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Tea Leaf Green leave The New Parish in its wake

tea-leaf-green-new-parishBy Kevin Raos //

Tea Leaf Green //
The New Parish – Oakland
July 20th, 2013 //

Jam-band veterans Tea Leaf Green returned to The New Parish in Oakland Saturday night, delighting the hometown crowd with a heavy dose of new material. As Bay Area natives, Tea Leaf Green have been making a name for themselves in and around San Francisco since the late 90’s, and despite a long career and a loyal fan base, they proved that they aren’t afraid to play on their own terms.

Formed in 1996, Tea Leaf Green have been a staple on the jam scene for ages. Their face-melting guitar and hypnotic keyboards have been a cornerstone to their sound, but it was the addition of bassist Reed Mathis in 2007 that has propelled the act to new heights.

The new direction of Tea Leaf Green was on full display Saturday at The New Parish as they ripped through tunes primarily selected from their previous three albums, including their most recent offering, In the Wake. It was no surprise the band showcased tracks from In The Wake, playing nearly the entire new album. However, it was surprising that the band broke into almost no older material for the hometown crowd. Only two songs performed were not from a Reed Mathis album, “Baseball Jam” and “Flowers and the Devil”.

Fans expecting to hear classic Tea Leaf Green songs such as “The Garden” and “Pansperdemic De-Evolution” may have been a tad disappointed with the song selections. However, take one listen to this band and any of those thoughts will be quickly thrown out the window. It is clear Tea Leaf Green is creating some of the best music of their career and they are not afraid to put it on display with ferocity. New tracks such as “Space Hero”, “Penny Saved” and “We Aren’t Done” have become instant crowd pleasers, and they demonstrate that they don’t need to reach for deep cuts to satisfy their fans. If the dancing of the crowd was any indication, the new tracks were incredibly well-received.

If there was anything to learn from this show or the general state of Tea Leaf Green, I think it is safe to say that the impact of Reed Mathis on Tea Leaf Green is creating waves, leaving the old Tea Leaf Green in their wake (see what I did there?). Yes, Josh Clark is a beast on guitar, and Trevor Garrod will always be the main voice of the band, but it is Reed Mathis’s presence on bass that takes Tea Leaf Green’s dynamic to the next level. At any moment, Reed is apt to go on a musical interlude, leading the band through an improvisational tangent. This is something Tea Leaf Green never did prior to Mathis joining. Founding bassist Ben “Milky” Chambers left the band in late 2007 to “pursue some of life’s other passions.” Chambers will always be an integral part of the group’s history, but Chambers’ departure transformed the band from a stoner jam band into a respectable improvisational rock band. Not only is a Reed a master on the bass, but he also brings a jazz element to the table and is likely to take just as many solos as Josh Clark on any given evening.

Another point of note, Tea Leaf Green did not play the traditional 2 set show that they, and many similar bands, have a tendency to do. Instead they performed one, longer set. It could have been a venue/curfew thing, but it’s noteworthy never the less.

In closing, Tea Leaf Green still has it. They’re as musically interesting as ever and still bring the heat, even when flexing their new album. They aren’t afraid to take risks and they clearly do what they love — it shows on stage.

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