presents: A summer on tour with Great Divide (PART II) presents

From On The John and People With Passion

A summer on tour with Great Divide

Getting ready for North Coast, with the new trombonist second from the left.

Part II (Click here for Part I)

At 6 p.m., the crowd comes on board. Slowly, audience members make their way to the boat’s top deck, greeting whichever band members they know, or, if all are strangers, grabbing a drink and procuring a seat. The Mystic Blue’s second deck houses the boat’s restaurant and bar, along with patio tables. Climb the stairs and there’s the band. The floor recalls Stanley Kubrick’s moon terminal in 2001: A Space Odyssey: white, curved, two-person couches with ballooning armrests next to grey ottomans that are square shaped and yet slightly rounded. Plenty of railing room to lean and talk and watch the sun as it drops behind the skyline.

When the band gets going, they will section themselves off into groups: Teitelbaum and the horns far left, then the bassist Kahle, Grossman in the middle playing rhythm guitar and singing, his fellow guitarist Gaon is to his left, and finally Leibovich, far to the right.

But right now, one minute before 7 o’clock, Leibovich and Grossman are in position as the rest of the band finishes their conversations. The two old friends make eye contact, and just like that, with no verbal introductions, they begin playing. The other five join in, and three minutes later all seven members of Great Divide are on stage. The show has started. They are all wearing shirts.

Though the crowd is immediately immersed in the performance, the band still seems stressed. They did not like the boat’s sound set-up; because they are providing the entertainment for the entire boat, the sound of their own music wafts upward from the lower decks, proving a mini-distraction. They also learned just before show time that there would be no set-break, meaning no time for food or bathroom use. Though the temperature has cooled just a bit, the two hours spent atop the boat setting up equipment beneath that blazing Chicago summer sun did not help the band’s mood. The effects of the disappointment are subtle – the audience is totally jazzed, and the music pops just as it does on the album. The band is delivering, but a close look at their faces and bodies suggests that they are not thrilled with the start of the evening.

Teddy Grossman. (photo by Sami Mandell)

But during the second song, the charismatic (and barefoot) Grossman breaks the group’s solemnity. As his bandmates play the bridge, he looks goofily around the stage, unable to control his excitement and thrilled to share it, first with Leibovich and Gaon to his left, and then with the bassist Kahle: “Yo. Guys. We’re on a fucking boat!”

This gets everyone smiling. There is a bounce in Teitelbaum’s drumming not present earlier, and a bop in the heads of Kenowitz and Schindler as they wait their turns. The shift is imperceptible to the crowd, but seems to make all the difference to the band, and as they finish their second song, thirteen minutes after the 7 o’clock hour, the Mystic Blue cruise ship pushes off the dock at Navy Pier and sets sail for Lake Michigan.

When the band began playing, there were 16 spectators enjoying the show. Now, as they push off, that number is up to 35 with more on the way. When the boat was docked, the afternoon shopping crowds craned their necks skyward to scratch out a glimpse of the source of this music, and as the boat shoves off, those same crowds can be seen watching as the music drifts away…

Now that the journey has started and the crowd on the boat is officially one with the band, the guys loosen even further. Leibovich and Gaon are noticeably at ease. Kenowitz is smiling, as are Schindler and Teitelbaum. Kahle remains aloof – bass players never seem totally in-step with their surroundings – but even he seems pleased with this experience, his first public performance with his new band.

Grossman addresses the audience for the first time. It is the standard “Thanks for coming out tonight” front-man schtick, yet as is the case with any front-man worth the front, Grossman transforms the cliché into the memorable. “How you guys doing on the nausea factor?” he asks the crowd, and is surprised when response comes from on stage: “I’m gonna throw up.” Leibovich announces.

This gets a laugh from band and crowd alike, and the group moves into their first cover, King Floyd’s “Groove Me.” As it turns out, this is the song that Kenowitz and Schindler were playing silently in their heads just before showtime; just like in practice, the horn duo steps forward for their horns, plays their parts, and steps back.


First week of September, 2010.

