Confession: Once upon a time, I was really into jam bands. It was mostly my brother’s fault. He was really into moe. and I was looking for a way out of Dave Matthews Band fandom. It started with stuff like String Cheese and, yup, our own Disco Biscuits. But as I started to use more drugs and explore the realm of experimental jazz, soul and funk, I felt the shackles of DMB-heads lifted. One of those bands that pulled me from the wreckage was Soulive. 2001’s Doin’ Something and 2002’s Next were pivotal recordings. Sophisticated and groovy LPs that were excellent for repeat-listens and encouraging an expanding palette.
Tomorrow night they join up with their comrades and peers, Lettuce, for what should be a fantastic night of live music. I saw Soulive for an early New Years Eve set at the Bowery Ballroom when I was in high school and, to this day, remains one of my most treasured and memorable live music experiences. They don’t stop until the whole room’s sweaty and tired – there’s no doubt the two of them’ll play for at least three-to-four hours.
Lettuce, which is a hilarious name for a band, is another soulful Brooklyn-born soul collective closely linked to Soulive due to Eric “Kraz” Krasno, Soulive’s guitarist. While Soulive’s got a pair of brothers (Alan and Neal Evans) on drums and Hammond B-3, they’ve grown to include a rotating fourth on bass, sax, horns, whathaveyou. Both groups focus on danceable grooves with pretty standard formulas: rhythm, groove, a solo, and back to the rhythm and groove. But unlike jazz, which often works within a similar template, this is anything but staid and stuffy. In the way that a jammy show will be populated with hippies in their own world, dancing their Mr. Burns shuffle to barely-there music, this show will certainly be a dancefloor but for people who are actually listening to the harmonies, feeling the thump of the drums and bobbing to the blare of brassy woodwinds and horns.
Soulive and Lettuce have extensive Spotify collections worth considering before you buy your ticket. But do yourself a favor and go back a decade ago, even though they’ll no doubt play some newer stuff (Lettuce’s Outta Here from 2002 was another disc that got me hooked). This is a tag-team that should light up the TLA in a truly Philly fashion. This is the kind of music our city’s embraced for ages and we’ve gotta show em’ some love.