grammy nominations and arena tours and framed platinum albums and car-accident dates with Rene Zellweger, they're kind of being . . . ignored. At least compared with all the attention they got three years ago. They're not even headlining the House of Blues show.
Maybe people feel Grandaddy is just too Y2K nostalgic. Maybe our national consumer market can lift into Total Godhead only one band per decade, and maybe the White Stripes are that band this decade. (The White Stripes—who I also discovered! But we'll spare you the part where I rant about seeing them at the Foothill in Signal Hill before a crowd of only 30 people.)
I don't know the answer, but I do know I can put Sumday on and listen with eardrums that haven't been tainted by hype. So maybe that's why I like it just a little better than Sophtware Slump—it's almost as if Grandaddy have come back to me after wandering through the big, scary world. And in 10 years, when the masses have glommed on to other things and have long since sold their Sophtware Slump copies, I suspect it'll be just me and Grandaddy in some foul dive bar in Stanton or someplace. Which might be horribly depressing for the band, but it'll be a fabulous time for me.
GRANDADDY PERFORM WITH SAVES THE DAY, THE FIRE THEFT AND DIOS AT THE HOUSE OF BLUES, 1530 S. DISNEYLAND DR., ANAHEIM, (714) 778-2583. SAT., 8 P.M. $22.50. ALL AGES.