A Touch of Grey

It all started with a simple internet search. That’s what led Ron Weldon to discover that his former band Grey march had, in the 20 or so years since their breakup, developed a small but dedicated following online. That moment would lead to a string of successful reunion shows, the reconnection to hundreds of fans, as well as a May 3rd show celebrating not one, but two new releases from the band.

A stand out of Baltimore’s punk scene in the 1980s, Grey march are often referred to as a post-punk band, but if you ask them, they were simply punk rockers. They formed at a time when there were not a lot of places for young bands to play or practice. Then the band met Jules Savarese, who ran an underground music venue known as The Loft. With his support, and that of the community that sprang up around his venue, Grey march went from playing small shows for friends to opening for popular touring bands of the time like COC, the Circle Jerks, MDC and Samhain. From there, they grew popular enough to headline their own shows, regularly drawing crowds of 300-400 people. “As it grew, it would get bigger and the shows would get bigger,” says Weldon, the band’s keyboardist. They also extended their reach outside of Baltimore, touring the US and playing several shows at the legendary NYC venue CBGBs. They even managed to release 1000 copies of a self-titled album. Today, that album is long out of print and fetches relatively high prices on online auction sites like eBay.

Before they could record another album, though, the band called it quits in late 1986 or 87. “We had been around awhile. We started getting older, and the crowd started changing…our scene started kinda dying. The people in the band started getting into different influences and stuff,” Weldon explains. “It just ran its course.” There was one brief attempt to unite the original line-up in the early 90s, but after a single practice, the band members lost touch – until 2008, when Weldon, surfing the net, thought to look up his old band. Weldon’s reaction was: “Wow, there’s a Grey march site? Thats really weird – and there’s music on there too! I don’t have any music, where are these people getting this music from if I don’t have any?”

After meeting a Polish fan of the band online, who help make a Grey march MySpace page, he managed to get in contact with vocalist Trip Burch, who soon pitched the idea of a reunion show. The pair tracked down the other members – guitarist Mikey Dub was living on the west coast, drummer Eric Wiegmann was working as a professional musician in Japan, and bassist Stuart Berlinicke was still here in Baltimore. They all agreed that they should meet up and jam, when time allowed, to see if the chemistry was still there.

Since the master tapes of their LP had all been lost, the only material the band had access to were demo tapes, saved by fans and traded over the internet, along with that sole LP. From this, they relearned their songs. “Once we got together it came back really natural. After a couple tries, we could play it, we could totally do all the songs,” says Weldon.

In late 2011, they were asked to play a show at Fraziers in Hampden. Uncertain at first, the band decided to commit and the gig was a success. “They sold every beer they had, that place went nuts,” recalls Weldon, “people were out in the street, it was so big.” Shows at The Ottobar and DC’s the Black Cat soon followed. One problem did emerge, however. As Weldon puts it, “personal band issues got a little bit out of control.” As a result, the band parted ways with original guitarist Mikey Dub. However, Paul Anderson (a member of another of Burch’s bands, the Pearl Fishers) stepped in and learned all the material, becoming a permanent member.

After the reunion shows, the idea of re-recording the original material was floated by Burch and the band agreed on one condition – they would also write and record new material. However, this arrangement was complicated by the fact that Wiegmann still lived in Japan and could only return for short trips. On one of these trips, the band clocked in studio time at Remington’s Wright Way Studios and recorded 8 tracks, a combination of classic Grey march songs, along with two new ones.

After attempting to self-release a CD of this material, another roadblock emerged. The band had worked with a friend to handle the details of the CD pressing. But, when it came time to actually release it, the band found itself in a dispute with this friend. According to the band, they were in contention about the business aspects of the release, and ultimately, although 1000 copies were pressed, this version of the album will not be publicly released. “Its the most insane thing you’ve heard in your whole life,” says Weldon of the outcome.

As a result, the band reached out to Pennsylvania-based independent label Hand/Eye Records which is run by Tim Renner, a long-time fan of the band. With his aid, they have readied a new release- self-titled, just like their 1986 LP- featuring the tracks from the Wright Way sessions, with new artwork. Hand/Eye will also be releasing “Early Works”, a CD compilation of the various demo tracks and original LP tracks (taken from a vinyl copy) that the band had used to re-learn their repertoire. When asked about his attraction to the band, Renner replies “First and foremost, I love their music. It doesn’t matter to me that they were a ‘local’ band… I think they have really captured something special with their sound. I don’t try to analyze too much what it is – some people have said it’s their combination of diverse influences, but it can’t be just that alone. Lots of artists have diverse influences. There is something really special going on with this band.”

To celebrate the dual release, Grey march will be returning to The Ottobar on May 3rd, with a line-up that includes John Stabb (ostentatious frontman of 80’s hardcore band Government Issue) and his new band Repeated History as well as Baltimore’s Lisa Doll & the Rock n Roll Romance. Both CDs will be for sale early at the show, in advance of their release dates (the self-titled drops on May 14th, Early Works two weeks later on May 28th).

When asked about the band’s resurgent appeal, Weldon has this to say: “I think its all about a certain time period. That whole vibe is about an old community… it was all about hundreds and hundreds of kids, over and over and over again every weekend, the same kids. And now they’re all adults. And now they don’t really see each other a lot, yet they’ll come down for something like this… they’ll come and they’ll reconnect.”