In the murky folklore of Boston rock history, the first American appearance of the Police at the Rat in 1978—the underground club situated beneath a pub ’n’ grub in the sewers of Kenmore Square—is considered to be the bragger’s badge of honor to have attended. Of course, any claim to have been there is usually greeted with dismissive eye rolls or jocular interrogation due to the show’s low attendance and the knowledge that the first American Police show actually took place at CBGB in New York.
Almost 45 years later, hard-charging gig-goers of The City That Never Sleeps With Anyone were given real first dibs on witnessing the American debut of London’s the Chisel (not to be mistaken with Ted Leo’s mighty ’90s band Chisel), and they responded in kind. The band sold out their initial venue, the Middle East upstairs (with a capacity of 194 people), and were moved next door to the sister club Sonia (350 cap, which they also sold out, leaving hopeful attendees out in the springtime rain on a Monday night). Making it an even better debut was knowing Sting wasn’t fronting this fucking band, the carpenter Big Cal was.
I first met frontman Cal Graham five years ago when he was a guest at my apartment in Brooklyn after a Godflesh show. Having seen him get into a bag of mushrooms and some bottles of liquor, I expressed some concern about taking him back out bar-hopping for the evening. A rush of red belligerence broke the pale shock his face put on at hearing my words. “You don’t want me to join along? Well, then, you’re fucking banned! You’re banned from London, no one will welcome you to England, period!” Cal shouted at me in my kitchen, located in the former British colony of what is now America.
Feeling bad for his dejected look while loving his blunt candor, I apologized and uneasily reconsidered, and off we went, with the night ending perfectly at Greenpoint’s A Bar and Cal repeatedly screaming at the bartender to play some Cro-Mags at 3:55 a.m.