February 11, 2012

Tea Leaf Green / Ha Ha Tonka - Bowery Ballroom - February 10, 2012

Ha Ha Tonka

On Friday night, Ha Ha Tonka walked on stage about ten minutes after nine. Starting with their first song, "The Humorist," from the band's CD Death of A Decade, each song felt better than the one before.

Ha Ha Tonka is a band named after a State Park in the southern part of Missouri. Their music is basically Americana and includes many of the various styles that label covers such as Southern Rock, Bluegrass, Country, and Indie-Rock.

For "Made Example Of," Brett Anderson traded his guitar for a mandolin which along with the bands sweet vocal harmonies gave the song a bit of country bluegrass sound. The mandolin also made me pay more attention to Lucas Long's bass playing, probably because there was more of a difference in range than when Anderson was playing guitar.

Though all four gentlemen sang, most of the lead vocals were sung by Brian Roberts. During "Jesusita," mandolin, bass and guitar dropped out before Lennon Bone drummed accented beats instead of holding down the tempo with an even four. Over Bone's drumming, Roberts' adlibbed counter to his band mates as they sang "Heaven Help Us Now."

The boys opened up the song "Saint Nick On The Fourth In A Fervor" a four part vocal harmony. For my money, it was the most interesting song in Ha Ha Tonka's set. It had a little bit of blues flavor, some interesting lyrics and dirty rock sounding guitar. I also loved the fact that the song's end came to an immediate stop.

When Ha Ha Tonka put down their instruments and sang four part harmony for the traditional song "Hangman" - it was more than just novelty. It was truly the most musical moment in their set. The guys have different last names but the harmony was so good that they could have been brothers. For the following song, "Pendergast Machine," Anderson picked up his mandolin as all 4 boys stayed center stage and the audience clapped along.

The crowd kept their hands clapping for "Usual Suspects" which I knew from the reaction it received, had to be an audience favorite. It had a rockin' feel that automatically made everyone in the room want to dance and sing along.

The last song, "12-Inch 3-Speed Oscillating Fan" started with what felt like a disco beat that went into a fast hillbilly sounding cover song. During the song Roberts yelled out to the audience "you guys having fun out there - say yea - say hell yea!" I loved Ha Ha Tonka's choice for a last song and I loved their set. When their set ended I felt exactly as I should have felt....I wanted more.

Ha Ha Tonka Setlist
1.The Humorist
2.Made Example Of
4.Saint Nick On The Fourth In A Fervor
5.Hangman (Traditional)
6.Pendergast Machine
7.Usual Suspects
8.12-Inch 3-Speed Oscillating Fan (Red Meat Cover)

Ha Ha Tonka are:
Brett Anderson -keyboard, guitar, mandolin and vocals
Lennon Bone -drums & vocals
Lucas Long -bass & vocals
Brian Roberts -guitar & vocals

Tea Leaf Green

Tea Leaf Green is a band out of San Francisco that started up around 1996. To date, they have seven studio albums and several live albums. The live recordings are par for the course since TLG is a jam band and need to be seen live to be appreciated.

When I made a decision to see Tea Leaf Green on Friday night, I pretty much had an idea of the music I was going to be hearing. What I didn't realize was that I would be surrounded by an audience of people similar to those who visit New Orleans during Mardi Gras or Florida during spring break. By that I mean, I was surrounded by a bunch of sloppy drunks who where sometimes entertaining, sometimes fun and sometimes really annoying.

In case you're unfamiliar with jam bands like I was, there are more than just one or two off bands. During TLG's break between sets, there was a woman hanging with her friends who gave me a small education on what she referred to as the "jam scene." She apparently had just come back from Jam Cruise 10 which happened in January and featured such artists as Bruce Hornsby’s New Orleans Revue, Galactic, Karl Denson, George Porter Jr.,Skerik,Umphrey’s McGee,The New Deal, Perpetual Groove, Keller Williams and Railroad Earth. Unfortunately, she saw the look on my face that said I was unfamiliar with all the names she mentioned. So, she threw in Darrell Hall who recently became interested in the jam scene and was on this years Jam Cruise 10. According to Wikipedia, TLG did Jam Cruise 5.

