Tea Leaf Green
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Tea Leaf Green

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The best kept secret in music

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Count me in. I’m on the bus. Shit, man, I’m sitting at the front of bus, annoying the driver, pestering the overweight mannish lady with incessant calls of “Are we there yet?”

As I’ve said before on here and over on my blog, I don’t review shows properly. I’ll try my best to put a spin on what I’ve seen or capture the atmosophere of what was goin’ down, but live music is the most subjective aspect of life. And I’ve never quite understand why anyone would attempt to review what they’ve just seen for people who can’t possibly experience it through the same central nervous system.

Nine times out of 10, I’ll take a “duuude” or a “kickass” or an “awesome” over the headier-than-thou babble critics like to spew. So I won’t waste time here describing the San Francisco quartet, Tea Leaf Green, or even recap the events of Saturday night. But I will say, and I emphasize this, these guys rock. Hard. They really have “it” — they genuinely possess that elusive quality that takes a band from simply talented to truly special.

Selling out the main space of NYC’s Knitting Factory, TLG didn’t take a single song off on Saturday night. They nailed every well-written tune and jammed them out to the fullest: They went on stage at midnight, took a brief setbreak and continued to energize the raucous crowd until 3:30 in the morning. They’re excellent song-writers, they’re interesting performers, they’re retardedly deft at their instruments and they understand how to put on a show. They really get it. They definitely have it.

It’s damn near impossible to pin these guys down and pigeonhole them into one specific category of music. They’re not a typical jamband, but I would disagree with those who say they don’t jam. I’m not trying to be cute by saying that, I just feel like the words “jam” and “jamband” don’t mean the same thing. After seeing these guys this weekend, I’d say they jam out every song, but unlike most other young jambands, thankfully, they don’t “noodle” and waste my time. Their jams “rock,” and they rock hard. They push the pedal to the floor and they don’t stop until the tank’s on empty. The only thing holding these guys back are the vocals, but they’re not quite that bad. They’re just hit or miss, some people will like ‘em, some just won’t. I, for one, walked out thinking these guys were flawless.

As I said to my buddy during setbreak, if I were an 18-year-old college kid again with no real concern for the outside world as it is, I’d follow these guys all over my region and track their progress closely. And that was before the amazing second set they threw down. I guess the best compliment I can give TLG is this: I haven’t been so impressed by a band the first time I saw them since those four dorks from Vermont I sometimes like to mention.

So go see these guys when they hit your town. Just prepare to be blown away by what you see and hear.

Knitting Factory setlist — 9/10/05
Set 1: The Garden (Part III), Bootlegger, Asphalt Funk, Taught to Be Proud, If It Wasn’t for the Money, Ride Together, I Believe, Georgie P, The Garden (Part II), Death Cake

Set 2: The Garden (Part I), The Invasion, Incandescent Devil, Earth and Sky, Freedom, Planet of Green Love, Reservoir, Corrina*, Can You Guess It?, Sex in the 70’s

Encore: I’ve Been Seeking, Who Am I (What’s My Name)?**, Baseball Song, I’ve Got a Feeling***

Notes: w/ Dr. UHall, *Taj Mahal cover, **Snoop Dogg cover, ***Beatles cover
- livemusicblog.com


Tea Leaf Green at The Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA 7/22/05

Our Friday night began when we set out from our hotel to meet up with some of the locals from the band's website forums. Arrangements had been made for anyone interested to drop by a pub that was within walking distance to the GAMH to have a few drinks before the show. We had met only a handful of San Francisco fans who'd turned up at Nectar's in Burlington when Tea Leaf Green played there the night after Coventry last summer – we didn't know if there would be any familiar faces at the pub that night, but even if not, we were excited to put some faces with the names we'd known for so long.

Upon entering the bar, the first few tables just inside the door were full of people – all were sporting small circular green stickers that read "Gardening Association" with a picture of a dragonfly in the center. These had to be the Tea Leaf fans – the stickers were unmistakable: "Gardening Association" referred to what's become known as "The Garden Trilogy" – "Garden I", "Garden II" and "Garden III", songs that are sometimes played sequentially and sometimes appear by themselves or sandwiched within other segues. The picture of the dragonfly was self-explanatory – "Dragonfly" is a Tea Leaf Green song sung by guitarist Josh Clark. We barely had time to read what the stickers said when we were greeted with introductions, hugs, congratulations and questions about how the honeymoon had been so far. It was such an amazing feeling to be standing in an unfamiliar city, clear across the country from home and feel like we were immediately among friends... even if we didn't know all their names yet. Not only were we made to feel at home so quickly, we were also surprised and deeply touched by being presented with a congratulatory card that had been signed by everyone there, as well as by all the guys in the band – such kindness and thoughtfulness from a group of people we'd never met; we were blown away to say the least!

A few drinks and a newspaper-wrapped package of fish and chips later, we arrived at the Great American Music Hall. Bill had never been to the GAMH for a show before, but I had while on a west coast mini-tour seeing Strangefolk play a stretch from L.A. to San Francisco back in '98 and again in '99. This venue is truly one of the most visually stunning I've ever been to – from the massive gold-gilded columns to the sparkling crystal chandeliers, you can almost picture what it must have been like during the turn of the century when women in ornate gowns and men in tails spent the evening gliding along the dance floor, marveling at the grandeur of such a gorgeous ballroom. If you can't picture it, you can always get a glimpse of what it really looked like – there's a black and white picture depicting this very scene hanging in the lobby.

