So Newt Gingrich declares that the counterculture is dead, does he? Maybe if Newt the Naysayer stopped listening to Roger Clinton records backwards looking for messages from Satan he would recognize in horror that a whole new generation of voting-age neo-hippies are coming to get him. Hot on the heels of the trailblazing Blues Traveler, Phish, Spin Doctors and Widespread Panic is a second wave of '60s-s inspired bands selling out shows across the country and rocketing up the sales charts -- Hootie and the Blowfish, Sheryl Crow, The Dave Matthews Band and God Street Wine. God Street Wine in particular is Gingrich's walking nightmare. Not only do these guys appeal to neo-hippies, they are neo-hippies themselves, America's answer to the legendary British counterculture group Ozric Tentacles. Guitarists Lo Faber and Aaron Maxwell and bassist Dan Pifer formed God Street Wine in the late 1980s after meeting at the Manhattan School of Music and recruiting pianist Jon Bevo and drummer Tomo. The band was an integral part of the New York club renaissance at the turn of the decade that also produced Blues Traveler, Phish and the Spin Doctors. Back then God Street's sound, for all its well-meant groove, sometimes collapsed of its own looseness. As a result, when the first wave of bands out of this scene were signed, God Street Wine wasn't one of them. The band decided to live together in a house in upstate Ossning, N.Y. and woodshed until they got it right.
'It came to a point, either we're going to be together 24 hours a day and make this thing happen or it's going to fall apart,' said Maxwell. Playing six nights a week, God Street Wine developed an ever- expanding following and began releasing its own recordings beginning with the 1990 double cassette 'Live at the 712 Club,' followed by a 1992 studio debut, 'Bag,' and another live recording, 'Who's Driving? (Live From East/West and In Between).' Part of 'Who's Driving?' documents live performances from New York's Irving Plaza, where God Street Wine became the first unsigned band to sell out the 1,000-plus seat club. The majors could no longer ignore the God Street Wine phenomenon and the band signed to Eleven Records, a custom label under the Geffen Records umbrella, to record the strong major-label debut '$1.99 Romances.' Producer Jim Dickinson, the master at capturing a great live band's sound in the studio, worked his magic on this disc, which is highlighted by the live staple 'Nightingale,' the eclectic 'Stone House' and the science fiction thriller 'Princess Henrietta.' 'We went on the road and built a following of our own, relying on nobody but ourselves,' said Faber. God Street Wine keeps in close touch with its following using the latest technological developments, bypassing Ticketron to sell concert tickets on the Internet and using a calling card to help promote the album. On FineWine-Requestworld.std.com., the band's Internet address, fans discuss shows and just keep in touch with each other and the group. 'It's a great way for the band and the audience to maintain closer ties than has ever been possible,' said Faber. 'How else can you see a band that you don't know personally and is probably 500 miles away the next night and still be able to write something that they will see and often respond to? I really love to write to the people on the net.'