The weekend following the general election was a therapeutic one focussed around music, simple and sweet. Listeners far and wide were bent on making the most of their days off to recuperate and smile a bit after the events of the week. Luckily, there was a perfect band to fill that void, the hypnotic funksters of Lettuce. Not only are these men ideal for a musical escape, they provided some of the best funk music out there today. To celebrate their newest EP, ‘Mt. Crushmore,’ Lettuce brought their A-game to PlayStation Theater and won over a ripe New York City crowd.
Heading to Times Square is usually a treacherous journey on a Friday night. However, the fates were kind as the crowds were quite manageable. Despite the sudden crisp winter chill, listeners were happily arriving in droves to PlayStation Theater. Fans were already taking smoke breaks after the two openers finished up their sets. People walking past had to admire their courage for lingering in the blistering cold. After reaching the inside of the theater, listeners were directed downstairs to get into the action. All over the space were roaming fans who were hyped up with anticipation for the main act of the night. Thankfully, the sight of smiles, the sound of the laughter and the optimistic vibrancy of the room was just what the doctor ordered.
In the main theater, the stage was set and the giant, circular, glass chandeliers prompted all viewers to look up straightaway. Of course, the most unexpected surprise of the night was the sudden invasion of hippies. With such a crowd, the ever-potent pot smoke followed alongside the excited mingling. All in all, the crowd was full and impressively large. With a violet glare on stage, it was quite the feat to witness the vast assortment of instruments up there. The stage was filled with a bass, two guitars, two organ/keyboard sections, a saxophone, a trumpet and of course the heart of it all, the majestic drum set. Few fans took advantage of the plentiful seats that rose up from the back of the room looking down on the stage. For the ones that did, they stood and danced in the aisles all night.
Eventually, the lights dimmed and funk beats began to introduce the men of Lettuce; Adam Smirnoff, Adam Deitch, Erick Coomes, Ryan Zoidis, Eric Krasno, Neal Evans, Eric Bloom and Nigel Hall. All eight men danced their way onstage to an onslaught of rambunctious cheers. Upon snatching up their instruments, a psychedelic tune up session began. Almost immediately, people started dancing when they took things off in a funk explosion. The surreal light show to start helped give everything a trippy vibe right off the bat. A solid groove oozed its way through and the horns won the crowd. Neal stole the limelight from the video cameras of the theater as his passionate facial expressions mimicked with great flair his skill on the keys. There was such energy from the start that it easily became contagious throughout the space. It never truly seemed to turn down even as the night progressed.
While the men do hold a specific sway in the funk genre, they were no strangers the blending of other genres in the musical medium. Discordant funk became jam-band style music with everlasting grins on the faces of Mr. Smirnoff and Erick. The two musicians were front and center of it all and were obviously comfortable in their own skin as they made the music magic happen. There was plenty of free-spirited dancing up there. Then again, with instruments such as the cowbell popping, it was hard not to groove. While the majority of the band were musical animals on the prowl, Mr. Krasno was the epitome of cool as he calmly stood and wailed beautifully from his guitar. Hanging back, he only stole the show with his exemplary musical prowess by chiming in when it was needed most. Mr. Bloom and Ryan were the horn section and were dutiful in their abilities that night. When they were not controlling their horns, they were usually bantering and dancing rather intensely. It was impressive to listen and watch as they would promptly focus back to the horns when their time came back again. It was artful professionalism at its best. In fact, when the horns took the lead, it was usually a powerful blending of jazz-funk in which the rest of the band would easily fall in line with. It was magical to say the least.
Even when the tone came down at times, the beat and rhythm defiantly continued on. Some fans in the crowd were proudly waving blow-up balloon saxophones to honor the men in action. Amidst the funk and jazz of the show, every now and then a heightened cacophony of sound would come bustling out from the well-oil musical machine of Lettuce. It was nearly impossible to keep feet from tapping or heads to bob for listeners. As the music hit its peak, the horn players started to become pleasantly frantic with their tunes as the intricate guitar licks followed in their path. A highlight of the evening was a sudden duel between the horns and Neal’s keys. All the men were grinning mischievously as they bantered back and forth with their music. Their smiles were met by the crowd who looked on with shock and awe.
As Krasno’s fingers plucked his guitar, he was often more than not, jamming away with his eyes closed. He was in a funkadelic daydream. Every bit of it was pure instrumental glory that had a remarkable shift in pacing and speed. The frequency of their sound shift were astonishing and kept that vivid interest alive in their music for the evening. Songs were stretched, improvised and explored on the spot to support the theme of the unexpected. Lettuce were masters of this madness. Neal was simply amazing with his dedicated passion and drive with his instrument. In fact, they all were so absorbed in their instruments, that the sound they emitted and energy they shared was almost divine. Sometimes the music would get low with Krasno’s guitar and Mr. Deitch’s drums stealing the show with a rhythm and blues influenced jazz session. The session was not delicate, but it was detailed and creative all the way through. It was a nice way to break things up so people could take a break and enjoy the mellow tunes while snagging another drink.
Once that session would finish, someone must have plucked the on switch because the men turned themselves back to their full power and unleashed their masterful funk yet again. Whoever controlled the lighting that night was sure having a good time. If the music was not already winning people over, the lighting effects added onto it often placing a spiritual purple silhouette of the band playing their music in peace. Dancing on the stage became more obvious especially with Mr. Bloom on trumpet. When he was not gracing the horn instrument, he was happily wielding the cowbell and doing the shuffle. It was thoughtful funk that immediately gave way to musical royalty. If there was a king of Lettuce, Nigel wore the crown hands down. The man worked the organs beautifully and was the lead vocal singer for the group. With his soulful voice, he evolved their genre into a funk opera. His voice alongside the horns and keys somehow was an exquisite pairing. During instrumental pieces there was a sudden introduction of possible wailing synths that Nigel took over well. When chants came into the songs, the crowd joined in and the room shook with their voices as they raised their hands to the funk congregation.
As the night wore on the genres continued to blend with soul, funk and much more to make everything a whirlwind of music. To add onto it, the men each supported each other as they each performed various solos. They were able to break out of their set and showcase their immense skill. Again, the astounding control of their instruments was apparent here with all including wild antics save for the suave Mr. Krasno. Lettuce were the stars of New York City that weekend. There was no denying that. All of it was an everlasting moment of impressive escapism that was well-received by listeners across the crazed metropolis. Lettuce for President, 2020.