I didn't recognize TLG's first song of the evening probably because it was an instrumental. But like the rest the audience, I perked up once I heard Trevor Garrod sing the opening to "Don't Curse At The Night." As expected guitarist Josh Clark and bassist Reed Mathis took solos. Yet even without his solo, the bassline that Mathis played was pretty prominent throughout the song.

After one more instrumental and two more songs, Mathis took over the vocals for "Cottonwood Tree." During the song, I believe it was drummer Scott Rager who played tambourine. Though I have seen it before, I found it strange that TLG had 2 drummers, with two actual kits. According to Wikipedia in 2011 TLG added Cochrane McMillans as a permanent member to assist Scott Rager who has a foot injury.

Both drummers kicked off the last song of the first set "Your My Star," which Mathis also sang. The opening drum beat had me fooled for a moment into thinking I was about to hear Gary Glittler's "Rock'n'Roll, - but only for moment. After the song, Garrod announced that the band was going to take a break which made me feel like I was at the theater. But once I got a load of the tipsy people, gathered around me, I felt more like I was at New Years Eve party.

The woman who was talking to me earlier asked if saw the Cabbage Patch doll of Mr. T. that was center stage. I'm glad she pointed it out to me because I thought it was kind of funny. Since she had better point to shoot a photo from, she offered to take the photo that is enclosed in this post. When I got home and took an actual look at the photo, the Cabbage Patch Mr. T. actually looks like a nap sack used by one of the band members.

TLG opened up there second set with "Germinatin' Seed." What I remember about the song was that the boys got sort of funky groove on guitar and bass while Garrod took a solo on synth utilizing one of the moog sounding patches on his keyboard. The set included two more instrumentals. The first being "Jubilee" and the second being a semi-instrumental - by that I mean, there was about seven or eight minutes of soloing before it actually got to a vocal chorus.

The second set also included "Fallen Angels" and "Innocence" which felt more like country songs with verses and choruses as opposed to endless jams. And the song I enjoyed most was "Taught To Be Proud," which was probably because of it's "Gone, gone, gone," lyric getting stuck in my head along with the image of the confetti that was shot into the crowd. The band ended their second set with "All Washed Up," which I recorded on video and can be seen at the bottom of this post. I wasn't expecting an encore but they did come back for one and that's when my fun began.

As I was video taping the second song of the encore, a glass of beer hit my table, went all over my writing pad and landed in my crotch. I jumped up and said "what the fuck, what fuckin' asshole?" Some girl who I hadn't even seen standing next to where I was sitting said "don't blame me, I didn't do it!" I was understandably upset and said- "I'm not fucking blaming you - I jumped up because I'm all wet." She repeated her previous line and I repeated mine. Suddenly she was gone and some guy was threatening me saying "go ahead talk to her like that again." And there I was - in my Jersey Shore moment. I didn't yell, curse, or blame the woman but she and her boyfriend thought I did, so apologized to him and left immediately after the encore. (I didn't apologize to her because I didn't see her and was too upset to ask where she was.)

Did I enjoy Tea Leaf Green? Yes.  Will I ever subject myself to a jam band audience again? Nope!  I'm done - at least for awhile.

Tea Leaf Green Setlist
1. Soldiers of Kentucky
2. Don't Curse At The Night
3. One Reason
4. Warmup
5. Monsters At The Gate
6. Cottonwood Tree
7. Doin' It Over Again
8. Out In The Woods
9. Sleep Paralysis
10. You're My Star


1.Germinatin' Seed
2. Jubilee
3. Hanging From A Tree
4. Fallen Angels
5. Innocence
6. Jezebel
7. Can't Get High
8. Taught To Be Proud
9. These Two Chairs
10.All Washed Up
1. Carter Hotel
2. Let Us Go

Tea Leaf Green (TLG) are:
Josh Clark- guitar and vocals 
Trevor Garrod - keyboards, vocals, guitar, and harmonica
Reed Mathis - bass guitar and vocals  (red head)
Scott Rager - drums and percussion
Cochrane McMillan - percussion

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