Tea Leaf Green
March 20, 2010
In theirtime-honored tradition as counselors to those who seek it, bartenders usuallyhave the scoop.
Such was thecase on Saturday night, March 20 in Atlanta during the the Tea Leaf Green show at theVariety Playhouse. The Variety is home to some of most fan-friendly, musically knowledgeablesuds-slingers out there, and was where this pointed question was posed:
"What’s upwith small crowd?"
"I don’tthink it has anything to do with their level of popularity," the bartendersaid, "but rather …" and then ran down the disposable income-consuming and brain cell-killingroster of recent shows in Atlanta by bands in the TLG sphere: Trey Anastasio,moe., Yonder Mountain String Band, Dark Star Orchestra, Further, Drive-ByTruckers, etc.
Still, one had to wonder about a obvious vibe vacuum in avenuethat holds 1,000, but on this night, only 450 – a stark contrast to TLG’s last Atlantastop in January 2009, which was teeming with both energy and people. It begged thequestion: Has the band lost some steam?
Despite asub-par first set and some serious sound problems that reducedtheircollective effort to a muddy-bass reverb (sadly, keyboardist Trevor Garrod’svocals were the biggest casualty from this), the band rose to the occasion todeliver moments of both melodic bliss and cock-rock swagger for a good, thoughfar from great, show.
Openers MoonTaxi held the audience captive in their own right, powering through driving,Zeppelin-meets-Phish grooves, thriving off the youngsters’ earnest, infectiousenergy that had plenty of heads bobbing and got the night off to a solidstart. This band clearly has a following, one that is sure to grow.
Despitenearing the end of the extensive One New Day Tour, the boys in Tea Leaf Green looked sharpand fresh upon taking the stage. "Looking West" flowed into "Easy to Be YourLover" for a nice start, though it became painfully obvious by "IncandescantDevil" that the poor sound mix was here to stay, leaving this typically soaringtune feeling just a bit flat.
Yet, as"John Brown" slammed like a run-away locomotive into the instrumental "Warmup,"the band had the crowd in full trance-dance party mode, engineering a wild ridethrough peaks and valleys into the tenacious funk of "Gasaholic" to close thefirst set.
The second set’s opening combo of "Taught toBe Proud," kicked off by a sweet ‘lilpiano intro by Garrod, and "Miss Mae’s" showcased the band’s uniquesound and songwriting, a trademarkyin and yang that combines qualities that are tender, thoughtful and "Fuck it, let’s get drunk"-reckless.
Guitarist Josh Clark was in full rage mode by the end of "MissMae’s." He clearly was the show’s star, taking the bull by the horns, hisband by the balls, and stepping forth with some serious shredding thatdominated the remainder of the night.
The classic"Vote on Tuesday" is a welcomed choice in any TLG set, though this onejust sorta drifted along, its signature peak before the "I’m down in a hole /And I got nowhere to go" line lacking the usual intensity. Yet, the bandfollowed this with "Garden" trilogy that ended with a swirling crescendothat smacked a smile on many a faces.
Acover of Jimi Hendrix’s "Stone Free," a staple on this tour, followednext. As it transitioned into the closing "Hot Dog," the band broke the groovedown to the root elements, giving each member a turn to shine before Clark — who went toe-to-toe with bass virtuoso Reed Mathis in an exchange of licks and grinsat center stage — tore the roof off the sucka, pulling the band out of spacewith a monster mind-fuck riff that evolved into a frenetic freak-out thatprovided the night’s highlight.
Seemingly acknowledgingthe ass just kicked, Clark offered up a sinister riff to kick off an encoreof "Hangin’ from a Tree" that sailed into "Death Cake."
If you’renot having fun at a Tea Leaf Green show, you’re simply doing it wrong. Yet, with somuch talent, so many great songs and, at this point in their decade-pluscareer, so many great shows under their belt, one has to wonder afterexperiencing such a show what’s next for the band.
With a fullslate of summer festival appearances coming up, these road warriors shownosigns of slowing down. Which is great, because Mathis, a master of his craft, is now fully ensconced inthe sound. Plus, music this good simply must be heard.Yet, considering the road’s wear and tear and the precocious nature of theseplayers, is such a pedal-to-the-metal approach a good thing?
Set I: LookingWest > Easy To Be Your Lover, FallenAngel > Incandescent Devil, This Is Real > Bouncin’ Betty, JohnBrown > Warmup > Gasaholic
Set II: TaughtTo Be Proud, Miss Mae’s, Vegas > Cops Took MyWeed, Honeymooners > Vote On Tuesday, Garden I > Garden II > Garden III, StoneFree > Hot Dog
Encore : Hangin’ From a Tree > Death Cake