Tea Leaf Green | 03.01 | SF, CA

Words by: Dennis Cook | Images by: Jay Blakesberg and Dave Vann

Tea Leaf Green :: 03.01.08 :: The Fillmore :: San Francisco, CA

TLG :: 02.29 :: The Fillmore
By Jay Blakesberg
It's absolutely exhilarating to encounter something that is utterly itself. To know one's self is the great goal of philosophers, wise men and saints - a drive to look into life's mirrors and face what one sees with conviction, honesty and perhaps even joy. The world of music is one of endless recombination. The base elements are out there – mathematics and emotions, poetry and technique - but it's difficult to assemble those things in ways that don't instantly remind the listener of what's come before. When music gets truly exciting is the point where the players reach a collective understanding of what sets them apart, what details define their face, the features that differ from the ancestors in their DNA.

Before Tea Leaf Green's second night at the Fillmore, bassist extraordinaire Reed Mathis and I discussed the virtues of restraint and how music often thrives most when someone holds back and then carefully articulates each syllable they speak with their instrument or voice. Choosing to serve one's songs can have as much power as extended solos or endless flight of virtuosic fancy. "These guys can play! But people don't always catch that," said Mathis. "Being an adult means making choices." TLG and opener Blue Turtle Seduction are groups who've made their choices and arrived at a place of clear identity in an unclouded mirror, and as any smart Taoist will tell you, that's when good things really start to happen.

BTS' Christian Zupancic :: 03.01
By Dave Vann
Something people forget is The Clash's Joe Strummer loved folk music. He embraced dockworker protest songs, Hank Williams and crusty English tweed picking. While not always obvious, folk floated in the background of his punk-pop-reggae thang. Ol' Joe would've loved Blue Turtle Seduction, who throw a monster backbeat and gonad rattling bass behind songs with folk's sturdiness, punk's restless drive, pop's urge to engage and reggae's head lifting wow. More than once during their completely engaging opening set, BTS recalled Strummer's under-sung final band, The Mescaleros. Tough and charming, the Turtles threw more grit into the works at this show, just the rocky fiber to fill in a sound that already has a painterly feel where colors are worked with a careful eye to the overall picture.

While in the past BTS has worn a variety of costumes, this show found them in jeans and tees, workman's gear that reflected the sense they were diggin' in hard, carving out their place in the scheme of things. A wide curve into liquid funk – Bootsy Collins on superb collie weed shit – rose unpredictably into violin soundtracked cumulus. Elsewhere they married harmonica and 12-bar muscle to jazz swing in a way that coolly brought to mind John Mayall's short-lived Jazz Blues Fusion band. Each vocalist sang on this strong offering of new material in a way that made each individual singer stand out more than in the past. BTS is always good for a solid group chant but they've hit a place where each voice's nuances add something distinctive to the mix. They wrapped things up with a real "come on people, smile on your brother" vibe that also had the itch of good disco, a silver thread that laces up your skates and sends you flying. BTS is currently finishing their new studio album and if this set was any indication, we're in for a treat.

Trevor Garrod :: 02.29 :: The Fillmore
By Jay Blakesberg
Tea Leaf Green dropped out of a blood red sky, Trevor Garrod crooning, "I'm gonna cut to the heart like a razor," and managing to make those words sound like an embrace on his golden tongue. The kid can sing. He's a piano man dropping ditties that hobos and hipsters alike can get empathize with. Warm and rough, Garrod is the descendent of the boys in The Band after a fat syringe of Paul McCartney juice. When I haven't heard him sing for a while, as I hadn't before this show, I'm always struck in the first few minutes by what a perfect, charming way his voice wraps around words. In another band, he'd be the star, eclipsing the out of focus guys behind him on tour shirts, but Tea Leaf is comprised of four strong personalities, four ventricles within a big, shared heart, pumping hard but always in a rhythm that invigorates the entire body.

Listening to "Panspermic De-evolution" (a title dear dead Frank Zappa would have dug mightily) during the first set was the moment it hit me: Tea Leaf Green has jumped beyond their influences. While passionate, insatiable music nuts all, they've found their groove, their mojo, their raison d'être. As familiar as "Panspermic" is to anyone who's followed these cats for a few years, there's was a newness about it, as if the muscle memory of the thing has settled in and they're able to do new tricks with even well worn passages. That vibe touched pretty much every minute of this performance, including a beautifully ragged cover of AC/DC's 'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" with local bartending legend Jason Finazzo (The Naysayers) on guitar and vocals. While hesitant to toss out blanket praise, when it's deserved it's worth offering. Sure, there were places the music didn't completely join together, a flubbed note here and there, but what band trying to engage with their material in real time doesn't have that? What TLG managed at the Fillmore was to fill in the nooks and crannies of every selection, giving them density and breath you could feel.

