Tea Leaf Green :: 04.01 & 04.02 :: The Independent :: San Francisco, CA
Over the past few years, while many friends and I have grown to love Tea Leaf Green, a few have been unable to get into this rising San Francisco quartet. The more I've grown attached to their songs, lyrics, and powerful peaking jams, it seemed, the more these few folks have resisted. After Tea Leaf Green's April 1st and 2nd run at San Francisco's Independent, they resisted no more. Emerging from the venue with sparkling-eyed grins, it was clear that they got it. It was obvious from these shows that the band has reached the proverbial "next level."
The weekend started off with a meeting of many (relatively new) fans from all over the country who've been so moved by the band that they made the trip to experience Tea Leaf Green on its home turf. They came from Arkansas, Chicago, New York, Washington D.C., Virginia, Delaware, Colorado, Nevada, and all over California for this much-anticipated San Francisco weekend. Following an evocative performance by Hairy Apes BMX, Tea Leaf started off the festivities by launching into "The Garden, Parts I-III." The sequence, only occasionally played together, begins with the introductory mysteryline of "Garden I" and segues into "Garden II's" dark, guitar-led journey, before reaching resolution with keyboardist, Trevor Garrod's poetic lyrics to "Garden III:"
Tea Leaf Green :: April 2005 :: San Francisco, CA
Darlin' let's let our hair grow long,
We can work on a farm, maybe live on a mountain top
Got an old hound dog that likes to run
He needs a lot of room and he hates to be chained up
Just like me, just like we are supposed to be.
Would the band go on to play the remainder of the elusive "Garden Trilogy," which continues with "Precious Stone" and "Can You Guess It?" Not on this night. Instead, they followed with Doors-esque "Morning Sun," emotive "The Rapture," jubilant "Incandescent Devil," and the potential hit "Taught to be Proud," once again highlighting Garrod's distinctive voice.
"Pretty Jane" and a rare "If It Wasn't for the Money" were followed by "Earth and Sky" and the premier of "Believe Too Much," a beautiful sequence of ballads played in a controlled manner unfamiliar to fans that were used to Tea Leaf Green's usually raucous energy. Not to disappoint, the band finally flashed its explosiveness at the end of the set, concluding with powerful versions of "Freedom" and "Vote on Tuesday," as if to tell newcomers, "Oh, you like our songs? Well we can also do THIS!"
Garrod and Rager :: April 2005 :: San Francisco, CA
After a few more ballads to start the second set, the band emerged from their controlled manner with the peaking "Ride Together" but then settled back into the romantic "Honey Bee" and the phenomenal "Chenoa." At this point, it was time to blast off Tea Leaf Green style. "Gasaholic," typically a set closer, brought the crowd to life before guitarist Josh Clark and monster drummer Scotty Rager exploded into Tea Leaf's signature "Sex in the 70's," bringing the crowd to a fist-pumping frenzy that continued into the show's closing song - a howling version of Clark's "Cherry Red Guitar."
After encoring with a soul-melting "No Blanket" and mesmerizing "Kali-Yuga," the band was called back for more, rewarding fans with their victorious version of The Beatles' "I've Got a Feeling." Overall, while some fans jokingly called the show "PG Leaf Green," most reveled about the selection of stunning ballads, buffeted by a few of TLG's commanding anthems.
Night two was an entirely different show, with nothing PG about it. By the time the Eric McFadden Trio finished its set, the house was packed, and a buzz filled the air. Tea Leaf Green emerged with their debut of Lou Reed's "I'm Waiting for the Man" and immediately launched into "Panspermic De-Evolution," with bass player Ben THE WEED Chambers belting out the deep end as he bobbed and danced about the stage. After lowering the energy to medium for "Las Vegas," the band launched into the Allman Brothers-esque "Warm-Up" and fan favorite "Reservoir," whose tension-building guitar solo left faces wide-eyed:
Clarke and Chambers (The Weed) :: April 2005 :: SF, CA
This is the season for changes, this is the season for changes
"Country Seduction" and a blistering version of "Tequila" followed, McFadden joining Clark in a guitar duel that left shirts soaked, glasses fogged, booties shakin', and booze flying. This was Tea Leaf Green in its element.
