Lettuce brings the funk to Lincoln
On a quiet Sunday in Lincoln, Nebraska, prodigious modern funk band Lettuce rocked the Bourbon Theatre.
Opening the show was RDGLDGRN (pronounced “red-gold-green), a three-man outfit out of Washington, D.C. Each member went by one of the three colors in their name and dressed correspondingly. Their traveling drummer, Snaxx, simply wore black but still tied the show together with his go-go-inspired beats. The band’s 2013 debut album, “Red Gold Green,” featured drumming by fellow Virginian Dave Grohl and a song produced by Pharrell Williams. RDGLDGRN’s style is inspired by indie rock, rap, hip-hop, and a very regional style of funk called go-go, which combines rhythm and blues, funk, old school hip hop and scarce sampling. RDGLDGRN’s show was full of audience interaction and call-and-response, with the singer, Green, even jumping down into the audience for a battle-style game between the two sides of the crowd. The energy was constantly high and the message Green preached was one of love, positivity and unity.
Headliner Lettuce, with six members, two-member horn line included, brought the funk like nobody else today could. With a mix of true funk, soaring horn hits and chill, complex pieces, Lettuce displayed their endless amounts of talent and creativity to the few hundred souls in the audience. Saxophone player Ryan Zoidis connected his sax to a sound system with a special mouthpiece and used an effects board to provide eerie and interesting sounds in their more cerebral songs. Drummer Adam Deitch kept the groove going on his set, providing the chassis upon which the rest of the band constructed and combined their sound. Trumpeter Eric Bloom provided the screaming brass that gives Lettuce their jazz-influenced sound. Adam Smirnoff shredded his guitar on his solos and provided great support when other instruments took the spotlight, throwing in a talk box here and there. Nigel Hall rocked multiple sets of keys, including an electric organ, and provided the chords that fueled the rest of the band’s sonic journey. He also took up the mic on their encore song, “Sounds Like a Party to Me,” and moved to the front of the stage. And then there was Jesus. Erick “Jesus” Coomes, that is. The legendary bassist stood only at about five-three or five-four, but the depth and power of his bass work made him feel larger-than-life. Wearing fancy sunglasses and a ball cap over his long and wild hair, Jesus stood in relative darkness, silhouetted by the light show behind him, giving him and his ax an almost otherworldly presence.
The sound Lettuce provided filled the venue with a feeling of satisfaction, peace and stability. Lettuce brought a groove that the audience settled in nicely. The nature of funk music meant that no single member stood out and lead the show like a Freddy Mercury or an Angus Young. Instead, every member worked together and supported one another, taking turns to provide their licks and solos. The lack of a designated frontman meant that listeners could focus more on the sound instead of focusing on a single person being backed up by sound. That’s one of the best things about funk and jazz music: the listener is forced to listen and not look, leading to a deeper experience with the music.
Seeds Entertainment sat down with Jesus (Coomes) before the show to talk about his beginnings, his inspirations, the longevity of funk and Elon Musk. He spoke unprompted of the healing power of music and how the audience and performers work together to create that power. Speaking of the band’s show from the previous night, Jesus said,
“Vibrational healing can happen through music,” Jesus said about the band’s show the previous night. “I don’t understand the science on it entirely. When the last hit of that song hit, I was just standing there in the frequencies and the web of this vibration we put out, and that can only happen when… these 3,500 people and the six of us onstage make that thing happen.”
He also expressed a respect-based fear of Miles Davis’s name when talking about Lettuce’s newest album, Witches Stew, which is a tribute to the late great jazz trumpeter. “Now that I’ve said the name twice, I’m not saying it anymore. It’s very magical, the stuff he did, the music he made.” Jesus went on to repeat the name at least two more times while gushing over Davis’s talent and accomplishments.
Lettuce definitely brought some sort of magic to the Bourbon Theatre on Sunday night. Check out Lettuce and RDGLDGRN on whatever music streaming service you use.