It is a Monday, the start to a new week, and Great Divide is recovering from their performance at Chicago’s North Coast Festival. For the first time since April, they enter a month with no shows booked. This is a relief, a welcome reprieve from a strenuous summer…

Great Divide at North Coast Festival, September 4, 2010.

TEDDY GROSSMAN North Coast was the big eye on the prize summer show. We were real stoked to get there.

JOSH TEITELBAUM It is kind of like the last hurrah of the summer, so we’re all just thinking let’s impress every last person we can. Just play our asses off and hopefully gain a few fans. Let’s just leave it all on the stage I guess.

JOEY GAON There were so many great musicians, so many great acts playing at North Coast. It was just an honor to be on the same bill as them, even though we were on a small side stage. Just to be included in that sentence is a pretty awesome thing to be.

JOSH TEITELBAUM Not that the rest of our shows weren’t amazing – cool venues and everything – but this festival, the lineup that was in place was top name acts. Damian Marley, Nas, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Grace Potter, New Mastersounds. Just being in the company of these larger acts was a very cool thing. And it was in Chicago, it’s a new festival, we knew the people running it, and it just seems like they had their stuff together.

JOEY GAON We got up pretty early, like 10 o’clock in the morning we started getting our shit together. Our bus broke down, it’s not really working right now, so we packed our stuff into a car and brought it over. We got over to North Coast at 12 o’clock, 12:30, got our passes, loaded in, and were just checking out some of the other bands that were going on. It was pretty mellow when we got there. People were just waking up, moseying over. I think everybody had a pretty late night Friday at North Coast – Pretty Lights was there. People started moseying in pretty late.

JOSH TEITELBAUM We had a gig in Detroit on Friday, so we kinda hauled ass back and forth from Chicago to Detroit. Went there, played our hour set, came right back, got back at 1 o’clock in the morning, and next day was North Coast.

JEFF LEIBOVICH I don’t know if they filled you in: our bus broke down. So our festival Friday, everything was back lined. All we needed to do was bring guitars and my keyboards. So we rented a car. I’m 25, and one of the band credit cards is in my name, so I had to be the one to rent it. I had to go return the car at 9:30 in the morning. And then we had breakfast.

JOSH KAHLE We actually got back at a reasonable time. We got back by midnight, which was pretty sweet. Then we got up that morning and had to get our stuff together. Got down to the venue, checked in. There was probably fifteen people in the whole place.

Josh T. and Eric at North Coast.

JEFF LEIBOVICH I think we headed over close to noon to get to Union Park. We basically stuffed two backpacks of t-shirts and CDs. We had Hiro and then our drummer’s youngest brother Sam walking around trying to kind of (over enunciates) pimp our shit out for us. Not very successfully. We did prep for it – we rolled up probably 40 t-shirts and brought like 50 CDs. Overall, we sold like one CD. Pretty big. But yeah, it was fun.

ERIC SCHINDLER I actually drove in by myself from Michigan on Saturday morning. But it was cool.

JOSH TEITELBAUM It was great. It was a beautiful day. I really didn’t know what to expect. I had never been to Union Park before. But the way it was set up was great. We were on the local Red Bull stage, and our expectations of it weren’t that high, since it was – it was literally a last minute thing that they had put together, because I guess they had had a bunch of different local acts expressing high interest in playing and they couldn’t really do anything about it. They tried to get sponsors and finally they put a couple sponsors together to put together this Red Bull stage. And it was bigger and cooler than we thought it was going to be. The energy was definitely there going into it, and we were all stoked to get there and play.

JOEY GAON Yeah, it was a pretty usual concert. There was just a huge Red Bull logo on the back, and there was a lot of Red Bull back stage. So people were pretty amped up. But uh, we were kind of off to the side. There was a basketball court and a tennis court area, and we were set up a little to the left of the main stage. We were a little off to the side. It was right by one of the entrances, so every single person that walked in on that side had to walk right by us and at least get a little bit of what we were doing.

