Tea Leaf Green a mixed bag at the Dise

A review of Tea Leaf Green at the Paradise Rock Club on November 12

, Staff Writer

Tea Leaf Green brought their San Francisco-based tuneage to the Paradise Wednesday night, drawing a modestly-sized crowd filled with weirdos and bros. On one hand, there were more backward hats and air-punching than you could shake a stick at, while on the other hand there were women resting their beers in hand-knit bottle holders slung around their shoulders, others literally spinning around as they danced. The band put on a good show, certainly, but it felt like the crowd was inordinately into the music compared to how intensely the band was playing. Tea Leaf Green were able to achieve some pretty fantastic climaxes, and at this point the crowd was justifiably really invested in the guys, but there were weaker moments to the show (like, say, whenever they weren’t jamming out) that still seemed to set people off.

Keyboardist Trevor Garrod took over most of the vocal duties, though Josh Clark, the guitarist, handled the microphone a few times as well. The band kicked things off with "Standing Still", a cut off of Raise Up The Tent, which seemed like a peculiar choice for an opener: this was one of the few instances I can cite of a set actually improving as the performance wore on, versus the standard of starting with a bang, dipping into a lull and building up to an exciting conclusion. "Standing Still" was pretty unremarkable as far as an introduction goes, a mediocre verse/chorus that gave way to a lackluster solo by Garrod (he would have his moments throughout the evening but was far outshined by Clark at nearly every turn). Things did begin to pick up once Clark started his own solo, though, and this would prove to be a theme of the evening. Fairly often the band would seem to almost play themselves into a corner, letting a jam go on without any major shifts in momentum, and then out of nowhere Clark ripped into a huge riff and things got awesome. These guys were good enough to capture the attention of a certain guitarist/singer from a certain east coast jam band that may or may not be reuniting in March, so they shouldn’t be written off because of a few weak moments.

Truly, when they were doing their impression of people from Vermont, Tea Leaf Green was absolutely fantastic – lights flashed as Clark tore his guitar apart with bombastic riffs and sharp trills that filled the room with sound and got everyone dancing. It’s not entirely fair to say Tea Leaf Green at their best are derivative…but they are kind of derivative. There were, in addition to the obvious influences, some clear shades of Creedence, particularly in tunes like "If It Wasn’t For The Money", a pleasantly reminiscent song that admittedly even had some pretty good vocal work in it. Another crowd pleaser was "Sex In The 70s", which everyone knew, the audience bellowing in unison with Garrod "Mama tell me / Mama tell me about the sex you had in the 70s / Feels so GOOD." They really held onto "feels so good", repeating it a few times for good measure.

All in all, it’s not that Tea Leaf Green are bad songwriters by any means. They can even do a passable job with lyrics and melodies. It’s more the fact that they are simply so much better at being a straight-up jam band that they should really spend more time playing their instruments, especially Clark. Whenever the band was at their best, you could bet it was because Clark was playing a ridiculous solo. The band seems to ride his skills pretty hard, though for good reason: he is a phenomenal player and practically dictates the pacing of their jam sessions. The biggest issue was that, even though they certainly jammed a lot, it always led unfortunately to another singing section that would have to be endured before they started playing again. Drummer Scott Rager did a good job keeping momentum going, but their instrumental sections lacked any sort of organic development: the band picked a groove and stuck to it until they decided it was time to stop jamming. To watch a song really develop into a whole other beast is one of the most exciting parts of listening to a jam band performing live, and Tea Leaf Green did not deliver in this respect as powerfully as they could have.

It’s fine for a jam band to want to express themselves in written word every now and then, but they should reward the audience with absurdly long jams – it did seem that the crowd wasn’t the usual jam band kids, but if a band is exceptional at one thing and not-so-exceptional at another, shouldn’t they bring out what they are best at? Five to seven minutes is a pretty good length for a jam out, but Tea Leaf Green ought to double, if not triple, that. Then they’ll be in serious business.

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