LITTLE GREEN CHAIRS

Words by Bill Bokas Images by Aaron Williams

RAQ & Little Green Chairs :: 03.01.06 :: Georgia Theater :: Athens, GA

Wednesday night, Little Green Chairs brought their tightly arranged show to the Georgia Theater, a hometown venue that has seen them more than a few times over the past couple years. The tightly arranged jazz-funk material is vastly different from their sound when they started out four years ago.


Little Green Chairs :: 03.01 :: Athens

They played their first show in November 2002 at a small bar in Athens called D.T.'s Down Under, as a three-piece folk and bluegrass group with singer/songwriter/acoustic guitar player Ryan Taylor expanding upon some of the material he had been playing at open mic nights around Athens. To this he added Dan Roth on guitar and keyboards and Tim Pendleton on banjo. After playing only two shows, Pendleton bowed out, leaving Taylor and Roth to find replacements, which they found with bassist Kristina Spooner, who had picked up the instrument only about a month previously, and Richard Jones on drums. They were frequently seen performing at T'Cakes Bakery and at other venues around town. In the summer of 2003, they recorded a four-song self-titled EP at Vic Stafford's Stafford Lounge Studio in Decatur. This EP has largely been unheard because Jones and Spooner left to devote their full attention to Ori, Jones' other band featuring his wife, singer Alvetta Jones, who has a set of pipes that that calls to mind Aretha Franklin.

The new rhythm section came by way of Papa Funk a band, which had recently parted ways when their keyboard player left town. Drummer Adam Funk and bassist Paul Fulbright joined Little Green Chairs late in 2003, followed by saxophonist Luke Powell shortly afterwards. The new lineup breathed some much needed life into the LGC bloodstream, and soon the group was getting great reviews for their shows in Athens and Atlanta. Eventually they found an even more receptive audience out of state in shows all over North and South Carolina.


Little Green Chairs :: 03.01 :: Athens

This rolling train of momentum was derailed by the unexpected and tragic death of Paul Fulbright on November 12th, 2004. Shortly after his death, Luke Powell left the band, leaving LGC with an uncertain future. A memorial show for Fulbright was held in March 2005 at Tasty World in Athens. The bass position was held by three friends of Fulbright that night, the last of which was his permanent replacement Dave Cannon. Cannon came to LGC from Greenville, SC mainstay Flat Front Tire.

In the year since Cannon has joined the group, Little Green Chairs has grown into one of the tightest groups in and around Athens. Wednesday's show opened with Taylor's original "Einstein on the Rise" from which the group got its name. The upbeat fusion number is fueled by Roth's pulsating Hammond organ sound emanating from his Kurzweil electric stage piano. The changes in this song have obviously been rehearsed to the point where the band can do them in their sleep.

Sitting in this night, and pretty frequently these days, is former Blueground Undergrass guitarist Johnny Mosier. Mosier is one of many unsung guitar heroes in the South. Fans who remember him from his Blueground Undergrass days remember his commanding solo leads each night the band played. Most people were drawn to the group because of banjo-playing leader Reverend Jeff Mosier's legendary run with Phish in 1994. Most came because of Jeff, but when they left, all they could talk about was pedal steel god Mark Van Allen and of course, Jeff's brother Johnny. Mosier maintained a powerful stage presence all night, turning in one tasteful solo after another.


Little Green Chairs :: 03.01 :: Athens

Taylor's newest original song, "Strange Ass State," came next with a catchy hook, which can be found in many of Taylor's songs. This one features familiar love song lyrics and ends up being one of his weaker numbers. However, great solos were turned in by Mosier and Roth to give the song balance.

Next up came one of keyboard player Roth's originals, "Unrequited Love Song." As far as the lyrics go, the title pretty much speaks for itself. Normally, the harmonies on this song are tight as can be, but on this night, they were a little off. I assumed this was due to sound problems because after the song Taylor motioned to the monitor mix technician, and the harmonies sounded great for the rest of the night. Roth turned in a dynamic solo on this one, using a traditional piano sound and coming in like a cross between Thelonious Monk and Jerry Lee Lewis.


