Posted by: Necci – Feb 21, 2012
Sometimes things just end and there is no real reason or explanation. That was the case for Amazing Ghost, as Edward Prendergast recalls. “It got to a point where we would play a show a month and that would be it. I guess it felt like the right time to just call it, and see what comes next.” Keeping some of the Amazing Ghost heads around and a new perspective on what he wanted to accomplish musically, Prendergast began to focus his energies on The Big East.
Although he has retained a few unreleased Ghost tracks for use in The Big East, this new project is a completely different side of Prendergast. Where Amazing Ghost's songs may have functioned with innuendo and subtlety, The Big East prides itself in delving deep into the raw and explicit antithesis of that. Early demos like “Comfort Zone” show off the means through which Prendergast has accomplished this. The song itself is a nightclub lullaby, revolving around sexual attraction and seeing where the evening takes its participants. The chorus is surrounded by games of teasing, and a sleazy melody that caters well to this new perspective. In most circumstances, this material wouldn’t immediately appeal to me. This is different though. Prendergast is able to save himself from falling deep into territory that could be considered misogynistic by relating a situation in very frank terms. The lifestyle of the protagonists portrayed in these songs isn't sugarcoated. The consequence of the nights filled with chasing women and drinking to excess is addressed in all of the material. “Mary” is a perfect example, in a rare display of Prendergast using an Irish shanty-derived approach to songwriting. It’s a love song, but one in which the love exists in dire circumstances, and with a troubled understanding that results from not knowing what emotion is pure. The lessons learned from succumbing to one’s desires is the focus of “Mary,” as opposed to placing blame or setting up obstacles to determine accountability.
The level of accountability is a telling sign of the natural progression that Prendergast has taken in the development of The Big East. I was first introduced to this new material live on my radio show, when Prendergast played me a song entitled “Edward Prendergast The Fourth." He described it as a self-evaluation, admitting to mistakes. It was a beat and song that existed in the days of his older group Pencilgrass, but it never reached its potential until the present. With its swirling hook, it’s a thoughtful observation about being in your mid-thirties and trying to figure out what satisfaction is, as well as coming to terms with where you are in life. It’s also about coming to terms with who you are.
One of the more interesting tracks that Prendergast previewed for me was “RX17-2,” which has a peculiar story behind it. When Prendergast was working on the material that would eventually be used for Amazing Ghost, he hit a dry spell. The introduction of a Yamaha RX17 sampler helped his thought process continue it’s forward momentum, while also contributing to the early skeletons of the track “Igetuppa.” For The Big East, it only made sense for Prendergast to reach back and work with a familiar instrument. The song’s title may only be temporary, but regardless, the song exists as a guideline to embracing a personable sound while remembering where you came from. The electronic dynamic added by the sampler give the songs a stronger resemblance to previous examples of Prendergast’s craft. In many ways, this device is an extension of his artistic voice.
One unique element of The Big East, with respect to Prendergast's previous projects, is how much more of a rock sound the group is capable of pulling off. Prendergast has relayed bass duties to Nate Griffith, who has spent the greater part of a decade playing in outfits like The Flesh Mountain Boys, The New Belgians, and tribute acts The Big Payback and Black Cash. Griffith allows Prendergast to focus his fullest energies towards the role of a lead singer, and has the chops to hold up well against keyboardist Bob Miller and drummer Scott Clark. Griffith and Clark have not only worked together previously, but have worked with the remaining members of The Big East on a multitude of creative endeavors. They were quick to pick up on the nuances of the sound, while bringing variety to the songs that may fit better within this project than it would have with Amazing Ghost. Prendergast plays some guitar in The Big East, but in this endeavor he has competent and stable support from lead guitarist Scott Burton, with whom he worked with in Amazing Ghost, as well as on Mondo Italia Dance Party, a recurring event that is Burton's brainchild.
If one song were to identify the hope behind The Big East, that track would be “Knockemout.” It glimmers and shines in a fashion that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to fans of Amazing Ghost, yet also goes to show the furthered evolution of Prendergast’s craft. When the group used it as a set opener at their second show, opening for The No BS! Brass Band at The Camel, it displayed promise that had every head crowding closer to the stage, knowing they were in for something special. Members of the headlining band, musical peers and old fans alike bobbed their heads in synchronized fashion while Prendergast made his presence felt in his new role as guitarist and lead singer. While expectations for what would follow Amazing Ghost may have been grand, Prendergast's new project, which has successfully captured the magic of the past while integrating a new passion, shows unprecedented promise from the already impressive songwriter. With everyone involved being preoccupied with other musical projects, The Big East may be a slow growing band. I assure you, though, that the next time they hit the stage this year, their new sound will knock you out with it’s rough-edged style, which is not only exciting but unique in its delivery.
Words by Shannon Cleary
Top Image by Ian M. Graham
Scott Burton Image by Lauren Serpa