Ever since the band’s early days in Boston, funk-rockers Lettuce have cultivated a reputation as one of the hardest-charging funk outfits around. When their Seattle show was first announced, a Thursday-evening gig at the city’s beautiful Showbox Market, the city’s thriving funk community made the weeknight a priority. Although tickets did not sell-out, the room was full enough to provide the same type of energy, with plenty of dancing space to spare.

This ensemble is supremely talented, from the ground up. They are built around the impeccable rhythm section of Adam Deitch (drums) and Eric “Jesus” Coomes (bass guitar). These two fearsome groovesharks are among the best in the business when it comes to authoritatively locking down the beat. Deitch is a force across all genres, with the requisite jazz chops to gain the respect of an older sect of fans tastefully integrated into his smooth, hip-hop/electronica-oriented playing. Coomes shines particularly when the band is deep into their improvisation, always keeping them on a directed path either to or through a massive dance party.

Guitarist Adam Smirnoff has been thrust further into the spotlight in the absence of the band’s other lead-guitarist, Eric Krasno, and I have to say I was impressed with the job he did. His rhythm work remains solid as-ever, and he capably filled out the lead role when needed. Though Krasno cannot be replaced, Smirnoff tastefully redirected the attention to his own skills, delivering several masterfully palm-muted solos. His phrasing and emphasis were consistently interesting and creative.

With this being my first Lettuce show in a couple of years, I was glad to see the band’s intensity level had not dropped off. Additionally, I felt that they had added a new wrinkle to their playing. This show featured a larger amount of psychedelic-rock-inspired spacy jamming than previous ones I had seen. These sections featured Smirnoff and Evans heavily, and acted as the perfect contrast to the crushing funk portions of the show. 

To me, the “Shady Horns” are the primary factor that make a Lettuce show such a crazy event. Eric “Benny” Bloom (trumpet) and Ryan Zoidis (saxophone) comprise one of the highest-energy horn sections in all of funk music. These two musicians have the type of psychic connection that is not often seen among non-family members. They spend the show effortlessly weaving in and out of each other’s playing, in a manner that brings to mind the seemingly disparate comparison of Papadosio’s keyboardists, Billy and Sam Brouse. In the same way that the Brouse brothers operate as one man with four arms, the Shady Horns operate as one man with two mouths (and pairs of lungs). This was particularly evident during the late second set on tracks like “Madison Square” and “Lettsanity,” and it was a pleasure to watch this communication occur.

Vocalist Nigel Hall was also on-hand to help the band conclude each instrumental set with some funky vocals. In light of Earth, Wind and Fire co-founder Maruice White’s death earlier in the day, the group quickly put together a moving two-song tribute. Clearly a huge fan, Hall’s heavy, soulful vocals carried the performance of “Gratitude” to cap off the second set. Prior to the encore, he took time to tell the crowd that the world would be a better place if everyone listened to just one Earth, Wind and Fire song each morning. The band then played “Remember the Children,” adapted to include that signature Lettuce intensity, with Hall absolutely belting the vocals. This tribute ended the show on a reflective note, with an outpouring of gratitude from the musicians to the fans, then right back in form of generous applause.

Lettuce valiantly defended their spot near top of the funk pecking-order, which is really saying something in a scene that is currently seeing a massive influx of upstart talent (bands like Vulfpeck and Turkuaz). They relish this challenge and allow it to push their music to new heights of danceability and funkiness, while incorporating different influences to keep things fresh. Given the talent present in their lineup, they are in an excellent position to keep this up if they just continue to explore new musical territory.


Set I: The Force > Harmonic Jam > Slippin, Sam Huff’s Flying Raging Machine, Ziggowatt, The Lobbyist > Phyllis, Do It Like You Do*

Set II: Egyptian Secrets > Double Header, Chief, The Flu, Trillogy, Madison Square, Lettsanity, Making My Way, Gratitude*#

Encore: Remember the Children*#

*With Nigel Hall (vocals)
#Earth, Wind and Fire cover

Words by Coleman Schwartz, Photos by J. Scott Shrader. Full Gallery: