Eddie Prendergast with Pencilgrass at The Ballroom at The Outer Space

Here and Gone

“You gotta break all the rules if you ever wanna be the champion,” intones frontman/songwriter Eddie Prendergast’s tangy yet buttery baritone on Pencilgrass’s funky epic “Soul Train Champion.” Unsaid is that, to earn such rule-breaking privileges, you have to be really, really good at your craft.

sponsored by

Yale School of Music 2015-2016

Somehow Pencilgrass—a beloved dance-driven septet of music school graduates, reunited for three shows this past weekend after nearly 10 years apart—has still got it. Inside The Ballroom at The Outer Space Friday night, Prendergast sang and spoke his frank and funny lyrics with utter charisma. Trumpeter John Panos blasted out pristine high-register riffs, otherwise shouting refrains and flinging himself around. Keyboardist and prodigious party-starter Rob Katz’s fingers floated back and forth, as did his feet. Saxophonist Erik Elligers jumped and swayed and roared and laughed, though it never seemed to affect his tone. Drummer Matt “Beanhead” Goff stayed frosty enough to keep the beat with aplomb, but also broke out into smiles and fits of head-whirling. Bassist Tommy Harron did the reverse head-bang, his body undulating with syncopated bass lines. Guitarist Bill Readey, who seemed the most skeptical of the proceedings at first, found himself bobbing, grinning and marveling—possibly reconsidering, like the rest of us, whether this band should’ve ever broken up.

The eccentric booty-shaker “Bubblegum” captures—and generates—the feelings of openness and togetherness that define great dance parties, like the ones that inevitably crop up at Pencilgrass shows. “I’m on the dance floor / I smell bubblegum / Who’s gonna give me some? / Need somethin’ sweet for me to move my feet,” Prendergast sang, and he wasn’t alone. We all need somethin’ sweet to move our feet, and for three precious shows last weekend, we had Pencilgrass.

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

More Stories