Hearing Aide: Let’s Be Leonard ‘Live at Gugs’

After planting their musical seed in Saratoga Springs, Let’s Be Leonard sprouted rather quickly into a jam-jazz fusion powerhouse with all intentions of climbing the jam community ladder. Just a few short years after their formation and quitting their jobs, they’ve become a prized outfit in the Capital Region and beyond. Following the debut of their 2015 debut Cow., LBL put forth four live recordings on Bandcamp, this time, releasing the fifth, Live at Gugs in Glenn’s Falls.

The 5-piece, led by Karl Bertrand (vocals and rhythm guitar), Matt Griffin (guitar), Connor Dunn (saxophone), Chris Cronin (bass) and Paul Guay,
(drums) took on their Thursday night gig at Gugs on March, 23.  
The 14-track live recording displays the group’s organic and majestic improvisations, whether they’re taking it slow and steady with poppy lyrics and sing-a-long choruses or bringing back the blues with suave, seductive saxophone solos.

The gathering at Gugs was treated to a debut opener of “Spit it Out,” a fresh track with buttery-smooth jazz from start to finish and soft vocals to match. “Kindergarten Blues” follows as a well-known LBL track off of Cow. If you’re a previous fan, you’ve probably heard the blues-referenced track, as well as “Frisbee,” the third execution of the night, on radio stations like WEQX. The back-to-back hits ended with attention honed in on Dunne’s tickling of the saxophone, a busted drum pedal and verbal rant by Mike Rios. “Jump Ship” comes next with a switch-up in musical approach. Vocals take precedence in this easily accepted track with a story to tell, while the band acts as support on this Bertrand-led venture.

In relation to their debut album, Bertrand described them as “generated by feelings you have at the best time in your life: childhood.” It’s safe to say that the material played at Gugs drew from that same care-free mentality. Other highlights of the night include a blues-heavy “Young Sprite,” which bears a slight, yet pleasant sounding comparison to the Dead’s “Sugaree” at moments, as well as unmistakable insight to the groups comfort with one another and stage banter, regardless of the time span they’ve officially been Let’s Be Leonard. If all that wasn’t enough to be wrapped around their fingers, the sensationally executed guitar solos mark a personal favorite milestone in the set.

A surprise “Brad Paisley” cover ended the night with unconventional onstage vocal motif between the guys, extremely comparable to Phish’s “David Bowie.” All members repeatedly sing and spew out the country star’s name over and over in a mimicked care-free manner as the jam icons. The light-hearted song acted as an engaging way to close out a set that was so obviously and mutually enjoyed by band members and the crowd alike.

While Saratoga Springs is no stranger to celebrity strolls down in its perfect weekend-visit city with SPAC just round the corner, it’s hard for residents not to get excited when Brad Paisley is spotted in a local coffee shop. In town for his summer show at SPAC, a local mentioned the group’s own “Brad Paisley.” I wonder if he ever found his way to track of his namesake.

Bertrand and company recently snagged a headlining spot for Glenn’s Falls 2nd annual GEM Festival held on July 29 and sits among local artists on the newly announced trio of Sunday afternoon concerts on SPAC’s gazebo stage. From their youngest hours as a group, they’ve gained fast and hard earned notoriety. With signing on as one of the founding bands on NYS Music 87/90, it’s safe to say things will keep moving with the same onward energy and hunger to get their next gig booked and festival played.

Key tracks: Spit it Out, Young Sprite, Brad Paisley

Live at Gug’s Set list:

Spit It Out,  Kindergarten Blues,  Frisbee, Jump Ship, “Salvation”, Balloons, Most Days > How Do You Fall In Love?, Open Your Eyes,  Channel 2, Young Sprite, Comet > High n Dry, Birdsong > Rocky Road, Sad Town
E: Brad Paisley
87/90Brad PaisleyCowLet's Be LeonardLive at Gugslive musicNYS MusicNYS Music 87/90