People from all walks of life gathered together at Buffalo’s intimate Tralf Music Hall Sunday, September 17 to experience the long-awaited return of the Boston-based funk machine that is Lettuce. While it was a typical, dreary September Buffalo night outside, the crowd and aura of the dancefloor gave the feeling that you were at a late Saturday night festival show.
The show began with a high energy DJ set by the up and coming electronic artist Maddy O’Neal. The 45-minute set showcased a great combination of bone shaking bass drops, obscure drum beats, and well-placed sound effects as she sampled songs that were both familiar and unfamiliar to the crowd. O’Neal’s energetic movements blurred the lines between the crowd and the performer as red, blue and yellow lights swirled around the stage and inspired the mostly timid crowd to get up and dance. By the end of her set nearly the entire dancefloor was filled and grooving, and the crowd was warmed up and ready for the meat- or vegetable- of the show.
The audience was ecstatic when Lettuce took the stage, with a few extra cheers and whistles directed towards keyboard player Nigel Hall who emerged from behind the curtain in a Bill’s hat and old-school O.J. Simpson jersey. The band took no time getting going as they opened with an electrifying “Requiem,” a song that wove jazz and funk influences as drummer Adam Deitch and bass player Erick “Jesus” Coomes held down a steady funk groove while trumpet player Eric Bloom and saxophonist Ryan Zoidis skillfully whirled through a Middle-Eastern melody.
The tight stage and small venue created a college-basement feeling as the crowd was now shoulder to shoulder, bobbing and spinning just feet from the almost comically over-packed, tiny stage of musicians. The next two songs kept the energy high as they blasted through “Get Greasy” and “Chief,” two fat funk instrumentals which gave the band multiple opportunities to showcase their ability to control the energy in the room and build to a peak out of almost thin air. The crowd clearly appreciated the heavy funk to start the show because by the end of the third song multiple heads of lettuce could be seen flying around the audience.
The band slowed things down a bit with “Dump,” the first song featuring vocals, which sounded like a cross between James Brown and Stevie Wonder. Hall did a magnificent job handling the vocals with his delicate yet dominating voice, as the band played softly around him.
The next few numbers highlighted the band’s ability to create ambience while at the same time holding on tight to their funk roots. The intro to “Ready to Live” gave the feeling that you were being ominously watched as you went scuba-diving through an abandoned shipwreck at the bottom of the ocean, eventually being pulled up to the surface by the funky breakdown.
High energy jazz solos by guitarist Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff was a clear highlight to the diverse crowd before the band took a quick break leaving Deitch alone on stage to hammer out an intense, Bonham-like drum solo. When the band returned to the stage, they might as well have come back with George Clinton with them because they brought the funk. The crowd exploded with the band, and there was not a single person whose neck wouldn’t be sore in the morning from the trance-like grooving.
The band ended their set with two songs containing more vocals than they had utilized the entire night. During “Shmink Dabby” Hall taunted the audience in a James Brown-like fashion yelling “Buffalo, Hit Me!” while Zoidis let out a powerful saxophone solo. They ended their set with “Sounds Like a Party,” a fun song that does in fact sound like a party. During the breakdown, each band member took a small solo before coming together as one entity to leave the crowd on a high note.
The band did not leave the stage for long before the crowd began a “One More Song!” chant, forcing the musicians back out almost immediately. The band thanked the audience and gave them a little more of what they wanted with a bustling rendition of “The Flu.” Hugs, high fives, and smiles were exchanged as the crowd left the venue, with every soul feeling just a bit richer thanks to the night of funk they had just experienced together.
Setlist: Requiem > Get Greasy > Chief > Dump > Ready to Live > Purple Cabbage > Kron Dutch > Blaze > Phyllis > Lettsanity > Shmink Dabby > Sounds Like A Party
Encore: The Flu
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