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August 16, 2007

TEA LEAF GREEN @ The Sweetwater Saloon, Mill Valley, CA 8.13.07

I was very happy to hear Billboard had been able to get me a ticket to the sold-out concert by up-and-coming local band Tea Leaf Green at another historic music venue, the Sweetwater Saloon, in Mill Valley, California.


I've been wanting to see Tea Leaf Green for over a year ... and I remember clearly when and where I was when it was set in my mind that we must see this band.    Last year Gary and I went to the 10,000 Lakes Music Festival in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.     We had been inside the venue most of the day, and to prepare for the evening's performances ... the highlight of which was "Phil Lesh & Friends" ... we went out to the car so I could change my clothes (you know, out of shorts, into "festival skirt") brush out my "hat hair," and just get a little freshened up for the evening's shows.    It was a special day.   It was Gary's birthday.    AND, on top of that, as we were walking to the car, I got a call on my cell phone ... it was the job offer that I'd been waiting and hoping for.   OK, so we were in PRETTY GOOD MOODS.     Just as we were about to head back inside, two guys arrived at their car which was parked near ours.     They appeared to be in their 40's, they had salt & pepper hair and short, business-like haircuts ... but they had followed the Grateful Dead in their youth, and they were clearly "hippies" like us.    We started chatting with them -- they were old friends, both businessmen, one from Colorado and one from Texas.    Over the years they have gone to a LOT of concerts.     One of the guys, as it turns out, "owns a t-shirt business," and I got the idea that because he was in a music-related industry, he could pretty much go to any festival or concert event he wanted to.     (You know ... a "dream job" for a music junkie!!)   For example, they told us they'd seen five or six of the recent Phil Lesh & Friends shows on his current tour, at venues all over the country, and they gave us a run-down of the various performances.   They'd been to all the festivals we hope to go to one day (i.e., Bonnaroo).  These guys were extremely knowledgeable, had similar musical tastes, and we all hit it off and had a great conversation with them that day, and when we ran into them the next day at 10KLF.
At one point these guys both took off the t-shirts they'd been wearing, and pulled out brand-new "Tea Leaf Green" t-shirts.     They said excitedly, "Did you see Tea Leaf Green?"   Unfortunately, at a festival with simultaneous acts, you can't see everybody, and we'd missed Tea Leaf Green.     They both exclaimed, "Tea Leaf Green is HOT!" and "Tea Leaf Green is our new favorite group!!"     DAMN!   And we'd missed them!!    In the year that has passed since then, we've tried to see Tea Leaf Green, and considering they're a San Francisco area band and that's where we live, you'd THINK we'd be able to see them ... but alas, we haven't.     So that's my long story about the huge impression these "hippie businessmen" who we met at 10KLF had on me, and why I've been dying to see Tea Leaf Green ever since.      
Let me introduce you to the members of Tea Leaf Green:


Trevor Garrod (Keyboards, vocals & occasionally harmonica)


Josh Clark (Guitar, vocals)


Scott Ranger (Drums) and Ben C. (Bass & vocals)

I was finally going to see Tea Leaf Green, and at the historic Sweetwater Saloon to boot!!     I was very excited!    The Sweetwater -- a VERY small, intimate music venue -- is in Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco.     Many, MANY musicians live in Marin County -- there's just something about Marin County that attracts them, I guess.    (I have a friend who used to live in a Marin County town and she had musicians from 3 MAJOR bands on her block.)   Also, "The Record Plant" recording studio is in Sausalito, which is just a few miles from the Sweetwater Saloon.    The list of artists who have performed at the Sweetwater over the past 30 years is as long as your arm.   I understand that "back in the day," local musicians (such as Jerry Garcia) would hang out at the Sweetwater, often sitting in and jamming with other performers.
Unfortunately,  the Sweetwater Saloon is embroiled in some drama at the moment.    They were notified recently that they're going to have to close their doors August 31st, or move to a new location.  The way the story is being told, the property owner/landlord plans to do major renovations (earthquake retrofit-type) to the building which houses the Sweetwater Saloon and other businesses (including the owner's Italian restaurant).    After the renovations are complete, guess what -- the rent is going to have to go WAY UP in order to cover Mr. Landlord's investment in the seismic and other upgrades to their property.   The ownerd of the Sweetwater don't believe they can afford to pay the higher rent.    Are they going to move?    Is it still "Sweetwater" -- a historic music venue --  if it moves to a completely new location?
Much press has been given to this drama ... the Mayor of Mill Valley has gotten involved.    The landlord is being made out to be the greedy bad guy.   Maybe these theatrics are part of the "negotiation" process.    The press is making it sound like the owner wants to do these upgrades JUST so they can make more money in rent.    Maybe the building is ... hello ... UNSAFE.     Maybe they have no choice but to upgrade.   Maybe the owners of the Sweetwater have known about this for awhile and are playing it up in the final days to pack the club.   Let's just say I'm a little skeptical after attending the show last night.   The Sweetwater was JAM PACKED last night ... literally the kind of crowd that you can barely squeeze through.    This is a small venue, and they probably let in 50-75 people more than they were "supposed to."   (I cannot IMAGINE they had a "permit" to house that many people.   It was not remotely "comfortable," not to mention safe.)    Were all these people there to see Tea Leaf Green ... or were they there because of the publicity about the impending closure of the Sweetwater?   (If the Sweetwater can pack people in like that at $25 a head and serve drinks as fast and furious as they did last night ... they can afford to pay more rent.   They haven't kept the doors open for 30 years just for the love of music ... they're making plenty of money!)    The crowd last night was clearly "mixed" ... the die-hard Tea Leaf Green fans were up in front enjoying the band.   The 20-somethings who were there because it was "The Place To Be ... And Be Seen" (they were easy to spot -- they were the ones who were way too dressed up) were back by the bar and the door, carrying on conversations, "being seen," and basically paying little attention to the music.    You know the type.      <<Yawn!!>>
This whole drama took away from my enjoyment of Tea Leaf Green (but not from the quality of the band).    When I was up front enjoying the music with the other sardines I was HOT and claustrophobic.    But when I moved back to have a little room to breathe, I couldn't enjoy the music because of all the 20-something conversations and preening going on around me.  (NOTE:  Best line heard while squeezing through the tightly-packed crowd:  "I think that Viagra just kicked in!")
Tea Leaf Green was energetic and fun, and I had to remind myself to stop dancing when I wanted to take a photo so it wouldn't be a blur!!    The title tract of their 2005 CD Taught to be Proud won the Jammy Award for "Song of the Year."    This year they played on the Jam Cruise, and at Bonnaroo, and are booked for "Jam in the Dam" in 2008.   This band is hot!


Trevor Garrod and Josh Clark

Tea Leaf Green is a very talented group with a clearly loyal fan base of people of all ages.    (They were the mellow kind of "Deadhead-type" fans which I met up front who I just LOVE -- who smiled as they offered to let me stand in front of them, and offered me their chairs so I could sit down to take photos of the band.)
I didn't get my fill of Tea Leaf Green, and hope it doesn't take me another year to see them again!
-- Lesley
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A great man .Thank you for your post.

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