Once inside, we had a look around and then headed upstairs so Bill could get his taping gear set up. We'd been told that tonight's show would be three sets: one acoustic and two electric, which was great news as we'd never seen Tea Leaf Green play acoustic before. Not only is the overall sound more mellow, the songs are completely different as well – you usually don't hear them in the rotation of regular (electric) shows, as many are acoustic-only tunes. As it turned out though the only thing acoustic about the acoustic set was Josh Clark's guitar – but such are the limitations of a band that's just starting to gain some national recognition. I'm sure a few years from now we'll see an acoustic bass and perhaps a percussion set join the array of instrument choices. For now though, they do just fine with what they've got!

The remaining two electric sets featured some of the best playing either of us had heard from these guys since we first stumbled onto them at Berkfest ‘02. We figured that these San Francisco shows would be pretty blistering with that hometown crowd energy fueling the fires, but wow! I could be a bit biased though...

Have you ever been on your way to a show and saw or heard something that made you think of a specific song? Like you're stuck at a red light on your way to see Phish and suddenly you can't get "Slave to the Traffic Light" out of your head... several hours later as you're walking into the venue, you realize that that's the one song you REALLY want to hear that night. Now imagine having a couple of days worth of these kinds of experiences built up in your head from all that you'd seen and done... and imagine getting all the corresponding songs that you've been tapping, humming and singing randomly in one set – that's what this first electric set was like for me.

It all started off innocently enough – they opened with "Rapture"; like many of keyboardist Trevor Garrod's songs, there's some great lyrical imagery and a nice mellow groove to this tune. I definitely don't dislike this one, but it has yet to wow me, so I guess the most accurate opinion I can give on - www.jambands.com


fter what Tea Leaf Green did Saturday night at The Independent, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone walking out of the place agreeing that San Francisco's 2 am curfew is a good thing. Nobody, least of all the band, seemed ready to call it quits when the house lights went on. Then again, they say the cardinal rule of performance is to "always leave em' wanting more." Tea Leaf Green certainly did that.
As their rapidly growing fan base knows, TLG rarely fails to exceed expectations or to dish out a slew of surprises. 4/2 was no different. The band greeted The Independent's sold out crowd with an unexpected yet lively cover of Velvet Underground's "I'm Waiting for the Man." From there they launched into what they're best known for, which is to encompass terrific songwriting with virtuoso musicianship and exhilarating improvised explorations.
After charging through sparkling renditions of fan-favorites "Pansdermic De-Evolution" and "Midnight On the Reservoir," they really opened up and let it rip for the party anthem rocker "Tequila." Joined by guitarist Eric McFadden of Eric McFadden Trio (who opened the show with an impressive performance), the quartet ratcheted up the intensity a notch as McFadden and guitar phenom Josh Clark dueled their way through a spectacular hair-raising shred-off, that seemed hard to top. But top it they did. In a fitting tribute to early spring, Clark led the way through the next workout and set closer...a trademark version of their jubilant "Baseball Jam."
Midway through the second set, it was obvious that TLG was primed and ready to flex their creative muscles, as they repeatedly shifted the spotlight amongst themselves for jaw-dropping solos and sophisticated musical interplay. Keyboardist, singer, and songwriter Trevor Garrod provided one of the night's numerous highlights with a feverishly inspired solo during the intensely funky "Wet Spot." And soon afterwards, drummer Scott Rager upped the ante with an electrifying kit solo that truly defied description.
Indeed there are few bands that can communicate on stage at such a high level as TLG did on 4/2, whether it was through dark and menacing jams, brain splitting soloing, or subtle nuance. But at the heart of it all was an astute sense of showmanship. The band seemed to know exactly when to reach for the rafters or to ease back, letting the crowd catch their collective breath with poignant, softer ballads like "Don't Be Down."
By the time the kinetic encore of "Death Cake" and "Georgie P" neared, there was so much energy crackling through The Independent most people would have likely bought another ticket to see TLG play until sunrise. I know I would have. On the plus side, everyone who saw the show should feel lucky to witness this stage of TLG's development; while they're still playing relatively small and intimate venues. It won't be long before the crowds are far too large for that.
- theowlmag.com (who's who in San Francisco)


Discography

Midnight on the Reservoir
Living In Between
Taught to be Proud (Release Date 11.15.05)

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

San Francisco's Tea Leaf Green is taking the music scene by storm. Having amazed growing audiences in the Bay Area throughout the past few years, the have become one of the fastest evolving musical acts on the West Coast. With a breakout performance at Bonnaroo 2005, their profile has been raised to a national level.

Tea Leaf Green's powerful, unique style features diverse songwriting sensibilites and an astounding amount of raw talent. Their sound has drawn comparisons to The Band, The Allman Brothers, Steve Miller Band, and American Beauty era Grateful Dead.

Tea Leaf Green has spent the past three years building a national fan base playing over 125 dates a year. Enthusiastic crowds have turned out in support of the band on this year's festival circuit, which included performances at Bonnaroo, moe.down and High Sierra.