Chilly JackWater (Best Show Ever) is taking his first turn at guest-bloggin’ on the Live Music Blog. I’m pleased as punch to have him, so enjoy his first post–a review of Tea Leaf Green’s recent two-night run at NYC’s Coda with a lot of predictions on what this band will be to the scene in the near future. You can email him praise and nice words only at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hate show reviews that read roughly like this:
“(Band name) busted into (city) on fire last Friday night. (The first song) was a nice way to get the party started. With (bass player) and (drummer) setting down a funky groove…blah blah blah”
So I’m offering up a review of Tea Leaf Green’s two-night stand at Coda in NYC with a little perspective.
If there’s one thing that separates jamband fans from the rest of the music-loving world, it’s gotta be that we have patience. Patience for letting songs develop during a show, as well as over multiple shows. (Sometimes for good, like how Panic’s “Airplane” emerged as an all-out jam vehicle. And sometimes for bad. It seemed like “46 Days” at It a few years ago went on for nearly that long.) We let our bands develop, too. And we rarely fall for a band just because “they’re supposed to be the next big thing.” Whereas over on indie rock blogs and message boards, that’s not exactly the case. If you Googled “Oh my God Arcade Fire are SO my new favorite band,” I bet you’d get about 4 trillion hits. And let’s just say that when a blog called Information Leafblower came out with their Best Bands of 2005 list, repeats from 2004 were few and far between. Not only that, the #1 band of 2004 – Ted Leo/Pharmacists (a very good band, by the way) – DIDN’T EVEN MAKE THE LIST IN 2005.
Why do I say this? Because I am very wary of labeling any band “my new favorite band.” I have been burned before looking for a long-term commitment, most recently with Umphrey’s who have yet to blow me away twice in a row. But now friends, I’m here to tell you that Tea Leaf Green are, as Calvin “Snoop” Broadus so eloquently put it, “realer than the Real Deal Holyfield.”
When I was a younger gent – yes, I said “gent” – I saw Phish at the Keswick Theatre somewhere around Philly. I had been listening to them for close to a year at that point, and had even seen them open for Santana that prior July. But it wasn’t until they closed to first set with an “Antelope” that literally made me feel like – OK, remember in Monty Python’s “Meaning Of Life” when that dude keeps eating and eating until he bursts (after indulging in the after dinner mint)? That’s how I felt. I literally thought I was going to burst open. I remember actually dancing up to a frightened security guard at setbreak and practically screaming at them: “Did you HEAR that??? Can you believe that???” But that’s what it was to see Phish and get “hosed,” right?
Ah, yes, the infamous “hose.” If “the hose” exists, then these dudes are the firemen. I have seen four shows this year and each time I’ve noticed that the crowd is divided up into two groups: The people who have seen them before and the people who are screaming at each other “Did you HEAR that??? Can you believe that???” I’m telling you, his band is a late-night Bonnaroo set away from a feature in next Summer’s Rolling Stone “Hot Issue.”
And of course, Tea Leaf’s two night stand at Coda here in NYC didn’t disappoint. Not even close. They rolled though, yawned, stretched, and proceeded to melt the faces of 100 or so new fans. Sure, the first night was as mellow I have seen them, but I’ll cut them some slack. They were settling in to six sets in a town where they really, REALLY need to “make it.” And frankly, I think they were just showing their range. Particle’s lackluster 2005 has shown that you can’t be the jamband equivalent of ’98 Mark McGwire (with a focus on just one aspect) for 5 straight years, you gotta be more like 2005 A-Rod (well, minus the, you know, inability to come through in big spots).
The first two sets on Friday night opened and closed strong (highlights for me were “Ride Together,” “Incandescent Devil,” and a disco-flavored “Country Seduction”>”Kali-Yuga”) with some fine more laid-back tunes in between (“Pretty Jane” sounded fantastic). The third set Friday raged like it was a late-night set…in the city that never sleeps. Which, of course, it was. “Panspermic De-Evolution” and “Gasoholic” – (For those of you who haven’t seen TLG, think “YEM” and “Hood”) – made it “the set” of the weekend. I think it’s safe to say that if you’re a fan of the band, you better like those songs, because those’ll be the ones that Trevor will be telling Charlie Rose he is sick of playing 20 years from now.
And honestly, I could go on and on, but do these guys really need more blogo-fellatio? OK, if you insist…
Saturday rocked with the same ferocity (ferociousness?) that I have simply come to expect from these guys. “Typical” versions of “Asphalt Funk,” “Hot Dog” and “Green Love” (with even more “sour cream” than usual) keep ringing through my head. But it was the ridiculous “Sex In the 70s” that left a friend saying to me, “Frankly, I don’t have any more to give to these guys tonight,” before he disappeared into the night. I don’t know what more I can say. It just feels like 1992 for me all over again. And just as a D minus ’92 Phish show was 100 times better than any ’92 Dead show, ’05 Tea Leaf Green can roll out of bed and blow any band on this scene out of the water.
So as we all exhale, before we inhale our scene’s numerous New Year’s Eve runs, I’d like to posit a question for us to discourse: What’s gonna make Tea Leaf Green big? The songs, for one. While lots of other jambands have been focusing on Phish’s post-95 funk – e.g., SCI, Biscuits, etc. – Tea Leaf has a sound more reminiscent of Phish’s pre-95 rock. Also, TLG’s jams are more precise, they don’t tend to wander, and they never wade into the abominable “52-minute ‘Tweezer'” waters. Yes, that’s a good thing because it’ll keep the haters away. (It’s hard to diss a band when all they’re doing is playing straight-up raging rock, as opposed to a 3 minute song stretched to patience-testing lengths with feedback, start-stop drumming, and bass lines that make you question whether or not the bassist is still awake).
But the number one reason I think they’re “the next big thing” is that they are lucky. Damn lucky. Just as moe. came along at the wrong time (sounded too much like Phish on their way up), TLG has come along at just the right time when fans are looking for something really new to latch onto. Phish is done (whether they reunite or not), Panic’s best days are behind them, and Umphrey’s odd songs and quick time-changes are just not palatable to a wide audience. (I refuse to argue this point. It is simply the truth.) Remember: Phish benefited from The Dead’s demise, just as some band will benefit from Phish’s demise. So why not Tea Leaf Green?