Tea Leaf Green | 06.07.07

live_tealeafNoodling this music may be, but it does require the mastery of an instrument and, more importantly, the ability to listen closely to other players and sync with them.

 

 

 

 

Lucas School House, St. Louis 

Tea Leaf Green, the San Francisco-based jam four-piece, played last Thursday night for a packed crowd at the stellar Lucas School House. TLG is good at what it does, and the formula is pretty simple, really: Start with a composition, stretch out an improvised section in the middle anchored by a guitar or keys solo (or both), and then seamlessly return to the composition.

This sort of musicianship does require, despite the mutterings of those who deride the jam format, a goodly amount of talent. Tea Leaf Green was solid, tight, and talented. Noodling this music may be, but it does require the mastery of an instrument and, more importantly, the ability to listen closely to other players and sync with them. The difficulty is making the formula and talent work together to create something worth listening to.

After a truncated first set (apparently there was a problem with an amp), the band really got going. Jamming their way through a long second set of almost entirely original material (the only cover was the Velvet Underground's "I'm Waiting for My Man"), TLG got the predominantly young crowd (under the watchful eyes of the School House's burly staff…as my companion put it, shaking his head: "These poor kids have to go to the bathroom to smoke weed.") shaking and gyrating and spinning. Chunky guitar work by Josh Clark carried the bulk of the load. The rest was periodically punctuated and counter-balanced by Trevor Garrod's keys. Talented bassist Ben C (note to Ben: Stay away from the mic) and drummer Scott Roger provided a solid foundation.

As far as making something really worth listening and dancing to, however, Tea Leaf Green was, to my ears, only somewhat successful. But I was definitely in the minority with this crowd. No matter what was coming out of the band, the teen neo-hippies never stopped moving. And there's something comforting in knowing there's still a group of people who just want to get together and let themselves be carried away by live improvised music.

However, the question begs asking: Are TLG, and the fans, settling? It seems to me that all that talent and constant touring is just wheels spinning in mud if there's no desire to do something different, no emphasis on creating something unique, even within a well-established genre. Which is why I walked away from this Tea Leaf Green performance ultimately unsatisfied. If hardly anybody is really listening while they dance, and if the band is only concerned with being good at "what it does," then what's the point? | John Shepherd

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