From the ashes of the Grateful Dead rose a veritable scene of improvisational players of rock – or jam bands – all vying for the top spot now vacated by the defunct Dead. Yet no one band could be crowned king. Phish came closest, but for all the fans they gained there was a collective chorus of You’re not the Dead – instead an army of the jam coalesced and proceeded to noodle and space into improvisational bliss.
For archival purposes, one could divide the remaining jam bands into two categories – those involved in serious musicology, and those ready to party. The split actually often occurred during the height of popularity for the Dead. Heads often speak of the scene changing after the Dead fanbase grew proportionally when they scored a top-ten hit in the late 80s. Suddenly legions of folks were showing up to concerts, not for inspiration at the muse of music, but to get high, get laid, and get down.
With no more Dead, these fans ran to other concerts, and bands who were more than poised to be the soundtrack to the next party.
Tea Leaf Green fall flat into this category. There’s a party going on and these boys are the mix-tape.
By saying this, don’t for a minute think that I an implying they lack musicianship. For all four members seem accomplished at their chosen instruments. This is not a frat party band playing for kegs. These are serious musicians who create songs that aren’t meant to be taken seriously.
With Rock ’N’ Roll Band, Tea Leaf Green has created a memorable rock film in the vein of The Last Waltz and the Grateful Dead Movie.
Director Justin Kreutzmann (son of legendary Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann) has created more than just a recording of a live performance, but a snapshot of a band on the move.
Featuring most of the band’s concert on May 19, 2006, in Boulder, Colorado the film intertwines band interviews and a few impromptu jam sessions. Making great use of split screen Kreutzmann creates an excellent portrait of the band and the music they create.
Honestly, Tea Leaf Green is a name I knew from bootleg trading circles, but I had never actually heard their music until I plugged in this DVD. At first listen, I gotta say I counted them as another flakey band riding the jam band wave, but after a few more spins there’s another level to their songs that pushes them forward. The bottom line still seems to be about having a good time, but there is craftsmanship to the music that makes it more than just party music.
Take the lead song, “These Two Chairs,” for example. It doesn’t have a chorus to speak of but there is a repeated line that just kills
“They just don’t understand
But they got a rock and roll…”
Then pause and wait for it
It is a great moment that gets the whole audience jazzed. It might not be studied by graduate students in years to come, but it sure is a lot of fun.
And what else do you want from a rock and roll band anyway?
The DVD doesn’t come with any extras to speak of, but it sounds good and looks fantastic. Justin Kreutzmann obviously knows his way around a rockumentary and creates a video that is more than just another rock concert caught on tape, but is cinema, and an important portrait of a band.
The soundtrack album to the movie comprises thirteen of the songs played, including “All of Your Cigarettes” from the sound check. It’s a nice disc, and a good companion to the movie.
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Long live Jerry