Mathis & Josh Clark :: 02.29 :: The Fillmore
By Jay Blakesberg
However, their ability to be thoughtful and technically skilled never got in the way of a pervasive "good times" feel, one of their distinctive features as live performers and an ace they hold against the other players in the touring game. Watching the capacity crowd from the balcony ebb and rise in time to their machinations, one felt they reached out to the whole room. To paraphrase a line from Stillwater's Jeff Bebe, they looked for the one guy not getting off in the back and made him pop. Some bands try to do this audience gathering magic and it just comes off as desperate. Watching TLG rock The Fillmore it was apparent this is just part of who they are. They exude fun and raucous energy and love and heartache. They've survived failure, wild times and dumb choices, and brought back some songs that'll help the rest of us make it, too. While the common denominator is often where the lowest form of art thrives (I'm looking at you, Poison…), Tea Leaf Green redeems the idea that shared melodies can bind folks together in a powerfully neat way. Looking around the room as the house lights came up after the sweaty encore slap of "Flippin' The Bird" and "Planet of Green Love," it was hard not to feel a little closer to folks. Their music weaved that spell and we're lucky to have it.

03.01.08 :: The Fillmore :: San Francisco, CA
Set 1: Red Ribbons, Precious Stone, Let Us Go1, Papa's in the Backroom, Panspermic De-evolution2, These Two Chairs, Cops Took My Weed1, Slept Thru Sunday, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap3,4 (1:03)
Set 2: Baseball Song > The Devil's Pay, Faced with Love1, Standing Still3, Jezebel, Moonshine1, Wet Spot, I've Got A Truck, Morning Sun (1:12)
Encore: Flippin' the Bird1, Planet of Green Love5 (0:13)

Notes: 1w/ Trevor on harmonica, 2w/ "Riders on the Storm" (The Doors), 3First time played, 4AC/DC cover w/ Jason Finazzo (The Naysayers) on guitar and vocals, 5w/ Ben C. on bass and Reed on guitar

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[Published on: 3/10/08]

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Chaloupka Mon 3/10/2008 03:46PM
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I think I'm actually going to give TLG one more chance now that Mathis is in the mix. 5th time's a charm?

T. Ralph starstarstarstar Mon 3/10/2008 04:46PM
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Who knows. But, it is funny that you say you are going to give them 1 more chance when they are one of your favorite artists.??

Good review, GREAT band. Their depth is unparalleled for their time together...though it does not show YET w/ Mathis...what does it the virtuosity of their playing and ability to push the boundary while staying firmly rooted in their style of playing.

T. Ralph Mon 3/10/2008 05:03PM
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And, just to re-iterate...Reed Mathis is bringing a whole new style, and energy, into the mix. Something that shows in all 4 members. Their jams are getting more complex, and their confidence is rising with each show together...hold on tight.

moephishH2O starstarstarstarstar Mon 3/10/2008 05:07PM
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DAMN good time that was! Reed's leaving for JFJO tour and Steve from ALO will be helping out on bass. 'Dirty Deeds' was fantastic and it was great to see Ben come out for encore...

pornofunk starstarstarstarstar Mon 3/10/2008 05:15PM
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yeah im w/ chaloupka......think there good but cant get completely "into" them

*** just like me: there one of my favorited artists too... is that OK? just wanna save you sometime so you dont have to check my profile just to make a point...

pornofunk starstarstarstarstar Mon 3/10/2008 05:16PM
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not knockin em tho, props too TLG

Kindskatz Mon 3/10/2008 05:30PM
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have never been a fan of TLG, still not, just don't get it. But I was at this show, because I was in town, but more so because Reed is in the band now. It was decent for a while, but by the second I found the music to be, well, just nothing that special. I've given them at least 4 chances now, I just don't dig TLG. Reed is the man though, great to see him having so much fun on stage and just rockin' the fuck out. He probably hasn't rocked this hard since his days listening to Metallica and playing along...

I also heard he's leaving JFJO for good to make TLG his primary band...He's been w/JFJO literally half his life. Could be time for a change, though I would be really, really sad to see the demise of that band.

adventuresinperception starstarstarstarstar Mon 3/10/2008 05:50PM
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tea leaf green melts my face. top five band on the jamband scene right now. And they mix far out jams with a somewhat vintage rock sound, none of this electronica/dance stuff, just mind melting rock and roll. dig

OaksterDan starstarstar Mon 3/10/2008 06:23PM
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Planet of the Green Love that closed the show was bumpin. Had that west coast vibe to it and was the highlight of these two shows for me. Red Ribbons start was good and "Riders on the Storm" jam was fun to hear. AC/DC "Dirty Deeds" cover was pleasant suprise and well done. Devil's pay in second set rocked as it always does. Tea Leaf Green reminds me of a Hard Rock band. If you think of hard rock & grunge bands they always lacked good keyboard players. These were my 3rd and 4th time seeing TLG. The most fun I have with this band is when someone sits-in and goes toe to toe with Josh & Reed! Like friday night with Barry Sless & GE Smith of moonalice. TLG does play with lots of energy and for the money you pay to see them you can't complain much. Is there any better small venue than the Fillmore!

