Getting Back On The Treadmill

Getting Back On The Treadmill
The return of Treadmill Trackstar probable in 2008

When word surfaced in mid-2007 about a possible reunion show by members of the long-defunct Columbia, SC band Treadmill Trackstar, nobody could have guessed how it would turn out. Since the group disbanded following an ill-fated Atlantic Records debut, Only This, in 1998, band leader Angelo Gianni had moved to California and mostly gotten out of the commercial music business, instead focusing on the making of actual commercials, among other film work. Another move, to Asheville, NC–just a few hours up the road from his old musical stomping grounds–made the rumours more than just a possibility.

The occasion was a full-blown music festival built around another long defunct local landmark, the live music club Rockafellas, which Gianni played in several incarnations of bands including Treadmill Trackstar. A number of other local bands reformed for the event also, but the buzz prior to the weekend of shows was all about Treadmill’s long-awaited return.

Why was it that important that a band broken up for a decade was playing again? Well, to understand that one must go back to 1997 and the release of Treadmill’s independent debut, Excessive Use of the Passive Voice, which established their formula of rock guitars layered with liberal amounts of cello, supporting the obtuse poetic lyrics of Gianni. In the post-Hootie & the Blowfish landscape of Columbia, Treadmill was the band everyone expected to follow their peers onto the pop charts, and “Shouldn’t I Take,” from that debut even garnered a significant amount of local and regional radio airplay.

After touring nationally and appearing on an early incarnation of the Vans Warped Tour schedule, Treadmill signed with Hootie-owned Atlantic subsidiary Breaking Records and re-recorded a number of the debut’s songs for Only This, which fizzled out on impact in the general marketplace. After fighting the good fight for going on eight years, the members simply moved on with their lives, never to look back–or so we thought.

Fast forward to 2007 and the roomy confines of Five Points Pub in Columbia, scene of Treadmill’s much-anticipated set at the Rockafella’s Reunion, and the years melted away as the band took the stage. Gianni was a little less thin, with shorter hair and heavy-rimmed glasses, but as soon as he opened his mouth to sing it was like the band had never left. Their trademark sound was always a wall of sound sonic attack not unlike the early Smashing Pumpkins albums, and with original cellist Heidi Brown as his onstage musical foil and drummer Tony Lee behind him (original bassist Chris Grigg’s spot was filled by local musician Mike Mills of the band Almost Jason), Gianni was able to faithfully recreate the band’s back catalog.

The songs, from, ”Pale The Bright Sun,” to, ”Velveteen,” “Walking With Madeline,” and the big ‘hit’, ”Shouldn’t I Take,” sounded as fresh as ever, and a lot less dated than one might think given their decade-old pedigree.

Gianni, for his part, was in a mood of apparent euphoria throughout the set, with a grin permanently pasted across his face even on the less-than-joyful numbers; the audience was in a similar state of disbelief, not only at the fact the band was playing at all, but that they sounded this good after a ten-year absence.

At the close of the set, Gianni thanked the crowd and jokingly said, “See you in another ten years!” Gianni and the band must have had a good time, because it seems we may not have to wait that long for some new music from Treadmill–A blog posted on the band’s Myspace profile recently hints at a possible new CD release sometime in the coming year, with new material and some multimedia surprises.

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