Tea Leaf Green brins the San Fran spirit to the Twin Cities

By Sam Robertson

On Friday night, a revitalized Tea Leaf Green played at The Cabooze and showed that they were as good as ever despite recent lineup changes. In November, the band’s popular bassist Ben Chambers announced that he was leaving the band after ten fun years. The band immediately announced that Reed Mathis from Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey would replace Chambers, and he’s fit in seamlessly on their first tour together.

Opening for the new version of Tea Leaf Green was Moonalice, a new band of old musicians who decided to come out of retirement to play music purely for the fun of it. The band’s claim to fame is that all seven members play bass guitar and, true to their word, a different member played bass on every song. Despite being a very loose, fun bar band, Moonalice is made up of very talented musicians, and its members have played with Jefferson Airplane, The Dead, Bob Dylan, Jefferson Starship and Hot Tuna in the past. Musically, the band combined some new material with reworked old sixties classics like “Whiter Shade of Pale” and “Somebody to Love.” Their sound was dominated by the terrific bass talent of all members along with the searing guitar solos of Barry Sless and GE Smith. Their set was so good that the audience an encore, which is almost unheard of for an opening band. They thanked the audience repeatedly for being so appreciative and launched into the Grateful Dead classic “Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad” with the audience singing along, wrapping up their fun opening set.Eager not to be overshadowed by Moonalice, Tea Leaf Green took the stage at 10:45 and delivered high-energy rock and roll past 1:30 in the morning. Made up of Trevor Garrod on keyboards and vocals, Josh Clark on guitar and vocals, Reed Mathis on bass and Scott Rager on drums, Tea Leaf Green is a young band from San Francisco earning a reputation as one of the best live jam bands in the music scene today. The band manages to combine Garrod’s poignant lyrics with elements of psychedelia, folk, jazz and blues into their own brand of rock and roll.

Tea Leaf Green wastes no time getting started, and erupted into the catchy, energetic “Red Ribbons” as soon as they took the stage. It was the perfect song to open with as it showcases Garrod’s lyrics, the sweet vocal harmonies of Garrod and Clark, and the instrumental prowess of each member of the band. It was a good start, but the music only got better. “7th Story,” “Moonshine,” and “Rapture” were all shorter songs that put Garrod’s singer/songwriter style vocals and lyrics at the forefront. Songs like these show that Tea Leaf Green owes just as much to singer/songwriters like Randy Newman and Bob Dylan as they do to psychedelic jambands like the Grateful Dead and Phish. However, the psychedelic jam side of the band certainly made an appearance on Friday. With its long, spacey keyboard intro and the accompanying light show, “Kali-Yuga” wouldn’t have been out of place at a 1970’s Pink Floyd show. “Kali-Yuga,” “Jezebel,” and “Baseball Song” all featured the band plunging into deep psychedelic jams while still staying surprisingly tight and together. But the highlight of the first set was “Earth and Sky” featuring Barry Sless from Moonalice on pedal steel guitar. “Earth and Sky” is one of Garrod’s best lyrical compositions and Sless and Clark traded solos perfectly, each complimenting the song instead of ruining it with a technically skilled but out of place jam. That is the beauty of Tea Leaf Green-they can jam as well as anybody, but their jams are never so long and technical that they alienate people who just want fun rock and roll. The first set was great, but Tea Leaf Green hadn’t peaked too early, and there was plenty more magic to come.

After a short break, Tea Leaf Green started things off with the funky “Don’t Curse the Night” to bring the energy level back up and let Clark steal the spotlight with a great guitar solo. Usually, the band will mix some slower-paced songs into their sets to give both themselves and the audience a chance to break. But on Friday, it was one fun, upbeat song after another for the whole set. Sometimes that can get repetitive, but the crowd was so rowdy and into it, that it worked perfectly. Other highlights of the second set included “Stormcloud,” which was a chance for Trevor Garrod to fool around with all the strange effects on his keyboard and redefine experimentation, “Lil Hood,” which showcased Mathis’ funky bass, and “Bouncin’ Betty,” which had the whole band at their very best. After closing the set with “If It Wasn’t for the Money,” one of their catchiest and most radio-friendly songs, they came back out for an encore of one of their newest songs, “I’ve Got a Truck.” But the surprises weren’t over. As Garrod prepared to sing the last line of the song, he let out a maniacal laugh instead and the band exploded into “Gasaholic” for a surprise addition to the encore. Fifteen minutes and at least five false endings later, the band called it a night.

The most striking thing about Moonalice and Tea Leaf Green is just how much fun they have on stage. Tea Leaf Green plays over 200 shows a year, but they never lack energy and after 10 years, still have fun doing it. Meanwhile, the members of Moonalice are so talented that they don’t deserve to be an opening band that starts playing before most of the crowd has even arrived. Both bands have so much fun playing music that they aren’t corrupted by the greedy corporate nature of the music industry that has ruined so many other bands. They only want to play music and have a good time, and it’s encouraging to see that the spirit of the sixties is living on in these two Bay Area bands.