To paraphrase a classic Neil Young song, Ross Shapiro is an unknown legend in his time.
Shapiro is the singing, songwriting, guitar–playing frontman for the Athens band the Glands. After two incredibly fertile albums of quirky, guitar–based rock ‘n’ roll (kind of a Rolling Stones/Kinks meets Talking Heads meets psychedelia thing), Shapiro and his shifting roster of band buds called it quits 11 years ago.
Or did they?
In 2010, the Glands began to make sporadic appearances in the university city, sometimes announced and sometimes not (for one gig, the marquee read “Funtime Freedom Singers”).
Hey hey – the Savannah Stopover is bringing the Glands to the Wormhole Friday, July 29. It’s the opening ceremony of what might actually be the long–awaited Glands renaissance.
Shapiro isn’t as reclusive as it might seem. For 30 years, he’s been the owner and behind–the–counter guy at Schoolkids Records in Athens.
“It (the store) is probably shutting down in mid–August, so I probably can’t do anything for a short while,” he says. “But hopefully towards the end of October we’ll see about going out some more.”
Business, Shapiro says, is just plain bad. “It is what it is,” he sighs. “You can’t stop progress.”
He adds that this toe–in–the–water “tour” consists of the Wormhole show, and a sold–out performance at the (post–fire damaged) Georgia Theatre in Athens Aug. 1
Other than that, the laconic legend doesn’t say much. He very politely declined to do an official interview.
You can read his mind, and feed into his influence stream, by tapping Double Thriller (1998) and The Glands (2000).
“I got that self–titled album when I was in high school,” says Parker Gispert of The Whigs, the Athens rock trio that’s coming to the Jinx Saturday, July 30.
“I remember coming to Athens before I went to school here and running into Ross behind the counter at Schoolkids. I couldn’t believe that he was working there, and that I could ask his advice on a CD or something. That was really cool to me.”
Gispert, the Whigs’ raw–voiced lead singer and frenetic guitarist, remains a huge Glands fan. “Those two albums, I’ve probably spun ‘em more than any other albums since my band started,” he enthuses. “And it’s always been that way. It just hit us at the right time. Now, I still listen to that first album and it’s still fresh and makes you feel good. And I guess that’s the kind of music that we would like to make too.”
Gispert has fond memories of the city’s organic and uber–creative Elephant 6 music collective, when everybody played with everybody, and there were no limits to what you could do, or not do.
The hard–rocking Whigs have released three albums (the most recent is 2009’s In the Dark) and have been on Letterman, Conan, Kimmel, Leno and Fallon. Rolling Stone put them on its “10 Bands to Watch” list in 2006.
They’ve also toured the world supporting Kings of Leon, the Black Keys, Drive–By Truckers and others.
“If we were able to play theaters ourselves, that would be really exciting,” says Gispert. “I love clubs, and we’ve played them so much. But the theaters seem to be better sonically–sounding rooms ... they’re places I like at least going to as a fan.”
Dispert, an Indiana native who moved to Athens (pretty much like everybody else) to go to college, says the Whigs are relocating their base of operations to Nashville next week.
“It’s not really anything that’s that permanent or whatever,” he explains. “I’ve lived in Athens for 11 years, and I love it so much. That’s why I’ve continued to live here. But we’re lucky that nobody in the band is married, we don’t have children. It’s a job that allows you to be spontaneous: ‘Hey, why don’t we all just take our stuff and move it up there?’”
The Whigs aren’t in the middle of a major tour; rather Gispert, bassist Tim Deaux and drummer Julian Dorio are working on new material, for their fourth record.
“My lease came up at the first of August, and the other guys don’t have leases. So it just seemed like the right time to keep writing and recording up there for a second.”
Nashville, he says, was just preferable to Los Angeles or the Big Apple. “I feel like we’re still a southern band. We’re not really a California band or a New York band – we’re a southern rock band. And Nashville is in the south. There’s tons of great studios there. There’s tons of killer guitar shops there.
“We already wrote about half the album here in Athens, and I think it’ll be cool to get some new input, to get some new stuff happening on a daily, personal basis.”
Opening for the Whigs: Savannah Stopover fave Country Mice (from New York) and Atlanta’s Trances Arc.
• Even more from Athens: The folk pop band Summer Hymns opens the Glands show at the Wormhole. The band includes drummer Philip Brown, owner and “roast master” of Savannah’s own Perc Coffee.
With Summer Hymns
Where: Wormhole Bar, 2307 Bull St.
When: At 10 p.m. Friday, July 29
With Country Mice, Trances Arc
Where: The Jinx, 127 W. Congress St.
When: At 10 p.m. Saturday, July 30
Tickets: $10 advance, $12 day of show