Johnny Mosier :: 03.01 :: Athens

This was followed by what I consider to be Taylor's best song, "Volcano." As if impatient to start, Roth starts the organ vamp intro to the song while Taylor and Mosier are still tuning. The rhythm section of Funk and Cannon follows him with a slow deliberate beat that gives the song the feel of a funeral march. As Taylor and Mosier join the jam in progress, Funk has begun an insistent tapping of sixteenth notes on his snare drum, which gets more and more furious as the tension of the song increases. The climax is like a bomb dropping as Mosier threads the main riff of the song over the galloping beat that engulfed the whole space. Taylor's lyrics speak of impending doom ("I'm gonna climb myself to safety out of the Devil's reach...") and unrealistic but hopeful fantasy ("I'm gonna build myself an island and spend my days on the beach.") During Mosier's rippin' solo, I had memories of Paul Fulbright a few years before on this same stage performing this very same song, stomping around in time to Funk's kick-drum beat with a maniacal grin on his paint-splattered face. He loved this song.

LGC changed the pace halfway through their set with a cover of Bruce Hornsby's "The Way It Is." The band has a way of taking middle-of-the-road pop classics and pumping them full of life like they've never had before, and this song was no exception. Roth was the standout on this tune, matching Hornsby's intensity on the original. Unfortunately, nothing matches the power of a grand piano.


Little Green Chairs :: 03.01 :: Athens

Roth's other original of the evening, "Lifeline," is another of the upbeat funk numbers that make this band so much fun to dance and listen to. The lyrics are about karma and how one's treatment of fellow human beings not only reflects on him or her as a person but also comes back to haunt him or her in the future. The song has evolved from earlier performances in its tight melodic changes that wouldn't be uncommon in a Frank Zappa piece. Drummer Adam Funk really shined on this one with his stop-on-a-dime drumbeats.

The final song of the evening was appropriately titled "In the End." The song started out somberly and built speed, climaxed, and relaxed again a few times over the course of the nine-minute song. At one point, the sound came down in volume so that you could almost hear a pin drop. The band was maintaining a quiet ambience with Roth plinking out quiet raindrops of notes when Mosier hit one ringing note and became fascinated with it and played it a few times over. Next, Taylor strummed the song's chords, reintroducing the song's main theme. Funk brought the ending to a grand crescendo with his cymbals cutting through like glass before coming to rest.

By the time Adam Funk's cymbals had faded out, the crowd assembled at the Georgia Theater was about 200 strong, a quarter of which had witnessed Little Green Chairs' performance. The crowd response all evening was a bit on the lackluster side, but like they always do, the band reached out to a few souls in the darkness. Building an audience is done one person at a time, although sometimes it takes a while. This is especially true in the musically spoiled town of Athens, GA, which approximately 200 bands call home. After the show, Roth complained to me that it wasn't exactly the tightest performance ever. I responded by saying, "When you've got Adam (Funk) and Dave (Cannon) in the band, you are tighter than 3/4 of the bands in this town." "Yeah, I guess you're right," he responded.

A band is its own worst critic. Little Green Chairs put on a great show and continue to turn in one interesting performance after another, laced with excellent songwriting and proficient but not over-indulgent soloists. Currently, they are working on their debut album primarily at Dan Dudley's Sound Rite Studios. Look for Little Green Chairs to become a more familiar name in the near future. Don't say I didn't warn you.

JamBase | Athens
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[Published on: 3/12/06]

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Comments

nugrass starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/16/2006 08:41AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

nugrass

Great review and photos! Watch out world, here comes LGC!

Mu5roam starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/16/2006 09:01AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Great Article. Glad to see the appreciation of LGC they deserve. ILL be seeing them at SHAKORI!

 
 

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