Tea Leaf Green
November 3, 2006
words by Daniel Gold, photos by Josh Mintz
Hot on the heels of the Halloween release party for Tea Leaf Green's new DVD and soundtrack album Rock 'N' Roll Band, the San Francisco band rolled from Colorado to Tennessee for a Southeastern run starting in Nashville. Nine songs from Rock 'N' Roll Band were the scaffolding around a masterpiece setlist sculpted by the four musicians, working symmetrically with layers of guitar and keyboards, drums and bass, to define their own San Francisco-meets-the-South sound in the heart of Music City. Tea Leaf Green sang with passion and played with precision and intensity, a kind of soulful, raw and improvisational rock music honed from extensive touring and dedicated musicianship. In their seventh year as a band, with four studio albums out and their second DVD hitting the streets, Tea Leaf Green continues to sear ears in mid-sized clubs like the upstairs room of The Mercy Lounge, their volume and vast song selection oversized for the venue.
Trevor Garrod opened the first set blowing his harmonica like a freight train chugging past the venue; his hands moved quickly to the keys as drummer Scotty Rager whipped the beat into "Incandescent Devil" just like the intro to the tune on RNRB. Josh Clark explored the resonance of his hollow-body honey brown guitar on the soaring "Garden II," then played with grit and hellfire on the Meters-inspired "Georgie P" as bassist Ben Chambers strutted with the undulating audience on these two instrumentals. "Country Seduction" and "My Bastard Brother" introduced a little western flair to the first set with Trevor singing stories either lived or imagined on the farm, while Josh's vocals on "Hanging From a Tree" brought the rural landscape home to Tennessee with a smoky mountain rasp and local lyrical references. "California," from their 1999 debut album, championed the band's home state, and segued neatly into "Earth & Sky" from their third CD Living In Between, while a full moon outside echoed the words. The first set closed with a pairing of the wordless, languid and guttural "Franz Hanzerbeak" into the sing-along "Freedom" with special guest Joe Stancato Sr., a friend of the family, matching Josh on dual lead guitar.
The second set built towards closure with "The Garden (Part III)," a hit from 2005's Taught To Be Proud that also appears on the new live release. Coupled with "Garden II" from the first set and "Precious Stone > Can You Guess It" from the second, they wrapped the show with a sampling of the nebulous Garden song sequence. Josh got sharp and dark, weilding the angular solid-body Firebird guitar. After Trevor's deeply personal "Faced With Love", the bulk of second set was a seamless jam from "Criminal Intent" and two other RNRB tunes, straight through "Gasaholic" incorporating a drum solo, and explosions of colorful confetti from a diehard California fan who made the trek to Tennessee for the show. Although the rock'n'roll theme of the show was not lost on anyone, the majority of the crowd who cheered for an encore really got rocked with a rare sandwich of "These Two Chairs," the lead-off track from the DVD with the chorus proclaiming the Rock and Roll band, into the Beatles' "I've Got a Feeling," back into "These Two Chairs" and finally into the frenetic punk original "Death Cake," the heaviest song in the repertoire sung by a saucy Josh Clark with one-time references to a "nutritious and delicious pastry."