On a tour that bounced on and off the summer festival circuit beginning with Summer Camp and ending with an extensive jaunt across the country, Tea Leaf Green continues to spread their music prodigiously. Their set at Summer Camp actually saw a lull in the rain this year, but it soon returned. Often underrated, this five-piece from San Francisco played sans one drummer at the Aggie. I headed down early to see local classics WhiteWater Ramble open. Having watched these guys evolve and transform since my arrival in Colorado it’s good to see them gelling in a live setting. WWR has always been a jamgrass contender, but at times their sound has been inconsistent. Their show at the Aggie was a smooth groove that was highlighted by a number of fun covers. In particular a spaced-out version of “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” that was a true mix of psychedelic and string. A pair of Grateful Dead covers came in the form of “Althea” and “The Wheel” as well. WhiteWater Ramble finished up with a sweet take on “Nellie Kane.” This band continues to develop and their local shows always seem to be a blast.
During setbreak I ran into incredible bassist and all around nice guy Reed Mathis just relaxing outside before his set. I talked to Reed about Summer Camp and his extensive touring. Throughout the last 5 months he has hopped from Tea Leaf to Mickey Hart Band shows with several one offs in between. Before we split ways Reed inquired if I had any requests. I simply asked that he, ‘rip it up.’
“I will rip it up, it shall need mending… possibly stitches.” –Mathis
So with that we headed back inside in anticipation of the ripping. The show was on a Wednesday night so the audience numbered only around a couple hundred. This allowed for a very relaxed feel and easy maneuvering. They opted to play one long set rather than split it up. They opened up with “If It Wasn’t For The Money.”
Set 1: If It Wasn’t For The Money, Someday (In The Wake), Penny Saved, One Reason, Space Hero Pt. 3, Space, Hero Pt. 4, Forgiven, Don’t Go, Taught To Be Proud, We Aren’t Done, Franz Hanzerbeak (JoJo), Two Parts, One More Chance, Fallen Angel> Germanating Seed
Encore: Pretty Jane, All Washed Up
This beefy set from Tea Leaf Green featured classics as well as several newer tracks. Musically they are playing in lockstep. I was a little bummed they were performing without their other drummer, but considering their length of time on the road it’s understandable. Trevor Gerrod continues to be the consummate performer utilizing both his skills at the keys as well as the microphone intrepidly. The “Space Hero” duo was a real highlight. Reed was a true focal point for the duration of the show. There is something incredible about watching someone who is truly skilled at a craft. For Mathis that craft is face melting bass shredding. Tea Leaf closed out the set with a pair from their second album Radio Tragedy!; “Fallen Angel” into “Germanating Seed” was a real treat. I still believe that Tea Leaf Green is a top-level jam band with the potential to give a huge performance on any given night. Their show at the Aggie again proved that hypothesis. They have musically and stylistically evolved into a true road-worn rock band, but their live shows demonstrate an amazing ability to improvise and harmonize sonically. They encored with a “Pretty Jane” into “All Washed Up.” If you’ve let Tea Leaf Green fall off your radar, revisit them post haste. They are still doing it right.
The Werks have played their fair share of sets at Summer Camp. However this was my first time catching them live. So I hustled down to see them in Old Town. Howerver arriving at 9:30 PM meant that by the time I grabbed my first beer, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong were exiting stage left. What I heard sounded like a promising blend of electronic, funk, and jam. Forming in 2009 and averaging over a hundred shows a year this four piece has a lot of potential. In fact all three bands on the bill were four man outfits that have developed their own brand of improvised composition. Some have pontificated that we are in a post jam era where the music has become split by genre and focus. However when I witness performances like what I saw from both Twiddle and The Werks, my faith is jam is somewhat restored.
Now Twiddle has not performed at Summer Camp, but they would be a fine additon to next year’s lineup. The band came on after a short set break and kept the night moving smoothly. It was homecoming weekend at Colorado State and there was an abundance of youth in attendance. It seemed like Twiddle had gained a few fans from their performance at Arise Music & Arts Festival in Loveland, CO mid August. They are an impressive unit who finally seems to really be branching out beyond their Vermont roots. Much of the basis of their music comes from the school that Phish built. Beyond that they have a drive and musical prowess that absolutely makes an impact. Deep intrepid jams highlighted this set that culminated with a huge psychedelic style trance jam. As this is just my second time seeing them I am still unfamiliar with their songs. What I can say is that Twiddle can play, and they have a genuine enthusiasm about performing together. Their set at the Aggie seemed to end far too quickly.
Again after a short set change The Werks emerged for their extended headlining slot. They opened with “O.G.”
Set 1: O.G., Heading South, Light, BG, Duck Farm, Hard To Find, Moetry, G Funk, 2001> No Diggity> 2001
Encore: Killing In The Name Of
I’m unsure how many can relate but at times with different bands no matter how hard I try I just can’t seem to make seeing them life happen. The Werks has been one of those bands for me. I have listened to their recordings for a number of years but despite my best efforts failed to see them play live. That is until now. The Werks began performing together in 2004 and released their first album in 2007. Since then they have been touring across the country with several stops at top festivals like All Good and Wakarusa. They currently host their own yearly event called The Werk Out Music Festival. Their show at the Aggie much like their opener Twiddle was first-rate.
They started the show by delving into a wide variety of their catalog. Slicing through musical styles like instrumental ninjas The Werks demonstrated why they are so revered. Songs like “Duck Farm” and “Moetry” punctuated a fantastic set of songs. . They closed with their version of Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” split by a bridge in the form of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.” The crowd went absolutely nuts. However The Werks came back to the stage to drop an even heavier encore. They covered Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name Of.” Stoic keyboardist Norman Dimitrouleas took the microphone for this spot on rendition that left fans mesmerized. I have to say it was a fun night out. With a bill that consisted of names like The Werks and Twiddle it would be easy to overlook this Friday night but that would have been a mistake. One I’m thankful I didn’t make. Both of these bands deserver your attention, so take a deeper look. Apparently in some corners of the country jam is alive and well.
Jennifer Hartswick discusses everything from TAB at Summer Camp to her latest album The Ocean Floor. She is a force to be reckoned with at the festival, taking part in multiple sets with a wide array of artists throughout the weekend. She dives into her first experience at Summer Camp as a patron not a performer and how that began her infatuation with this Midwest tradition. Take a look.