JOSH KAHLE Demographic-wise, it was a lot of younger kids, some hippies, typical festy crowd, I guess. Most people seemed to be enjoying it, you know? I think overall it was a pretty good response. Lot of folks in Michigan jerseys, so, usually a good sign. Because the band’s all from Michigan, and a bunch of their friends – it was a Michigan football game.

Eric Schindler. (photo by Sami Mandell)

ERIC SCHINDLER We had a bunch of our friends there. But it seemed like some other people we didn’t know were also enjoying it too. I mean, when we first got there, we were kind of talking about how small the crowd was, like before we started playing, that there weren’t that many people there. We were surprised and disappointed. But it seemed like people sort of flocked over when we started playing, which is definitely a good pick me up, a good sign.

Yeah. You guys all said that was something that happened at the Michigan Peace Fest as well. Um, that’s good. That’s good to have music that brings people over. That must make you feel real good.

It does.

TEDDY GROSSMAN We had seen these mock up drawings of what the stage was gonna be, and it was like this massive Red Bull 18-wheeler with just a stage that sort of came off from the trailer, which seemed kind of funny and cool, but also, I don’t know, might be sort of like a bourgy stage. But then we get there and it’s this enormous stage, all decked out, Red Bull, so, hardwood floor. It was pretty awesome as far as like the actual set up. And yeah, the crowd was good. When we first got there, there was like a local band playing in front of three people, and we were like “Oh, great.” But the band that played right before us, Land of Atlantis, had featured a guy from Umphrey’s, so the crowd was definitely packed on this little, like parking lot. Their set ended, and it sort of cleared out a little bit.

JEFF LEIBOVICH We got there two hours early. We got to enjoy ourselves. We got free booze and free Red Bull and free iced teas and free water. (pause) So that was good. It was a good morning – the band that was on before us had Joel Cummings from Umphrey’s McGee sit in. So he was kind of a draw. And there was a good amount of people there. We were hoping to get right on stage after their set, and obviously that never happened. So we lost a good amount of heads. But then we started playing.

JOEY GAON Our stage was running about a half hour behind. Supposed to start at 2, started at 2:30. And we had a few technical difficulties on stage. First song, Teddy’s vocals weren’t working.

Great Divide warms up at The Loading Dock in Travers City, MI. (photo by Josh Teitelbaum)

TEDDY GROSSMAN First tune, didn’t have mics, and then sort of got cut a little short, all of which is expected. We were sort of an after thought in the festival, on a local stage and what not. End of the day, still played a great set. Got in front of plenty of people who dug it. Got it on the resume moving forward. All in all, definitely a great experience.

JOEY GAON We played a pretty good set, though they kind of stopped us short, which kind of sucked. They were 45 minutes behind on that stage. When you’re really not anybody they don’t really care. (Laughs.) They just want to keep things moving along.

ERIC SCHINDLER There were some technical issues, which was kind of annoying. The first song, none of the monitors worked, and apparently none of the microphones worked either, so no one could hear us. Then they cut us off when we were gonna play our last song. I mean, it makes us look stupid, you know?

JEFF LEIBOVICH You know, it’s one of those things. We played through it. Everybody we talk to, everybody we hear from, you know: If it’s not in your control, you can’t control it. So we played, we finished the song out with no vocals. That type of shit happens. We were on the smaller stage. We were on early. Quasi to be expected.

What did suck, though, was they were already running late, and toward the end of our set they told us “one more song.” I asked the stage manager if we could have two more, and he said “No problem.” Front of house didn’t get the memo, so we played one song and she immediately turned on music right after. It was kind of a bummer, because we wouldn’t have ended with the song that we ended with. We would have played an original, not a cover, to end the day out. But that stuff happens.

JOSH TEITELBAUM We played our second to last song, saving our highest energy song for last. They cut us off right after our second to last tune. So there were a few bumps in the road, but all in all it was still amazing to be there, amazing to play in front of the people in Chicago, and just be at this festival.

