Garrin Benfield & Hamsa Lila :: 09.30.04 :: The Independent :: San Francisco, CA

For people looking for music that breaks the boundaries of the typical jam and comes out the other side with wit, intelligence, and structure, one ray of light is Garrin Benfield.

Benfield has managed to sneak past the guys at the door and drop renegade songs onto the unsuspecting masses in the best way possible. Honest in his songwriting and generous in his performances, Benfield is climbing his way up the ladder of respect in the Bay area with his latest release, Where Joy Kills Sorrow.

Garrin Benfield
Pulling in an early crowd of eager fans, Garrin and crew had The Independent in the palm of their hand with a full set of material off of the new album and older songs from their catalog. Proving to be a steadfast singer/songwriter, Garrin took the audience on a ride through cleverly written anecdotes of everyday life, sealed and delivered by a tightly wound band that plays so comfortably together one can't help but grin and shuffle. Tearing into his acoustic like it had all the distortion in the world, Benfield crafted hook after hook, finding eloquent compliment with the keys all night. In a nice departure from some of the jam bands that have been sprouting up, Benfield has mastered the art of knowing when to not give too much. Each member practiced the "less is more" style, falling back at times to a hyped-up folk with slight blues impulse.

Carefully composed and full of intelligent lyrics that brought on all emotions at once, his songs had me very impressed. Garrin's melodies seemed to jump out time and time again, rousing up sounds that were akin to a mixture of George Harrison and a male version of Norah Jones. From a stellar performance at this summer's High Sierra to an absolute sparkling album release party, Garrin Benfield has got his eyes set on the next level, and the chops to get there. Benfield's new album Where Joy Kills Sorrow is one of the best sounding albums I've heard this year. His music is like that warm feeling at the end of a candle-lit dinner with someone special. It just flows perfectly.

Hamsa Lila
Hamsa Lila headlined after Garrin, and as always brought on an ambient, Middle Eastern sound mixed with angelic vocals that left me gyrating in place. Focused tightly on the groove all night, Hamsa Lila took The Independent on a spiritual journey that settled warmly in my soul. The band seems to have a remarkably sexy fan base that dress and dance the part, creating a fuller experience for everyone present. Much in the way String Cheese Incident will work with Peak Productions to create a bigger experience, Hamsa Lila does the same in getting the crowd involved.

For over two hours Hamsa Lila bridged musical gaps, expressing the true importance of full musical expression. While soaring flute solos danced like fire over sexy vocals, the band broke boundaries, opening hearts and keeping fans in shape. I felt lifted back to this summer at the several festivals I had seen the band. From the Pozo Saloon to High Sierra, Hamsa Lila was a huge presence in my summer and I attribute many of my best moments to the music they provided. They have consistently created a world of their own.

In no way was I expecting to get the night of music I got on this mid-week show. Garrin Benfield and crew walked in, played a stellar set, and left that night with a whole lot of new fans, and Hamsa Lila just made my soul feel good. I went home with a full head of wonderful music and a yearning to get as much as I possibly can from two great bands on the rise.

Matt Layton
JamBase | California
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[Published on: 10/18/04]

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