Updated: Feb 12
Long before there was a Watershed Distillery in Columbus, a band called Watershed was rocking at The Distillery (sorry, believe me I really tried to resist, but…). After focusing on Willie Phoenix, it’s only logical to follow up with Watershed. Phoenix showed them the ropes and instilled in them the hard-working ethos that came to define them. And he produced their 1990 EP. He was both an inspiration and an influence. And like Willie Phoenix, they couldn’t get the time of day from critics, but they’d get signed to a major label.
Epic - EK 64352
Watershed seems to be a band you either love or hate. I know some of their biggest fans as well as people that can’t stand them. The thing is, you have to achieve a certain level for anyone to even care enough to criticize you. So in a weird way, critics are a sign of success. I can’t say I love or hate them - but I definitely respect them. I must admit, reading bassist Joe Oestreich’s terrific book Hitless Wonder made me see them in a whole different light. The earnestness that used to drive me nuts is now one of the things I admire. I’m kinda tired of cynicism (not to say I’m never guilty of it).
I mentioned in an earlier post that there’s a general suspicion around artistic success in Columbus. Maybe I should have said commercial success, but that’s not exactly it either. Successful artists? Artists that admit to a middle class suburban upbringing? It’s something about ambition or trying too hard. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s definitely there. Maybe that’s why punk and low-fi is revered here - it’s impossible to accuse those bands of going for commercial success. Maybe it’s because 95% of music fans in this city play in bands. I don’t think any Columbus band ever tried harder than Watershed. That may be the trait keeping them from being an institution here. Or, as the Alternative Press put it, Watershed could be big but they couldn’t ever be cool.
Oestereich puts it better than I can: “Today almost every account of Columbus music in the late Eighties and early Nineties names Scrawl, Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, New Bomb Turks and Gaunt as the defining groups of the era. Acts like Willie Phoenix, The Toll, and Ronald Koal have been written away.” Not to say those aren’t all worthy bands, but how many of them are still creating? I feel like that counts for something.
I’m not familiar enough with Watershed’s catalog to say Twister isn’t their best album, but I’ll take their own word for it. I will say they didn’t spit the bit. This thing rocks. Had radio pushed You Need Me or Nightshade instead of How Do You Feel, I may have given it more of a chance at the time. Their heroes are Cheap Trick and I’m more of an Allman Brothers guy. Listening to it now, it’s thoroughly enjoyable. Enough to make me interested in checking out more.
Singer/guitarist Colin Gawel is definitely a true rock and roll believer and his energy is infectious. He's running a coffee shop these days and Joe's teaching and writing, but Watershed is still creating. Whether you're a fan or not, I highly recommend Oestereich’s book Hitless Wonder. Especially if you’re a musician or a big live music fan. If so, you’ve probably read and enjoyed at least a handful of rock bios. But this book depicts what life is like for 90% of the bands and musicians that never (or only briefly in Watershed’s case) make it to the bigs, to borrow Joe’s baseball metaphor, better than anything I’ve ever read. It’s funny, sad, scary, relatable, a celebration of rock, and a cautionary tale. If you can come away from reading it without at least respecting what these guys put into their dream and persevered through, you have a cold heart.
10 Get Over Me
12 Sad Drive
Copyright (c) – Sony Music Entertainment Inc.
Phonographic Copyright (p) – Sony Music Entertainment Inc.
Manufactured By – Epic
Recorded At – Power Station
Recorded At – East Hill Studios
Mixed At – Soundtrack Studios
Mixed At – Sound On Sound, New York
Mastered At – Masterdisk
Art Direction – Jim deBarros
Bass, Vocals – Joe Oestreich
Booking – John Dittmar
Drums, Percussion – Herb Schupp
Engineer – Frank Aversa (tracks: 3), Steven Rinkoff
Executive-Producer – Jim Steinman
Guitar, Vocals – Colin Gawel
Lead Guitar [Ghost Leads] – Dan Spurgeon (tracks: 8)
Mandolin – Sean Beal (tracks: 9)
Mastered By – Greg Calbi
Mixed By – Danny Lawson (tracks: 8, 12), Frank Aversa (tracks: 1 To 7, 9 To 11), Frankie LaRocka (tracks: 1 To 7, 9 To 11), Steven Rinkoff (tracks: 8, 12)
Organ [B-3] – Jeff Bova
Percussion – Frankie LaRocka
Photography By – John Falls (2)
Producer – Danny Lawson (tracks: 1, 2, 4 To 12), Frank Aversa (tracks: 3), Steven Rinkoff (tracks: 1, 2, 4 to 12), Watershed (6) (tracks: 1, 2, 4 To 12)
Written-By – C. Gawel, J. Oestreich