Monkeying around Bessie out on a ferry. (photo by Josh Teitelbaum)

JEFF LEIBOVICH Those first five minutes after our set, we were – how can I word this – not happy. We were pretty upset. But we all took a minute and took a step back and were like, “Look. We were on the bill. We played a fun set. The weather was perfect. And there were people there.” So at the end of the day, that’s really what matters, because at the end of the day they could have put another band on there, and that type of shit would have happened, and it happened. That’s why you’re on the local stage. Once we’re on the level where we’re on the main stages, that stuff doesn’t happen because we’ve got our own sound guy.

JOEY GAON I really wasn’t thinking about anything. When I’m up there, I’m just focused on what I’m doing. Whenever I’m on stage, I’m not thinking “Oh, there’s a thousand people here” or “There’s five people here. This person’s here. That person’s there.” That doesn’t really cross my mind. You know? I just do what I gotta do. I don’t care if I’m in front of three people or 1000 people. It’s the same exact thought process at all times. You bring it, you bring everything you got, and hopefully people enjoy it.

JEFF LEIBOVICH The crowd was screaming “More, more, more.” And that’s good to hear. That’s a good feeling. So, you know, we were pissed we didn’t get that last song in, but we left the crowd wanting more. That was cool, I will say that.

JOEY GAON I stayed at North Coast the rest of the day and caught just about every other act. Saw De La Soul, Grace Potter, Moby, Umphrey’s McGee. I left there at about 10 o’clock at night. A ten-hour day of drinking and North Coast, I just passed out. (Laughs).


Chicago's skyline, from the east. (photo by Sami Mandell)

The boat is now flush in the middle of the Lake Michigan sailing area. Both the band and the crowd are awed by the sun’s reflection against the skyline. The buildings are sparkling; looking upon them, one gets the sense that Chicago ain’t nothing until it is viewed from the east.

The songs tumble out, originals and covers and originals again. Grossman has an easy rapport with the crowd; before one song, he tells them: “Here’s a brand new tune. We don’t have a name for it, so if you’re feeling something, just shout it out.” The crowd does not give any useful suggestions, but they enjoy the song nonetheless. The band moves into “The Shape I’m In” by The Band, with Schindler and Kenowitz resting their horns as they sing the back-up harmonies.

While Grossman is the show’s host, Leibovich is its back-stage producer, adjusting the levels on a nearby monitor as Grossman, Schindler, and Kenowitz sing. Leibovich also adjusts the band, motioning to Teitelbaum to slow his drumming just a bit, or maintaining eye contact with the horns as they step in and step back.

At 8 p.m., the band launches into a rather inspired cover of the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna,” bringing an energy and humor to the song that is usually sucked dry from Beatles covers. “Is that an original?” a crowd member asks when the song ends.

“Yeah, we wrote that,” grins the otherwise silent Gaon.

Grossman hops in: “I was sitting at home one day reading an article about Madonna when it all hit me…”

As the show drives through its second half, the band makes small changes. Grossman trades his guitar for a tambourine on one song; Teitelbaum drums one handed while also playing a tambourine; Leibovich, who has spent the show squinting without his requested shades, is pleased to see the sun beginning its descent. He puts on a hat while Kahle removes his shades and looks off into the distance well over the heads of the crowd.

The song ends, and Teitelbaum needs to pee. “I’m dying over here!” he pleads.

“We’re gonna take a break,” Grossman tells the crowd.

Leibovich corrects him: “We’re not.”

On the road in Port Huron, MI. (photo by Josh Teitelbaum)

Grossman pauses. “Half-band break,” he says, and Leibovich’s keys announce the start of “I Need a Dollar” with Kenowitz now on tambourine. Teitelbaum returns from his pee break, Kahle, Gaon, and Schindler get back in position, and the band rips into Bill Withers’ classic “Use Me.” The group soars on this track. The horns pop. The drums punch. The bass grooves. Grossman and Schindler seem to be communicating with their eyes, which is a neat trick for a vocalist since he is “speaking.” Watching him, though, it is clear that just as an instrumentalist can perform his instrument while communicating, so too can the vocalist, and as Grossman sings (“until you use me up…”), he and Schindler link their sounds to create a nontraditional yet unquestionable vocal-sax duet.

