Mitch Easter is probably best-known as a producer, behind the boards (along with Don Dixon) on R.E.M.‘s first two albums, which were recorded in his famed Drive-In Studios (formerly known as the garage at his parents’ house in Winston-Salem, NC. He later moved Drive-In out of the garage.) He also twiddled knobs on Suzanne Vega‘s "Luka," Pavement‘s Brighten the Corners, Moose‘s wonderful, under-heard 1992 album Live a Little Love a Lot, not to mention a whole mess of great albums from a variety of ’80s janglepop bands (Connells, Game Theory, Wednesday Week, Velvet Elvis).
Mitch is an ace musician and songwriter in his own right, however, and his band Let’s Active were one of my favorites from the decade. (The name apparently came from a t-shirt Easter saw in Japan — nonsense English, though I also heard that it was from a translation of "pedal to the metal" into Japanese and then translated back into English.) Unlike many of the bands he produced, Easter had a fondness of keyboards and quirky production techniques which made Let’s Active fit in more with what was going on in England at the time. But he also like Jimi Hendrix and Led Zepplin, which seemed to be just a big of an influence. Their 1986 album Big Plans for Everybody remains one of my favorite albums of all time, and contains "Fell" that my freind Steve says has one of the greatest guitar solos ever.
Let’s Active broke up in 1990 and while Mitch kept producing, he all but stopped making music on his own… at least publicly. Until now. Eighteen years since Let’s Active final album, Every Dog Has Its Day, he’s set to release his first solo album, Dynamico, in March. Just as exciting, he’s playing in town twice this week. His band features wife Shalani on bass, and later-period Let’s Active drummer Eric Marshall and the shows will be half new, half classic Let’s Active material.
The show to see is on Saturday, where Mitch opens for the dB’s in their original lineup. Of all the groups lumped in together from that early-’80s time period, Let’s Active and the dB’s had the most in common — both poppy, Brit-influenced, and a little weird. Easter actually had a band with dB’s Chris Stamey and Will Rigby, Sneakers, before any of their acclaimed groups formed. Making the night even more special, Sneakers (Easter, Stamey, Rigby, plus Robert Keel [Rob Slater MIA]) will be playing the show as well — their first gig in maybe 30 years.* If you have any interest in what is now indie/alternative, you should check out this show.
Mitch is also playing a more intimate show at Magnetic Field on Friday.
I spent a large part of today tearing apart my apartment looking for a couple CDs I have of Let’s Active rarities that were given to a friend of mine by Mitch, most of which have never seen the light of day otherwise. But I couldn’t find them, so I offer to you a new song from Dynamico, plus a few of Let’s Active’s finest moments.
MP3: Mitch Easter – Sudden Crown Drop (From Dynamico)
MP3: Let’s Active – Every Word Means No (from Afoot)
MP3: Let’s Active – Waters Part (from Cypress)
MP3: Let’s Active – Fell (from Big Plans for Everybody)
MP3: DLet’s Active – Sweepstakes Winner (from Every Dog Has Its Day)
*This may be completely untrue.