If you need any indication of the down-to-earth nature of the band, they dusted off their next song, the psychedelic "Crackers and Cheese," for the first time in over two years to honor the birthday of 2002 Fan of the Year, MK. Next they dropped into a stirring version of "Don't Be Down" before closing Set I with a scalding "Baseball Jam." It was at the conclusion of the ensuing mayhem that I found myself saying to friends next to me, "That's it. They're headed to The Fillmore."
In the second set they proved why. Straight out of the gates with a funky "Invasion" that got the crowd jumping, a wild "Wet Spot" and a delicious "Biscuits" set the stage for all hell to break loose during "Planet of Green Love." While The Weed is unquestionably the most fun band member to watch on stage, he rarely takes the mic. So when Clark lets him out of his cage for a journey to "The Planet," lookout. Within minutes, the audience had become a moshing maelstrom, and the roof seemed ready to blast off the building. Then the band did something unexpected — they responded to the bedlam with a mysterious call for a gorilla:
I wanna see, I wanna see, The Gorilla...
The Gorilla & Rager :: April 2005 :: SF, CA
I wanna see, I wanna see, The Gorilla...
To the surprise of all but the most veteran fans, a gorilla in a Tea Leaf Green shirt suddenly appeared on stage primally dancing, air guitaring with Clark, rolling on its back, and kicking its feet in the air. Then The Gorilla stepped to the front of the stage and launched itself backwards into the crowd, where it surfed a near round-trip to the back of the room before jumping to its feet, hopping back on stage, and then disappearing into the night. Who was this Gorilla who had just appeared on stage for the first time in four years? Nobody seems to know. Rumor has it he'll be back at just the right moment...
Gorilla gone, the band clearly felt the weight of their performance, launching into the uplifting "I Believe" before closing the show with "Professors Blues," featuring a particularly stone crazy guitar solo by Clark.
The biggest treat of the night for Tea Leaf faithful came during the first encore, "Death Cake." Emerging from parts unknown, the band's legendary mascot PlateFace made his first stage appearance in nearly a year, silently reading The Promise by Chaim Potok before disappearing in a flash of smoke and light, leaving the band to close with the funky "Georgie P." Once again, one curtain call was not enough, and the band emerged for a third encore, leaving fans with a thunderous "Can You Guess It?"
If you run away,
Tea Leaf Green and PlateFace :: April 2005 :: SF, CA
Don't take me with you cause I wanna stay,
Out there on the road,
I got my campin' stove,
Oh boy you never know,
And off you go...
And off we went, many in the crowd making their way to the Planet of Green Love afterparty, which featured a lineup including Bay Area all-stars Dan Lebowitz and Steve Adams of ALO, Jordan Feinstein and Brian Fischler of The Ritual, Inks Herman of Hamsa Lila, Sean Leahy of Guitarmeggedon and Four Year Bender, Garrin Benfield, Byron Rheines of The Smokedaddies, and Fletcher Mielsen of Tracorum. Clark and Garrod joined the festivities for a surprise mini-set of Tea Leaf Green side project Guitarmeggedon that included fiery versions of "Statesboro Blues" and "Red House." The music continued until sunrise, and a portion of the proceeds from the event will benefit the new non-profit Conservation Value, which is working to improve public awareness of steps that people and businesses can take to benefit our environment that will also help to improve their finances and quality of life.
The late-night party capped off a weekend that left the Tea Leaf Green family basking in a truly special glow. Fans from across the country had come together, and it was like a reunion even though few had met. The band had blown away expectations with two completely different shows, not only energizing fans, but clearly making many new ones.
Look out for Tea Leaf Green at a venue near you. They have just launched a cross-country tour that will take them through the Midwest, Southeast (including two late-night performances during the second weekend of the New Orleans Jazz Festival, and two Haymaker sets), a side-stage performance at Widespread Panic's Raleigh show, and a late-night boat party following Trey Anastasio Band's New York City performance. From there, they launch a summer-long festival tour that will include their premier appearance at Bonnaroo and another much-anticipated performance at the High Sierra Music Festival.
Words & Images by: Jon Gelbard
JamBase | San Francisco
Go See Live Music!