The sun is falling now, faster and faster. As the band enters their final ten minutes of performance, all passengers aboard the Mystic Blue take a moment to enjoy this atypical perspective on Chicago’s iconic skyline. Audience members pose for pictures along the rail with the buildings behind them and the sun behind the buildings, while the band cranks into a surprising subsequent notch. This should be the time to wind down, yet like Nigel Tufnel’s special amp, Great Divide goes to 11. They are jamming now, audience and band together, Leibovich locked into a keyboard solo, Gaon riffing, Teitelbaum pa-rum-pum-pumming, the Mystic Blue skating comfortably back to the dock as Chicago’s neon wilderness lights the sky like the stars in the great north woods. The boat is nearly docked, and the band is playing straight through to the end, each man appreciating his role in this memorable evening of music and sun.


Josh Kahle. (photo by Sami Mandell)

TEDDY GROSSMAN I actually wasn’t really able to stick around for the entire [North Coast] weekend, because my sister got engaged. I flew out immediately after our set, literally hopped in a cab to Midway as soon as we were done to surprise the whole family in New York. So that was a pretty great weekend.

ERIC SCHINDLER We had our new trombone player sitting in. I’m not sure yet if that’s going to be a permanent position, but he’s fantastic. He sang some harmonies – I didn’t expect him to do that.

JOEY GAON I thought he was great. He brought a lot of energy. He had our parts down pat. He only practiced with us an hour before. He wrote out some charts, and didn’t even bring those up. Just really impressed. He was a really good guy. It was the first time I really hung out with him – he was there the rest of the day – so it was really awesome.

TEDDY GROSSMAN Oh man, it was (laughs) – we played with him twice. It’s ridiculous, all things considered. He’s a great kid. Jeff had been talking to him because he’s a mutual friend. – I think Jeff’s girlfriend is friends with him – and literally one week before North Coast we sent him all the tunes. You know, he’s working a full job substitute teaching, and gigging as well, so he’s got a pretty full plate.

JEFF LEIBOVICH The new trombonist is a friend of mine who I met through Jessica, my girlfriend. We would like him to be permanent. We told him that. But he’s not sure yet. We’re gonna kind of take it day by day with him. He’s a great player. He learned all of our tunes in three days. Teddy would sing a horn line and he would play it right back to him. He’s one of those guys – and we said this when we were looking for a new bassist – he’s got to be someone we can chill with, and he’s got that factor for sure. He loved playing the gig, he loves our music, he thinks Teddy’s voice is amazing. He sees the potential in the band. If he can make it work, he’ll make it work. We feel good with him and we would like him to be in the band.

Arriving at North Coast.

ERIC SCHINDLER It was great. Honestly, I was shocked that he was able to get so tight with us after really only rehearsing once, when I wasn’t even there. I wrote him out some sheet music. He barely even looked at it. He had pretty much memorized everything. There were a couple lines he hadn’t learned before, I taught him, and like that (snaps fingers) he had it down. He had a huge sound, which I really liked. One thing I was not crazy about with Jake, the old trombonist – he kind of had a timid sound. He would not play that loud. He wouldn’t really blow out when he was playing trombone. But this guy just ripped, which was awesome. It’s something I really like to hear in a trombone player. I thought we were in tune. He seems like a cool guy too. I’m looking forward to it.

JOSH KAHLE He’s a solid player, really good musician, good guy. I think he fits in with the group. So overall it was positive.

Did you feel sort of now like you’re a little bit more of a Great Divide veteran, now that you’ve got the new rookie in?

Yeah. A little bit. It’s actually kind of refreshing to have somebody new to the group, just so you don’t feel that way. But they’re all really welcoming guys. I don’t feel like I felt that way for much more than one or two shows, you know?

JEFF LEIBOVICH Our September is pretty empty in terms of shows right now. We decided not to book anything. It’s good – you know, you can always do better. You could always have booked one more show, gotten into one more festival. I didn’t anticipate us playing as many shows as we did, and, you know, I live with my girlfriend. I was out of town a lot. And I got to hear it.

