Tea Leaf Green | 04.17 | San Francisco

Words by: Dennis Cook | Images by: Josh Miller

Tea Leaf Green :: 04.17.10 :: Great American Music Hall :: San Francisco, CA

Tea Leaf Green :: 04.17.10 :: San Francisco
Sometimes it helps with our favorite bands to step back for a spell. Without some distance, they can only be so fresh to us; their changing angles obscured by what we've seen and want to see. Tea Leaf Green was one of the first bands I wrote about when I got serious about music scribing eight years ago. Then, playing tiny clubs and searching for their sound, I heard shit-tons of promise, and there's not many more charming quartets on the planet – something felt in their easy-to-like music and smiling, seemingly effortless stage demeanor. Dramatic personnel changes, a few hundred new songs and countless nights honing them in front of sweaty, happy people have worn away the baby fat to reveal one of the sturdiest American rock bands out there, a group capable of playing multi-night runs at quality theatres like the Great American Music Hall. Having spent many months away from their concerts, I arrived in S.F. open to whatever might unfold. Based on this gig's resounding evidence, they've fully coalesced, a classic four-piece rock combo with talent, tunes and tenacity to spare.

Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers played a lovely opening set to a sparse but increasingly enthusiastic early evening crowd. There's the pull of flames for moths to Bluhm and her tight, thoughtful boys. One simply wants to move nearer when they ply their newfangled country rock meets skipping pop sound. The initial draw, obviously, is Bluhm's powerhouse voice and charming phrasing. Don't even bother trying not to stare or reveal your shock when the full force of her pipes hits you. But, she's not up there alone, and The Gramblers play with brilliant economy, giving just as much and no more as each moment requires, exemplified by the tasty, leave-them-wanting-more guitar work of Deren Ney. New one "Jet Plane" had the together oomph of electric Fairport Convention and raises hopes pretty high for their forthcoming new album. My money says they deliver and then some.

Tea Leaf's first set put a shadowy hue on their trademark bounce. Where once they were defined by their "California" feel (nicely revisited in S.F. with "Panspermic De-evolution"), here their collective reach touched on bloody nosed hard rock, jam flexibility, prime '70s singer-songwriter fare and post-Wilco pop-rock. I've always liked them a touch heavier than some TLG faithful, and this gig let the clouds rain strong even though they always ultimately resurfaced into sunlight. Looking Unabomber chic, bassist Reed Mathis possessed a hairy intensity, a powerful aura that silently infiltrated the others, particularly in the grand-fab-tab-u-lous second set, which ranked amongst the very best TLG sets I've ever witnessed.

"Weird," "psychedelic," "heavy" and "intense" were some of the adjectives folks pulled out around me, yet none of it hints at how much forward motion and honest reflection lies at the heart of their music. For as much fun as one is likely to have at a Tea Leaf Green show, there is something decidedly more profound afoot. TLG is a dance hall band that slips emotion-triggering mementos into your pocket while you're lost in the smoke, volume and flashing stage lights. It's only the next day that one really appreciates the full measure of the experience, and it's that lingering satisfaction that brings one back again and again.

Tea Leaf Green :: 04.17.10 :: Great American Music Hall :: San Francisco, CA
Set I: Germinatin' Seed, Criminal Intent > Dreaming Without Sleeping, Cops Took My Weed, Santa Cruz, The Devil's Pay, Miss Mae, Hello Jane, Baseball Song, Fallen Angel
Set II: 354* > Morning Sun, The Invasion, Honeymooners, This is Real > Georgie P, Not Fit > Panspermic De-evolution > One New Day > Panspermic De-evolution, Zoom Zoom, Emma Lee, Let Us Go E: Forgivin' > New Shoes > One Reason
* Guns N' Roses cover (first time played)

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[Published on: 4/22/10]

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