Friday, February 03, 2006

Brunt Of It story - Mercury 2/1/06


With Mustache Ride
Wed., 2-1, 9:30p.m.
Gillary's, 198 Thames St., Bristol
Cover $2


If you aren't familiar with the hardcore punk scene that put Newport on the map during much of the 1980s, you don't know the Brunt Of It. And if you think it's dead and gone, well, you obviously don't know Boo.

For Brunt Of It, a band that Newport native Eric Barclay de Tolly - known to most as "Boofish" - helped form in 1995 when he was living in San Francisco, things are getting busy these days. They released their second CD, "Certain Uncertainty," last November and the growing interest in this punk-ska band has them playing live more than ever before.

"It's becoming worth it now," said Barclay de Tolly, 37, the band's singer, who has been involved in the local music scene since he was in high school. The band is "tight as hell now," he added. "Most weekends we're actually out doing something."

There have also been recent distribution talks with the European hardcore label I Scream, a recent slew of gigs in Boston, Connecticut, and Maine, and they are now seeking a manager to line up a full East coast tour for later this year. The band is slated to warm up New York hardcore vets Murphy's Law on Saint Patrick's Day in New York City.

So what exactly keeps a guy like Boofish, who owns Middletown-based high-end construction business BDT Builders, in touch with his inner punk rock child?

"This is where I find my soul," he explained. "There's a lot of great things that I have in my life, but I've gone many years where I wasn't playing (music) and getting up on stage, and there would be a big hole. My life is empty without it."

Barclay de Tolly's music involvement dates back to the early 1980s. While he cut his teeth as a bass player and singer with bands like Positive Outlook, Step Forward, and Fast Forward, he developed more of a reputation as a scene booster throughout the 1980s. He helped arrange some of the first all-ages hardcore shows in Newport at the late, lamented Blue Pelican jazz club, now an annex to Community Baptist Church on Dr. Marcus F. Wheatland Boulevard. In addition to the local bands on the Pelican bills, young punk fans were treated to Boston acts like Gang Green, New York acts like Youth of Today, and nationally established legends like 7 Seconds.

In the late 1980s, Barclay de Tolly started the Ravers, the still-ongoing local reggae act. The Ravers grew in popularity locally and started getting shows at colleges in New York and elsewhere, but conflicting goals within the group convinced Barclay de Tolly to quit and eventually relocate to San Francisco. "My horizons are always a lot broader than Newport, Rhode Island," he said.

Hoodlum Empire, a west coast ska punk band with a fairly established local following, ended up taking on Barclay de Tolly as a bass player. Vocalist Rob Rock was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1994, but the band soldiered on with him until one night in May 1995 when they were supposed to warm up then relatively unknown No Doubt. Rock never showed up. He has been missing ever since.

"I saw him go crazy," Barclay de Tolly offered frankly. "He tried all kinds of drugs to become normal again, but nothing worked. He was very similar to me and was someone I spent a lot of time with. I have tons of friends (in San Francisco), but he was one of my best friends. It is definitely eye-opening to see how fragile someone's mind can be."

Brunt Of It was formed in San Francisco shortly after Hoodlum Empire's demise, largely an effort by Barclay de Tolly to keep Rock's vision alive by writing songs around a pile of Rock's lyrics. The first incarnation of the band lasted until Barclay de Tolly moved back to Newport in 1996. It wasn't long before he started an East coast version.

The cast of characters that has come and gone through Brunt Of It - like drummer Doug Ernest and guitarist Adam Alechio (both former Ravers bandmates), not to mention bass player Fred Abong (a Positive Outlook alum) - is a testament to the crew of friends that has incestuously populated the local music landscape, both hardcore and otherwise, since the early 1980s. Vicious Circle, Positive Outlook, Civil Death, Verbal Assault, Step Forward, Fast Forward, the Throwing Muses, Belly, Primitive Ritual, the Ravers, Two Guys and Another Guy, One Ton Shotgun, Backwash, Mother Jefferson, the Motormags, and, of course, Brunt Of It would all turn up in a game of "Six Degrees of Separation from Boofish." At the very least, it all begs a family tree.

The most recent Brunt Of It lineup includes longtime drummer and former Kingpin member "Slim Jim" Colleran, 36, of Middletown, Colin Harhay, 35, of Gloucester, Mass. - the original bass player who recorded the band's first disc Safety Margin - and ex-Vital Remains guitarist Aaron Weinstein, 36, of Newport. Weinstein had signed on recently as a second guitarist, but the five-piece version of Brunt Of It returned to four with the amicable departure of longtime guitarist Bill Cote.

The recent rise in popularity the band has seen can be credited partly to old school punk rock networking. All the recent Boston shows, for instance, have come thanks in no small part to the friendship Brunt Of It developed last year with Boston's drunk punk kings Darkbuster. "They've given us tons of gigs," Barclay de Tolly stressed. Darkbuster, in return, have been able to make some inroads here.

Barclay de Tolly is also quick to mention the role that the Internet has played in helping Brunt Of It spread the word. The 22 songs Brunt Of It has available for free on have gotten over 20,000 downloads and nearly 60,000 plays at last count, and their Myspace profile - now with over 2,600 contacts - is "multiplying like freaking locusts," he said.

"It just makes us really wanna keep going on," he added. "We get these emails from people saying, 'We're sick of all this emo crap. You guys are exactly the band we've been waiting for.' Kids are responding to it. I don't think they realize how much that means to us. It makes me at 37 still get that urge to play."