ERIC SCHINDLER I’m actually at school. I had my first day of classes today.

You don’t have any break.

No break.

How do you switch back into school mode after having spent a summer on a bus playing music?

I don’t know. (Laughs) It just kind of happened so suddenly. Like, classes started, and I was like, “Wow.” I’m not crazy about it, to be honest. This summer felt more like what my life should be like than college is. It felt like I was a professional musician, just for one summer, and I didn’t really have to go back to school. It was kind of weird going back, and still studying after I basically just played as a musician for the whole summer.

The band outside Fenway Park. (photo by Josh Teitelbaum)

JEFF LEIBOVICH I didn’t anticipate us being gone as long as we were. And it was fun. Definitely a major learning experience for us. A year ago would I have expected us – I mean, we must have played 40 or 50 shows this summer. I didn’t know we were going to hit it that hard right away. And it’s good that we did. I’m excited that we did.

JOEY GAON It was everything I expected it to be. We had an unbelievable time. I really couldn’t ask for anything more. I got to see some great places in this country, meet a lot of great people, be with some of my best friends, play a lot of great music. It’s what everyone dreams about doing and it’s something that most people don’t get to do: pack up in a bus and be in a touring rock band.

We were up at Grand Marais, and some kid asked me to sign his guitar. (Laughs) Are you kidding me? Get the fuck out of here! It’s like, give me a fucking break! That’s something I don’t think I’ll ever truly get used to. I’m a music fan first and foremost. I’m in awe of what I see people do. So for someone to say something like that, you’re just like “Come on. You’ve got to be joking.”

JEFF LEIBOVICH I was standing next to Joey when that happened, and it was awesome.

I’m the keyboard player. I’m not the front of the band. I don’t sing. I’m usually off to the side. But there was a couple at the Michigan Peace Fest, a guy and a girl that were dancing right in front of me the whole show, and after the show they came up to me and started talking, just shooting the shit. Not as much of a rock star moment as the signing of the guitar, but it’s nice when people come up and talk to you afterwards. And even at North Coast, I was standing in the crowd at Grace Potter, and someone walked up to me and told me that the faces I make when I’m playing the organ are awesome. Kind of jokingly, mockingly, but it was fun.

JOSH TEITELBAUM Through the month of September, we have like, I don’t think any gigs booked, which is great for us, because we need to just get into the practice room and work out a lot of different stuff. We’re working on a bunch of new songs. I feel like we’re just continuing to grow. I’m continuing to grow, myself. And as a band, we’re leaning in the right direction.

JOSH KAHLE We’re all looking forward to [the break]. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re going to start tracking for the next album, hopefully sometime soon, and just kind of recoup. We’re all pretty pooped out I think from the whole thing. Some of the new tracks that are coming up are pretty sweet. They’re hot. I don’t know how else to say it. Really live, you know, high-energy stuff. Just good tunes. I think the next go-around will be good.

The skyline from the boat. (photo by Sami Mandell)

We’ve been talking about trying to go down to the South. Like Southeast, or possibly down to Austin. Just doing more and better shows. I think that’s the ultimate goal. Just getting better as a band. We’re going to spend the next couple months just trying to get better at the craft, you know?

I hear a little bit of a language difference coming from you. A month ago it was always, like, “Yeah, the guys play really well.” And “The guys do this really well.” And now it’s like, “Well, we have to come here,” and “We have to be stronger,” and all that. Do you feel like Great Divide is really more a part of your own identity at this point?

It’s actually funny you bring that up: I had gotten called out on the bus at some point, speaking of Great Divide as something that I’m not in. I can’t remember the context of the conversation, but being like “You guys,” or “Great Divide’s doing this,” and I think Teddy said something like “Dude, you need to stop saying that. You’re part of it.” So yeah, it’s been a big part of my life over the summer. I feel like part of the crew.

JEFF LEIBOVICH The summer was amazing. The memories and stories we’ve got from it, you know, I wouldn’t give up for anything. You hear from everybody, you know, “The touring and playing concerts is one thing. It’s the stories and the memories on the road that really make the difference.” We’ve said this a few times: it’s good to be touring with people you’re friends with, and not just good musicians. I learned a lot, I think we as a band learned a lot, and hopefully we just keep progressing the way we have been.

