Friday, October 2, 2009

Sugarbush (1993 - 1998)

Preparing for this post reminded me just how great a band Sugarbush was. In 1993, Jim Burns was without a band and Dave Deluca wanted to "fill some holes that Zombula was missing", so the two decided to start something up. Dave knew guitarist Julien Valenstein and I believe drummer Chris Balsam came with him. The Sugarbush sound combined punk rock aesthetics with funk in the vein of Funkadelic.

Sugarbush played all the local clubs (ie: The Right Track Inn, The Roxy, Wayne's Place, Rush, The Raven, Ground Zero, and of course the Juke Joint), and also ventured into the city (ie: CBGB's, The Spiral, Lion's Den). From Aug - Oct '95 the band recorded a 6 song demo, Some Last Words, at Marv Studios in Bellmore – I designed the tape cover (which looked better in color). I don't think anyone would disagree that the demo didn't capture the true spirit of Sugarbush – it suffers from a muddy mix. Nevertheless, it's still a good listen...

[DOWNLOAD] Sugarbush - Some Last Words (1995)
01- Angels Are Burning
02- Steel/Twisted
03- Last Call
04- Heading Downtown
05- Heritage
06- You're The Type Of Girl That Needs A Pair Of Galoshes

In June '96 Dave decided to leave Sugarbush because "it ran it's course", "bickering", and he was "going back to school". Rather than call it quits, the band decided to carry on because of a review in Newsday crowning Sugarbush the "Best Local Band of '96". They found bassist Rich Alfieri through Brian Gressler (who was brought into the Bellmore "unscene" through Jim). Rich came from the jam band school of playing...very loose and fluid compared to Dave's riffs. The band continued to write some good tunes but there was a lot more emphasis on jams during their shows. The new line-up of Sugarbush continued for another year before they finally did call it quits. According to Jim, he wanted to be in The Jesus Lizard and Julien wanted to be in Spyro Gyra.

Here's a pretty good performance from the second wave of Sugarbush at The Lion's Den in NYC – good enough that the band released it as an official bootleg...

[DOWNLOAD] Sugarbush - Bütleg (The Lion's Den, NYC 6/8/97)
01- Heading Downtown
02- Take The Hill
03- Heritage
04- Miles Turned Electric
05- Last Call
06- Earth/'71

Jim Burns - vocals
Julien Valenstein - guitar
Chris Balsam - drums
Dave Deluca - bass '93-'96
Rich Alfieri - bass '96-'98


notsaved said...

Did i really say that? Julien wanted to be Spira Gira and I wanted to be tJL...:LOL:..i hit the fukkin nail on the head AGAIN!...

btw, Dave's fulla shit, we didn't bicker...unless i didn't get my way...and i rarely got my way.

His leaving came as a shock to me, so i don't think it was ME he was bickering with...who knows, though...nobody can stand being in a band with me fer too long 'cause i'm such a dick...i think we were pretty much on the same page of what we wanted the band to be, though...more like Steel\Twisted and Toying with my Heart, less like Best Times and Moonshine...

Listening to the last Saccharine Gash show, and it is completely obtuse...we just got to be so fukkin out there and just plain ODD, that i'm surprised folks still came to see us...aside from our cover of WE'RE GONNA GROOVE, which fukkin SHREDS!...

andy glasser said...

Ok. first of all, that bio is completely incorrect. I was jammin some funky grooves with Deluca. Dave said he knew a great guitarist that played funk too. SO, Dave, Julien & I jammed. it was going good til Dave said he & Julien wrote some rock songs & have this great singer from bellmore named Jim Burns. i said i didnt wanna play rock, so i suggested one of my best friends--Chris Balsam---to play drums.
Then they became Sugarbush & totally fucking ruled. i regretted that every day since.

Franklin Mint said...

This is the kind of passionate discussions I was hoping for!

Jim, I went back to the video tapes for Dave's reasons and your Jesus Lizard/Spyro Gyra comparison.

Andy, I wrote I "believed" Balsam came with Julien because that's what I believed. Now I believe different.

Thanks for reading. There'll be more incorrect info to come...

Chris Balsam said...

Hey! Much thanks to Frank and Jim for putting this site together! Well done!
I am really proud of being a part of Sugarbush and the music that was created, which still completely kicks ass.
Even from the beginning, our diversity was our strongest asset, and gave us an edge and
a unique feel.
As far as the bio is concerned, Andy introduced me to Julian with the idea of us playing jazz together, which we did a couple of times. Then Julian mentioned another project he was doing and would
I want to check it out.
After getting together with Jim and Dave, I remember being really excited about it, but also having reservations about what the next songs would sound like, because we were so different.
After 4 or so songs were written, there were no more reservations.
I never had a problem working with Mr Burns. I always thought if someone brought a song to the table, they should have a say in what the basic approach should be. Then, I totally change it and make it my own, but retaining that basic feel. No problem.
Maybe it's different for drummers, I don't know...
To me the whole experience was mostly a ton of fun and I can say, looking back now, that I honestly regret that we didn't give it at least another year.

I hope all is well with all.


Chris Balsam said...

Julien- sorry for the misspelling!

Anonymous said...

Fritch Alfurious says.....

I had a damn good time playin in that band and it helped prepare me to tour the world as Mike Watt's bass tech.. No. That is a lie. I did appreciate being able to play "We're Gonna Groove" by Zeppelin since no one was doin that. Since movin to Cali I've been able to play in many punk bands only because of Sugarbush. Now someone give me another kick-ass Splinterface t-shirt cuz that was the shit.