SHOW REVIEW: Jr. High's last show!
June 11, 1999 -- Portland, Oregon, EJ's
By: Alex Steininger
At the beginning of the week this looked like just another amazing Friday night show at EJ's, hands down the best club in Portland, Oregon. It's always great to see Jr. High and No. 2 on the same bill, because you know you're going to have a great time. But, as the week developed, it became clear this was going to be anything but a usual Friday night show.
The word came in on Wednesday that Jr. High was no longer a functioning band (they broke up) and that the show at EJ's on the 11th would be their last. Things were shaping up for a very memorable night, in deed.
Opening the show on Friday was Wolf Colonel from Gresham, Oregon. Recently releasing a 7" loaded with 8 songs on K Records, the band's punchy rock, catchy melodies, and pop sensibilities made them a nice opener for the show. And, though they put on a good set, filled with an energetic frontman who loved to jump around on stage and go nuts, the inactivity of the second guitar player brought everything down a notch. He seemed so out of it, like he didn't enjoy being on stage. He just stood there as he calmly played his instrument as the time passed, which was about as fun to watch as paint drying. The frontman made up for some of his inactivity, but after their set the impression was still there and I couldn't get it out of my mind.
Next up was The Minders, a band that recently re-located to Portland, Oregon. Playing tight rock 'n' roll with a strong 60's pop feel, their hook-filled melodies felt right at home in front of the ever-growing crowd. By this time the crowd growth was starting to pick up, so there were plenty of bodies on the floor as the band riffled through some warm pop music. The word warm-up was truly being exercised as The Minders began to rise the energy level in the house to a higher plateau, in preparation for the two bands to come.
Then No. 2 came on, which is always a guaranteed deal. Led by Neil Gust's strong lyrical base and talented pop charm, and backed by the sweet voice of Gilly Ann Hanner and her bold bass lines, as well as Pauli's (Jr. High's drummer, too) miraculous drumming skills, No. 2 is a band that can put amazingly catchy pop hooks on top of kicking rhythms and make you bounce around while they suck you in with each note. So, it came as no surprise when the crowd (which was almost at the capacity it would be at for Jr. High's last performance) gathered to see Neil and company light up the stage with clever pop tunes.
As they dove through songs like the ultra infectious "Never Felt Better," the charged "Nobody's Satisfied," and the folky-pop of "Move It Along," (all of which will be on their forthcoming full-length) the crowd focused all their attention to the stage as each song found them more and more into the set. It was Jr. High's last show, which drew in a lot of people, but as No. 2 played their hearts out, it was their night as well. The crowd couldn't get enough of them, and as they exited the stage, you could tell the crowd wanted more. But, it was well past midnight and the anticipation was building for Jr. High's final performance, so the crowd accepted the fact that No. 2's set was over and waited eagerly for the last band on the bill to take the stage.
Everyone gathered around, the place was packed, as Sean Croghan and the other three members of Jr. High took the stage. Thanking everyone for coming, and talking about how the last four years of the band have been great, Sean announced it was their final performance before jumping into the first song he ever wrote for the band, "Storm Warning" (off of their full-length, KILLER OF FRIENDSHIPS). From there he made it clear they had no set list and were just going to play whatever they could think of, and then continued to rock the audience.
Putting all their energy and hearts into this performance, lead guitarist David shined, bassist Brendan smiled and bounced around, as did his bass lines, and drummer Pauli kept the beat perfectly in tact and ensured the kick was there to fuel the band through this set. The band played songs off their full-length ("Today's The Day," "Brian's Pain," and "Incapable"), some songs they never recorded, and selections from their final recording session. They even threw in a few cover songs, which drove the crowd wild, as both the band and the crowd got into them, bouncing around like there was no tomorrow.
For a band this energetic, there was no other way to go out. Hugging each other on stage, and even kissing (frontman Sean Croghan gave lead guitarist David Alspaugh a big kiss on the lips after their set), it was clear they were still good friends, and that the split was just mother nature letting them know it was time. But, after a rousing set like they played, the audience wanted more. It didn't matter it was 2am, they were pumped and ready for more. So, Sean Croghan took the stage himself, with just his electric Gibson and his voice, and played an untitled number that put a cap on the entire evening. Think of it as the beginning of his new future (he is concentrating on his solo material now), or the demise of the band, but as he stood on stage alone and played the teary-eyed number, it was evident that although Jr. High was gone, the talented Sean Croghan was just beginning to get ready to show the world what he is capable of.