Lettuce gets funky at the TLA
Never fear! This Lettuce has nothing to do with your sandwich. Donald takes in a high-energy concert from the funk band Lettuce, which is celebrating 25 years making music together. – Artblog Editor

sponsored
Courtesy of Sean DiSerio
Courtesy of Sean DiSerio

I first was introduced to Lettuce in the most hilarious manner. Five years ago during a routine cross country practice in college at the crack of dawn, a close friend of mine on the team asked me the age-old question, “Do you like lettuce?” I responded with, “Oh man, do I ever! Lettuce is a must have on my sandwiches!” He laughed and said, “No, no, I meant the funk band.” From that point on, I made an effort to delve into Lettuce’s discography and soak in their unique stamp on funk music. But I couldn’t fully engage with Lettuce without taking that next step into the live experience.

Hungry for music

The band actually drew its vegetable-inspired name from the time they were hungry musicians looking for a chance to play. According to a 2011 interview, they would go to other people’s gigs and ask them a combination of, “Hey, would you let us play your instruments, would you let us play your stuff, or would you let us sit in on your gig?” From there, the band name of Lettuce was born.

Courtesy of @FansBelongHere.
Courtesy of @FansBelongHere.

On this particular occasion, Lettuce made a stop at Philadelphia’s Theatre of Living Arts as part of their Mt. Crushmore tour. The nationwide tour is in support of their 20-minute EP of the same name. 2017 marks the 25th anniversary that Lettuce originally formed as a group while participating in a five-week summer program at Berklee College of Music (my alma mater) in 1992. The members at first bonded on over a shared admiration of the great funk bands from iconic names such as Earth, Wind and Fire and Tower of Power. Now in their forties, the group consists of Erick Coomes (bass), Adam Deitch (drums), Neal Evans (keyboards), Eric Krasno (guitar), Adam Smirnoff (guitar), Ryan Zoidis (various saxophones), and Eric Bloom (trumpet).

Jam and jazz

The studio versions of Lettuce’s work and their live performances couldn’t be more different. On their Mt. Crushmore EP for example, the longest track is just under 5 minutes. Each song in the live performance is played as more of a larger unremitting jam session. Throughout the years, Lettuce has developed a tendency to follow a specific pattern–a song slowly builds from an original idea before launching into a buck wild climax, a certain full-circle aesthetic which speaks to their jazz training.

Cover art of Mt. Crushmore EP; courtesy of Lettuce.
Cover art of Mt. Crushmore EP; courtesy of Lettuce.

The group performed many cuts that came straight from their five albums, including their recent hit “Phyllis.” With “Phyllis,” the group bounced off a down-home guitar theme with echoing ambience, showing off just how much they were able to create with each other instinctively. The only one of the songs played live from their just released EP was “116th Street,” a saucy tune with a retro vibe brought to life by the rhythm section’s surging groove. The group even found time to play an inspired cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears.

Lettuce has a loyal following of intense, passionate listeners. With the group’s energy matching that of a rock concert, many people in the audience violently tossed their heads back and forth. Funk music has been identified as being a particular expression of music that allows the artist to confront daily events which may have been grueling or challenging. With 2016 hopefully a distant memory to the audience, Lettuce “put the stank on” the TLA crowd–transporting them to an alternative universe where the music is groovy and fear is non-existent.

Lettuce played at the Theater of the Living Arts, 334 South St., on January 5, 2017. Some of the band’s music is also available on Soundcloud.

Tags

Funk, Lettuce, philadelphia, Theatre of the Living Arts, TLA

sponsored
sponsored

Hello!

Sign up to receive Artblog’s weekly updates and monthly Our Picks sent directly to your inbox.

Subscribe Today!

Send this to a friend