New Years Eve with Tea Leaf Green: Theater of Living Arts, Philadelphia, PA

New Years Eve 2006 brought everything a person could want:  great people, good times, smokin’ tunes, and great sex! 

Unassuming, modest, radiant, warm; and with a stage presence that hasn’t been seen in awhile are words to describe one of the hottest acts to come into the fold in recent memory.  This quartet based in San Francisco calls themselves Tea Leaf Green. 

The Brakes opened for Tea Leaf Green this past New Year’s Eve at the Theater of the Living Arts (TLA) in Philadelphia.  Entering the venue, there was a noticeable spark of positive energy abound.  When the lights went down, excitement ensued…there would be no letdowns on this night.

Looking at their setup before the show—there was nothing fancy about it and looked like their gear was ‘built for speed’.  “Just how much sound can come from this?”  Never judge a book by its cover would apply here. San Fran based?  No way—these guys are from Georgia, right?  Can something this jiggy originate from NorCal?  What have they produced lately?  Don’t answer that—we love San Fran, but since The Grateful Dead, what have they produced for the Jam scene lately?

The lights go down and we’re treated to a very engaging and happy opener called  “Country Seduction.” Talk about range—they go from country to some funky, body-moving keyboards to open the second song, named “Panspermic De-evolution  From funk to a hard guitar riff compliments of Josh Clark; this mostly instrumental song was littered with highs and lows as well as some nasty bass-bombs via Ben C—who’s energy on stage is second to none.

Fifteen minutes into the show and we’ve already heard some hoe-down, funk, edge, and some space jams.  They segue into the first teases of a very melodic vocal rich “If It Wasn’t For the Money” which had a very alternative sounding guitar then followed by folk lines and transitions—-then right back into a jam with keys backing it up.  They sandwich this between a segue back into “Panspermic”, reminiscent of a “Chalkdust Torture” with the keys buildup and the energy of bringing it to a close. 

We could all leave now and be truly satisfied, yet the word is that we hadn’t heard anything yet—-“Wait till the 2nd set”, some faces in the crowd say.  Maybe we should pass the hat as they aren’t getting paid enough for this treat! 

In “Rapture”, Trevor opens with some soft keys, leading one to think that we’re about to get a slow ballad from him.  But that’s what makes these guys unique; they can go in and out of different genres at will with everyone lending a hand.  This defines true improve.  “Rapture” sure didn’t finish like it started.  It’s seems clear that Trevor was classically trained and can do just about anything on the ivory.

Every band, especially newer ones fighting to propagate their sound to the masses will all have their “anthem” or are in the process of developing one.  After hearing more deep keys to open this song named “Taught To Be Proud” and watching every lip moving on every face in the room, it’s clear that this was one of their staples.  Steady beats from Scott Rager on the drums kept things going at a body-moving pace throughout and you can see that they all took lessons from the devil himself.  “Gimme the funk; gimme some soul; these boys know how to rock-n-roll.” 

They closed the set with “Gasoline”, a song that again, showed their great range.  They can go in and out on every song and this was no different.  Complete with spacey/funky keys with a wa-wa in the background, this song has sharp teeth.  After some explorative meandering in the middle with a hard edge, it blindsided us with a high-energy, hillbilly hoedown close.  For the first-timers; they sure didn’t see that coming.

Oh yeah….what about the sex?  10..9..8..7..6..5..4..3..2..1…Happy New Year!  2007 opens up with nine people on stage including the members of The Brakes.  A band with so much soul just had to pay tribute to the Godfather himself, right?  The group breaks out into “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine” from James Brown.  ‘Twas very appropriate after the fallen legend’s passing (died 12/25/06) as the first song of 2007 with brass from The Brakes supporting helped to ‘take it to the bridge’.  Out of nowhere, they crack into a ‘Third Stone From the Sun’ jam which was the meat of a “Sex Machine’ sandwich that melded nicely together and really made our New Year special.  You could hear them meld “TSFTS”, with “Sex Machine”, with “Auld Lang Syne”…good energy and great sex!

The Brakes sat in for one more:  a very nice rendition of AC/DC’s “Have a Drink on Me”, which set the tone for what would be a great second set with a lot of edge.  Hearing that with horns was truly unique.

Everyone got a chance to shine on “Franz Hanzerbeak”.  A song with huge bass lines coupled with some Herbie Hancock-like keys….we were but snakes in a basket and they were our charmers as the crowd seemed oh too powerless to defend this rhythm any longer.  This would turn out to be one of many highlights of the second set.  The crowd very much knew what to do with this song and took their cue with fervor.  This song, being instrumental, and with a total group effort, probably has a lot of range of diversity from show to show.  Josh Clark (guitar/vocals) showed his range throughout as he played both rhythm and lead guitars, and can get as dirty as he needs to.  The next song, “Truck Stop Sally”, a long ballad, was the first song that you hear Josh singing lead on.  His sultry voice asked rhetorically, ‘If you wanna get high with the band…you gotta get the band high too’.  In leaving the show, you could hear people still singing these lines on their way home.

Opening with invitations of grandeur, “Sex in the 70’s” (yes, more great sex), like its namesake, epitomized the synthesizer sound reminiscent of the time period of the 70’s.

What a great time.  After the show, the crowd as a whole looked physically drained from all of the body shaking and their clothes were drenched with sweat.  You may say that they looked as if they just had some of the best sex ever!  Thank you for the happy ending.

2007 New Year’s Resolution:  See more of the Sweet ‘Leaf’.

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