Chaloupka Mon 3/10/2008 07:16PM
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just like me,

Just because I have TLG, or any other band, added to my "favorites" doesn't necessarily mean that they're actually one of my favorite bands. It just means I added them to "my favorites" so I can easily find out if they're playing anywhere near me. That's how myjambase works.

Kindskatz Mon 3/10/2008 07:43PM
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That was my first show at the Fillmore and that place is SICK! It's amazing just to set foot in that historic building.

I heard from a very reliable source about Reed leaving Fred. That's all I can say, don't mean to sound like a douche. I expect to hear some news about it one way or the other pretty soon. I certainly hope it's not true, as JFJO are definitely one of my favorite bands, and if Reed leaves, they are DONE.

Dgold starstarstarstarstar Mon 3/10/2008 08:00PM
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Dennis Cook is such a fine craftsman with words, but a master poet can't just make up descriptions like that. You have to know the music. You have to understand the band. Dennis gets it > Dennis gets it right.

Thanks for the link! Great story! Congrats TLG and thanks JamBase for this.

New sig line material: "Tea Leaf Green redeems the idea that shared melodies can bind folks together -Dennis Cook"

--Daniel Gold

Honest Tunes Radio Show, KXUA Fayetteville

koach starstarstarstarstar Mon 3/10/2008 08:57PM
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TEN MILE TIDE also played that show during the set breaks...... THEY are a great up and coming band... to all the distant cousins....

Chapelchilla starstarstarstarstar Mon 3/10/2008 09:11PM
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Nice write up. I can't wait to see Tea Leaf on the east coast during the Spring tour. 3 or 4 shows will do me some good. Wish I was headed to Amsterdam this week............

bear22 starstar Mon 3/10/2008 09:37PM
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please don't refer to Blue Turtle Seduction as "BTS". I'm not into their music at all but my band opened for them once in Truckee, CA and they are very nice guys. I wish them the best success they can achieve...

snappy Tue 3/11/2008 04:01AM
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Reed is deeply committed to both bands. Just yesterday he was mixing a new JFJO album for fall release to follow Lil' Tae Rides Again, which comes out in April. He's also absolutely psyched to be part of Tea Leaf Green, and anyone who knows Mathis knows he's got enough energy for 20 bands if he puts his mind to it. No worries my fellow Jacob Fred fans.

webalienz starstarstarstarstar Tue 3/11/2008 06:09AM
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Dennis, you were able to eloquently describe that feeling I have when I go to shows. "To paraphrase a line from Stillwater's Jeff Bebe, they looked for the one guy not getting off in the back and made him pop." Thanks for one of the best written reviews I have ever read.

twist2piper starstarstarstar Tue 3/11/2008 07:24AM
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Mark Price former NBA star Tue 3/11/2008 07:57AM
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Mark Price former NBA star

TLG Rules

Teabagger starstarstarstarstar Tue 3/11/2008 08:42AM
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Long live Tea Leaf Green! Lots of songs have been re-worked with Reed, including more breakdown/build up jams and more extended intros. I like the way they are headed and they just continue to get better, if that's even possible.

Teabagger starstarstarstarstar Tue 3/11/2008 08:51AM
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Also -- great, great review Dennis. You truly have a gift.

RedHeaven starstarstarstarstar Tue 3/11/2008 11:31AM
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BAD-ASS. My favorite night at the Fillmore in my long history of attending sparse shows at this venue thruout the years. My under sierra ground favorites Blue Turtle + out of the woodwork/off of a break soulgrass groovers Ten MIle Tide beautifying the poster room + a "NOW I GET IT!" hump-my-face performance by Tea Leaf + great connective crowd and a handful of my best friends = My #1 Night at the ThrillMore SF.

BTS (easy to type, sorry charlie) kicked pirate hobbit ASS all crazy shred style silly and deeply sentimental melodic. Loved how they started out with their newer ska thrashers like El Camino, Whats My Name and White Flags...then brought out the mellow Stop Drop and Roll ballad (best version to date and Ive seen many) and swooped into the gypsy sway of a rockin' "Foot by foot we travel, sometimes we crawl"....and how appropriate to end with Violent Femmes cover "American Music" to set up a dose of Tea Leaf Green.