JOSH KAHLE We had a ball. It’s been a really crazy good experience. I think there’s only good things to come. I think everybody’s kind of in the same boat. Hopefully everybody can ride out the storm of having to get real jobs and actually sustain themselves, because that’s a real concern, you know, real life stuff. My final thought would be I’m excited. There’s good things to come for sure.

ERIC SCHINDLER It was a great summer. Definitely learned a lot. You know, we had our ups and downs. But I wouldn’t have traded it for any other summer.

The sun going down... (photo by Sami Mandell)

TEDDY GROSSMAN What a fucking blast. Probably the best summer of my life. We’re now at the point where we can reflect, and talk about good things, bad things. But as far as an overall experience, it was unbelievable. If you told me a year ago that we were going to do 40 dates, X amount of cities, make a couple thousand dollars actually – not even come out in the red – I wouldn’t have even believed you. Definitely a huge success. I think we have a great little resume moving forward. I’m already starting to do our booking and festival submissions for next summer. I think we have a lot more fire power and legitimacy moving forward.

JOSH TEITELBAUM Amazing. 40 shows of traveling all around the Midwest and the east coast. Just a ton of fun. First experience doing this, and hopefully will not be the last.

JOEY GAON We’re kind of just slowing down after the summer. Probably just going to do weekends, Thursday/Friday/Saturday shows, play as much as we can during the weekend, or during the week. Hopefully just start building up again. Hitting Chicago, hitting the Midwest, colleges, play five, six, seven shows a month, just a little mellower than we’ve been, but try to keep the work positive. Just progressing as a band, getting better musically. That’s the goal.


When the last chords fade and the boat is still, the band’s friends rush forward for hugs, high-fives, and well-earned congratulations. Leibovich and his girlfriend pose for a picture in front of the skyline, while Grossman stands arm-in-arm with four childhood friends. I approach for an interview, a short, six-minute talk with the lead singer of Great Divide.

“Describe for me the experience of singing with your band,” I begin, “and you know, you guys started in a basement, and now you’re looking over and you’re seeing the Chicago skyline from the lake, while you’re playing music…”

Looking to the future. (photo by Sami Mandell)

Grossman, still arm-in-arm with his friends, begins to answer. “Man, you pretty much just summed it up right there. It’s just euphoria…” As he answers my questions, one of his friends interrupts: “Tell him about your first sexual experience.” Grossman rolls with his buddies, taking the interview on a detour concerning “a Villanova mixer” in middle school and his first kiss, a sloppy endeavor (“she had braces at the time so it’s a lot of clanking action”) that took place between a pair of arcade games.

The band has started taking down their equipment, and they signal Grossman to head over. He shakes himself into a newfound professionalism and steps closer to me to finish the interview. His friends, suddenly sensing that their friend has business, quiet down.

“So,” I say, redirecting our conversation, “what are you most excited about for the rest of the summer?”

“Rest of the summer? For this band, it always seems like once we can all commit and do it, I feel like our potential is really high. It’s just a matter of putting in the time and reaching that point. It’s been frustrating the last couple years, as far as scratching at the surface, and then everyone’s pulled apart in different directions. Just life in general. So, it’s fun to actually be able to be at it full-time. And we’re still really not, even. It’s great: we have a lot of dates. But I’m looking forward to where we can even play 40 or 50 during a summer. We’ll see man.”

And with that, he thanked me for coming, said goodbye to his friends, and joined his band as they finished their work.

Jack M Silverstein is a freelance writer covering music and culture in Chicago. Contact him at, or say hey at twitter/readjack or facebook/readjack.

Sami Mandell is the owner and head interior designer for Pure Surroundings, LLC, an interior design company that emphasizes Sustainable Design. She also enjoys photography, and is excited to be taking on more gigs. Contact her at


4 Replies to “ presents: A summer on tour with Great Divide (PART II)”

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