Packet Online
March 19, 2003

It's Only Love
By: Hank Kalet , TimeOFF

Peace, harmony and understanding are all part of a tribute to the Fab Four at nine separate locations throughout New Jersey March 22.

The Grip Weeds are Beatle fans.

The influence is obvious in their sound, which borrows the swirling guitars and vocal harmonies of the Beatles mid-period albums Rubber Soul and Revolver. It is obvious in their name, taken from the character Private Grip Weed, played by John Lennon in the film How I Won the War.

And it's why the Highland Park-based band will be participating in the nine-show Jersey Jams, Jersey Cares All You Need Is Love Fest March 22, part of a four-band line-up at the Court Tavern in New Brunswick. The show, which also will feature Spiraling, the Anderson Council, Headquarters and a Beatles jam, will be hosted by Jeff Raspe of WBJB, 90.5-FM radio. Tickets cost $5, and all the money raised by the Love Fest will go to the Jersey Jams Fund, a United Way music education and scholarship program for the children of Sept. 11 victims.

"The Beatles' music, there's no question, has influenced us greatly," says Kurt Reil, the band's drummer. "We're always happy to honor the Fab Four."

Bob Makin, one of the organizers of the Love Fest and the producer of the Court Tavern show, says the Beatles tribute offered a perfect way to continue fund-raising for music education.

He says Jersey Jams was looking for something "that would be good for everybody, for the kids, for families, that would provide music education and would be good for the music scene. It occurred to me that the Beatles would be a great way to accommodate everyone."

Initially, the group eyed Valentine's Day weekend for the shows, but opted instead for March 22 — the 40th anniversary of the release of Please, Please Me, the Beatles' first album, in Great Britain.

"It gave us a chance to pay tribute to the Beatles and their sense of ’60s idealism," he says.

That idealism, says Rick Reil, Grip Weeds guitarist and Kurt's brother, is especially important today, with the threat of war and arts budgets being cut.

"We're in a time when I believe we should give attention to finding peaceful and healing means to address these difficult things going on in the world," he says. "It is easy to resort to fear, but those methods are not enough to bring the world to a more harmonious place."

He says concerts like the All You Need Is Love Fest can make a difference, no matter how small.

"If you can start in your own little sphere of influence putting out positive feelings, then you can help in making the world a less fearful place than it has been," he says.

The Reil brothers have been playing in bands together since they were teen-agers and spent a lot of time playing covers, both as the Grip Weeds and under other names. But they say it was in 1994, with the release of their first album, that the Grip Weeds became a "real, original band doing mostly original songs."

The band has released three albums — the most recent, Summer of a Thousand Years, was issued by Rainbow Quartz records in 2001 — and several singles. Rainbow Quartz will be reissuing a remastered version of their second album, 1998's The Sound is in You, in April.

The Reil brothers are joined in the band by Kristin Pinell (Kurt's wife) on guitar and Dennis Ambrose on bass. The Reils are the chief songwriters, and all four band members sing.

The band views its traditional rock ‘n’ roll lineup as the linchpin of its sound, though they do not limit themselves to two guitars, bass and drum in the studio. The band has used keyboard, sitars, mandolins and tablas when recording.

"As a musician, there is so much to do within the two guitars, bass and drum lineup," Kurt says. "There are unlimited sounds you can get out of the guitar. It is at the forefront of the instruments used in modern context — and two guitars play off each other in so many different ways."

He says the songs dictate the instrumentation.

"When we record, we don't limit ourselves," he says. "We add other sound textures, other instruments. It allows us to vary the sound on record."

Rick says that, while the band appears to wear its influences on its sleeve, it also seeks to update them and keep them fresh.

"Obviously, we have some influences from the mid-’60s bands, but also we're somewhat contemporary and not trying to be a retread," he says. "We want to bring the feeling and the vibe of that time, the songwriting quality and the artistic innovation and the positive outlook. Yes, ’60s-influenced music is so compelling. We're trying to take that and use it in a fresh way."

That freshness, the brothers say, remains apparent in the music of the Beatles, even 33 years after the band broke up.

"They are strangely relevant today," Rick says. "It is amazing that the record ‘1’ (a greatest-hits collection released in November 2000) was the massive seller it was as we moved into the new millennium."

"The Beatles have an almost religious feeling these days," Kurt says. "They were such a strong movement of the times. The music and the message they delivered were so strong and positive, it is still being felt today."

The All You Need Is Love Fest takes place March 22 at nine separate locations throughout New Jersey. Shows include:

Spiraling, The Grip Weeds, The Anderson Council, Headquarters and an all-star Beatles Jam, at the Court Tavern, 124 Church St., New Brunswick, 8:30 p.m.-2 a.m.; 21 and over; $5; (732) 545-7265;

Copperpot, The Milwaukees, Fairmont, Billionaire Boys Club, Mr. Neutron and an all-star Beatles Jam, at the Hamilton Street Café and Stage, 22 Hamilton St., Bound Brook, 5:30 p.m.-midnight; $5 (all ages), free under age 12; (732) 469-7400;

Kathy Phillips and Kim Williams, Gregg Cagno, Spook Handy and an all-star acoustic Beatles Jam, at the Urban Word Café, 449 S. Broad St., Trenton, 9:30 p.m.-2 a.m.; all ages; $5, free under age 16; (609) 989-7777;

The Marbles, Bongo Jones, Holy Goats, Kiss the Planet Blue and an all-star Beatles Jam, at the Broadway Central Café, 114 S. Broadway, South Amboy, 8:30 p.m.-2 a.m.; 21 and over; $5; (732) 721-2059;

Other shows will take place in Pattenburg, Clifton, Asbury Park and Sparta. For information, visit the Jersey Jams Fund Web site: