New Years won’t count towards my 52. It was closure to 2016 and part of my 4-night run encompassing 4 phish shows, Hayley Jane & The Primates (doing Bowie no less), Start Making Sense, and The Stella Blues Band. While technically Phish was still playing past midnight I thought I’d start with a clean slate. It only took 4 days to achieve.
The plan on Wednesday January 4th was to see the Harlem Gospel Choir do a Prince tribute at B.B. King’s on 42nd st in New York. The other priority was to see my friend Hubcap (all names have been changed. Don’t you hate when they say that but give some other real name? It may as well be that person’s real name right?). Hubcap lives in California and was in town for Phish. We connected in the afternoon and he (or she, or they) said Lettuce was playing at Brooklyn Bowl. Sold! Lettuce it was.
“For more than two decades, Lettuce have brought a new vitality to classic funk, matching their smooth and soulful grooves with a hip-hop-inspired urgency and mastery of beat.”
Wednesday in Brooklyn. Williamsburg no less. I used to work in this area which among other historically significant identifiers, is (to many) the birthplace of the hipster. It is rare that I get to this neighborhood these days (even when I lived in Brooklyn) but it was my first chance to see a show at Brooklyn Bowl as well. Opened by one-time Wetlands owner Peter Shapiro (who is also responsible for Lockn’ festival, the Fans app, and the reboot of the Capitol theater in Port Chester), Brooklyn Bowl is the original of the venue chain with a location in Vegas and soon in London. It is not bowl shaped. Instead, it actually has bowling lanes. If you live in Maine I’ll clarify that it is “big ball bowling” not your odd candlestick bowling that still baffles me.
Hubcap and I meet at Grand Central Terminal (it’s not a station as it is the first & last stop and New Yorkers know you’re a tourist if you call it a station) before heading east. We discuss the economic impacts of technology, politics, and art. Hubcap is a balanced and erudite human; The kind of person you hope your child would date.
Brooklyn Bowl is packed by the time we arrive. We hear the last song of the opening band. We stash our coats and my bag stage right near the front of the stage and realize it’s a good place to stay for the gig. Horns, organ, drums, bass, and guitar emerge and funk us up till 11:30. Perfect timing for a mid-week show. I had first heard of Lettuce in their early days through friends at Hampshire College. The band had been booked heavily in Northampton Mass where then booker (and an amazing musician in his own right) Eric Krasno was entrenched in the hippiest college since Goddard (also famous for a band). That was the late 1900’s. According to an interview with Krasno in The Marquee, the band wasn’t a full-time gig for anyone till recently. I had seen them at various festivals (usually during the day hours) and small clubs. It was great to see them headline.
The crowd wasn’t the native Williamsburg hipster or much of the jamband, hippie-esque fan. Instead, there was more of what we used to call the Bride & Tunnel crowd. Younger fans in from long island or jersey (guilty as charged). Lots of mixed drinks in hands and fewer beers. Lots of girls carrying purses (not something you see at the festivals or Dead tour). One caveat to this assessment is my limited visibility. The stage enveloped most of my view but my immediate dance partners consisted of young couples on dates, a photographer, one super fan, and some extras bopping heads but otherwise mostly stationary.
The music was funky, the band is tight, the songs were concise. On the funk continuum, they sit closer to the origins than fusion. They are a restrained version of Vulfpeck similar to Galactic. Think Soulive with less jazz. Danceable and worthy of a listen.
11:30 and the trek home begins. Snack to refuel and off to the train. Hubcap heads to LIC, I head towards the jerz. I never found out how the Prince tribute at B.B. Kings was but I suspect it was fine without me there. The year was off to a good start.0 likes