In 1980, I went 800 miles south to try to lose a broken heart but spent much of the
month of August hanging out by the pool, pretty homesick, more heartbroken than ever and
having absolutely no fun. I opened a Rolling Stone magazine, read about the Iron City
Houserockers and the next day or so packed my things to return home to California, PA to
face the music.
Had the article not been in that magazine, I probably still would have returned to finish my
senior undergrad year. I was that homesick. A few days after I returned to PA, we went
to the Decade to see the first set of the IC Houserockers, ran cross town to see Norman
and the Tigers and left to catch the Silencers last set somewhere. Atlanta's bands sucked
and still do. They also didn't have Big Bob to run tapes of the shows and slip them to us.
What follows is not example of my typical article. It was a rush job promo to attract
people to the outdoor arena nearby. jt
Grushecky, Houserockers and Hard Rain
To Rock Farmington Pavilion
By Julie Toye, for the Herald-Standard
The Steel Town rock and roll sounds of Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers and Bill Toms and Hard
Rain will fill the open air at the Woodland Zoo Herald-Standard Pavilion on Saturday, July 16. Showtime
is 7 PM.
Fresh back from a tour of Spain, Grushecky and the Houserockers will return for their first Uniontown
area appearance in a few years at the Farmington pavilion.
"Uniontown's like a hometown atmosphere," said Grushecky in a recent interview on the eve of his
departure for Spain. "I made a lot of friends there playing over the years.
"The Highland House was always a great gig where I met life-long fans and friends," he said while
reminiscing of the venue that he once played for years almost on a monthly or more often basis.
Since Grushecky last performed in the Uniontown area, he was the subject of a CNN televised news
feature that showcased his life as a teacher, musician and songwriter. The news feature, titled "Almost
Famous," revealed Grushecky as a musician who has been on the brink of fame, but seemingly and
convincingly glad that world-wide recognition did not come his way. He likes the way his life has turned
out for him.
CNN came to town to interview Grushecky after news broke that he was rallying his musician friends
and bringing rock and roll to Heinz Hall for a benefit concert to aid 2004 Pittsburgh flood victims. To
help raise a large amount of money, he invited his famous friend Bruce Springsteen to perform once
again with the Houserockers and other area musicians. The benefit sold out in less than one hour and
raised over $250,000 for flood relief.
Earlier this year, Grushecky experienced a rare musical milestone by having "Code of Silence," a song
that he co-wrote with Springsteen, win a Grammy award for the New Jersey rocker for best solo rock
On the homefront, Grushecky is enjoying watching and helping his musician son start to follow in his
footsteps. No doubt he has shared the ins and outs of the music business and good advice with his son.
"Now it's all about playing. It's not about competing anymore, " Grushecky said of the early days when
several Pittsburgh bands and he had major record deals and many area venues that supported them
playing several nights each week. This many years later, he is very proud of his band.
"We've become a really good band," Grushecky offered. His words do not hint at all at an air of
arrogance, but rather straight forwardly indicate his amount of satisfaction and pride that performing
over the years has made all band members excel at their given instrument and sound.
When Grushecky and the Houserockers are not playing, several of the band members regroup with
Houserocker guitarist Bill Toms, borrow 8th Street Rox saxophonist Phil Brontz and perform and record
together as Toms and Hard Rain.
Although Toms and Hard Rain don't have many opportunities to perform, they are one of Pittsburgh's
favorite bar bands to see. Toms and the band finished recording a new CD, "The West End Kid,"
scheduled to be released later this fall on Moondog Records. Toms wrote all of the songs on it.
"It is a rock record, in the sense that there are no acoustic songs. It is about redemption and the climb
from desperation to hope. I'm excited about its possibilities," Toms said when asked about the upcoming
CD that Hard Rain's fans are eager to add to their collection.
Long time Houserocker and Hard Rain drummer Joffo Simmons is also looking forward to playing with
both his bands at the mountain pavilion.
Simmons said he has played with other bands, but in his experience the others do not begin to compare
with the level of satisfaction he receives from playing with the Houserockers and Hard Rain.
"We all play well together and I get a certain feeling of camaraderie and a unique level of musicianship
that I don't quite get as much playing with other bands. We have so many great songs that I never get
tired of playing any of them, which is a tribute to Joe and Bill's songwriting," Simmons explained.
The drummer who rarely is seen without a smile on his face summed it up by saying, "Everyone in the
bands is the same way, 110% effort from everyone on and off stage."
With 8th Street Rox, Brontz has played the area several times in recent months and is scheduled with
that band to return to Al's Pub next to the county fairgrounds on August 19 and September 24. He is
excited about playing with Hard Rain to open for Grushecky and the Houserockers at the Farmington
pavilion on July 16.
"I am really looking forward to the show," Brontz said. "Hard Rain hasn't played a gig lately and
everyone is really pumped to play out again. I'm hoping we get a great crowd."
Tickets for the July 16 show with Grushecky and the Houserockers and Toms and Hard Rain are
available by calling the Woodlands Zoo Herald Standard Pavilion at 724-329-1776. Advance tickets are
$10 and $15 the day of the show.
Fans who missed the CNN airing can log on to www.grushecky.com to see the segment. Grushecky's
internet web cast radio station, Brick Alley Radio, can also be accessed through the website, as well as
other information such as the band's schedule and link to purchase CDs. Those wanting information on
Toms and Hard Rain can log on to www.billtoms.com for dates of upcoming appearances, band news and
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