Despite fire codes or even the pure physical limitations of Available Space, it seemed that most if not all of the approximate 28,000 residents of New London happily crammed inside the Six String Café Saturday night to see a fine two-band bill featuring Brooklyn's Heap and a debut performance by local group The 3-Pack.
All due credit to Heap — fronted by New London native Tim Heap, a terrific rock songwriter whose wit and energy explodes onstage — it's true that a lot of the turnout was for The 3-Pack.
Comprised of ex-Reducers Peter Detmold, Hugh Birdsall and Tom Trombley, and formed out of love and camaraderie following the 2012 passing of bassist Steve Kaika, The 3-Pack overcame a bit of admitted performance anxiety with a short but wonderful set of new songs and clever cover tunes by artists who'd influenced or resonated with The Reducers in formative years.
The seasonal timing of the show was fortuitously symbolic. While it's true that The 3-Pack had to individually and collectively reach this point — deciding whether to play again at all after Kaika's death, then whether to do so in public, and finally writing new songs and arranging empathetic material — that they debuted on Thanksgiving weekend was special. For most of The Reducers' four-decade run, their annual Saturday shows on Turkey Day weekend were some of the most highly anticipated annual events in the whole region.
As for the music, there are obvious stylistic similarities between The 3-Pack and The Reducers. But Saturday's intro to the new trio indicated a focus on older rock 'n' roll – the archival sort that would later segue into the punk and pub rock so prevalent in The Reducers' work. Instead of touchstones such as Brinsley Schwartz or The Clash, there were cheerful echoes of earlier Chuck Berryisms.
The 3-P originals indicated exuberant craft, hooks and an acute lyrical narrative — sometimes bittersweet, sometimes hilarious — that seemed reflective of their musical past and lives together. This material was split equally with cover songs that were lovingly handled as though by museum curators — albeit curators who gleefully wielded drums, electric instruments and powerful amplifiers.
Steve Kaika woulda been proud – and so are we all.
For posterity's sake, and with the gracious help of Soundman Jason at the Six String Café, here is video footage and audio of the entire 3-Pack performance recorded through the mixing board and with an ambient room mic — and below is the set list. Cover tunes are noted.
Oh, and by the way, the Six String Café — formerly the Bank Street Café — seemed to score big points with first-time visitors to the newly refurbished club.
"Talk to Loretta" (Boston's the Nervous Eaters)
"Come Back Baby"
"Jeanie, Jeanie, Jeanie" (Eddie Cochran)
"Cadillac Walk" (Mink Deville's arrangement of a Moon Martin song)
"Goddamn Good Old Days"
"Tomorrow Never Knows"
"Unless You're Ready to Go"
"Outsider" (The Ramones)
"Pretty Little Lights of Town" (LeRoi Brothers)
"Rave On" (Buddy Holly)
"Can't Afford to Do It" (Fleetwood Mac's arrangement of a Homesick James tune)