I have seen TLG more than a few times thruout the years, and could never grasp if I was a fan or not. Are they too repetitive? Why do their shows on disc always sound like mud? Why cant I ever hear trevor? Do they play the same note the whole show? Well, put a band on their hometown stage at the Fillmore which is one of the most amazing venues ANYWHERE, and youre going to most likely strike gold and have a chance to "get" a band you might not. TEA LEAF fucking rocks!!! Besides that, they are unique, bizzarre, freaky, and insane, all with a swampy moody emotional twist. I LOVED this show. I think Reed Mathis on bass adds lots of color. Trevor sounded excellent. (I always feel like I cant hear him well) They jammed out extremely, but in no way that I have heard other bands jam out. They did it their own alien swamp way. There was one point where it got so googly, it was dark mechanical armageddony boom boom wierdness...and went right back into their pop rock sensablility without a moment of off kilter jarring jam bore. I figured out that its not that they are repetitive, its that they are HYPNOTIC.

Ten Mile Tide were told to play softly in the poster room as to not get in the way of the actual show, or something like that.....anyways, I had been up all night to some live Tide at a prviate show the night before, so I knew not to miss their tweener sets at the Fillmore. The Tide is back, and they sound completely ready for some future. Their charismatic unique vocals and playful memorable songs warm the heart, like a youthful railroad earth that got a california makeover that have their own stories to tell and bottles to drink.

Once again thanks Dennis Cook for the awesome review. like every one is saying, magic words, and obviously knows a ton about music and has a real feel for the area.

Another great thing about the night was the crowd. Great people. I think there were a lot of people getting turned on to both bands, sharing the stoke for each.

San Francisco in a true psychedelic rock roots form all the way around, opening, closing, up the stairs and above the clouds. THREE T FILLMORE SALAD was epick!!!

kandrokitis Tue 3/11/2008 01:57PM
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Love Tea Leaf Green. Saw them for free once and they blew my mind. Could someone tell me if they sound any different with Reed and how?

hnkscrpio starstarstarstar Tue 3/11/2008 03:47PM
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This band is really turning it on. Their sound is totally getting a lot more rock n roll. Watched the 2-16 show from Chicago on iclips, wow, that show was some hot shit.

Jazzzzz starstarstarstarstar Tue 3/11/2008 08:10PM
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When I see Dennis Cook as the writer, I read the article no matter if I like the band (TLG not my favorite by a long long shot) or not. He is a true talent to the writing community.

Thank you for your efforts and sharing your talent.

joeyb4 starstarstarstarstar Wed 3/12/2008 06:42AM
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- you say that tlg hasnt added any jamtronica? i saw them in Indy on the 15th. and before set 1 ended the whole show was jamtronica. I loved it! just wondered if they didnt play this way at the fillmore. set 2 was all of the old songs that are def not electronic at all. set 3 was an hour long version of the gardens. All remastered and very electronic. Didnt know if you just havent seen them recently or if they are changing it up to see what vibe they get in different places. I would consider TLG along the same line as Bisco or some of Umphreys. Not as electronic as Vida or STS9

seamonkey starstarstarstarstar Wed 3/12/2008 08:26PM
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first off, TLG is amazing, best jamband out there by leaps and bounds in my opinion. joeyb4, I don't see them in the same line as Bisco or Umphrey's at all, they have a very different approach in the songwriting (more rock based) and the style of jamming, which is much more straightforward. I'm not saying they don't have any elements of those bands though.

hnkscrpio Thu 3/13/2008 07:23AM
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I think they need to take some time off touring to write a few more songs, they still play too many repeats. They really aren't that young of a band.

ManyRoads starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/13/2008 11:10AM
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I agree, too many repeats, but it's not that they don't have enough songs. I'm sure they are in the range of about 160 tunes including covers. What the GD were probably around 200? They just let too many amazing songs sit on the backburner. Fans could list about 20 soul wrenching tunes that never get played...for example seamonkey :>)

Obviously it will take Reed awhile to catch up. He's is other wordly, but not a machine.

There is something about TLG though that does capture the heart and soul. Props to the auhthor on capturing that feeling.

Chaloupka Thu 3/13/2008 11:27AM
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It won't take Reed a while to catch up.

DibS starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/13/2008 04:39PM
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I like Reed a lot, but I dont think anyone can replace Ben C's stage prescence. :(

realtybreckenridge Wed 1/7/2009 02:02PM
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"I think they need to take some time off touring to write a few more songs, they still play too many repeats. They really aren't that young of a band."