The Hippo - From the Stereo to the Stage

Boston band records and performs in New Hampshire

by Cory Francer

The Hippo, January 2013, Gravel Project reviewed
The Hippo, January 2013, Gravel Project reviewed

Maybe it was the day of skiing the band put in before the show. Or, maybe it was just the laid back vibe of the White Mountains venue. But when The Gravel Project plugged in at the Red Parka Pub in Glen to record a live album, the process was remarkably stress-free.

Guitarist and singer Andrew Gravel said that the band has recorded some of its live shows before, and when he’s listened back, he often finds himself critical of how the show went. Even though he knew this show was going to be released to the public, that worry wasn’t there.

“It was so cool, and I never thought about that we were recording it,” he said. “It really captured us being in the zone.”

Live at the Red Parka Pub is a selection of eight tracks; five of the songs are Gravel Project originals, and the others are renditions of the Grateful Dead’s “Sugaree,” The Allman Brothers Band’s “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” and Muddy Waters’ “Big Legged Woman.”

The band incorporates elements of blues, funk and rock and takes on a jam mentality of never playing a song the same way twice. When The Gravel Project returns to the Granite State for a show at Manchester’s Strange Brew Tavern on Friday, Dec. 28, Gravel said those familiar with the band’s recorded material shouldn’t expect it to sound exactly the same as the CD. “One of the cornerstones of the band is improvisation,” Gravel said. “We play things differently every night.”


 That philosophy goes for the band’s cover songs as well, Gravel said. During their shows, the band may bring its blues, funk and rock influences to everything from The Beatles “I’ll Cry Again” to their own take on some classic Bob Marley tunes.

When the band plays at Strange Brew, Gravel said usually it’s asked to play from 9 p.m. to around 12:30 a.m. The show is split into two 75-minute sets, and being able to mix in a wide array of covers helps to keep the show fresh and the audience engaged throughout the night.

“Having long sets gives us the opportunity to play an eclectic mix of different songs and different styles,” Gravel said. “When we’re playing for so long, it gives us a chance to really show what we can do.” Gravel said the band also takes the long sets to recognize what song styles and volume level the crowd is reacting best to and then tries to tailor its sets to the audience.

Depending on the reactions the band receives from the stage, Gravel said that fluid approach can improve the experience for the audience members.

“It gives us a chance to craft the sets and move the sets to the room,” he said. “If the room is not as full as it could be then maybe we’ll choose songs that are less rocking. We want to do what’s better for the crowd.”