With below freezing temperatures and freshly fallen snow, a nearly sold-out crowd of Central New Yorkers found themselves at Rochester’s Anthology, ready for the first Lettuce show of 2019. Kicking off the night was the incredibly talented Ghost-Note; featuring a star-studded cast of musicians from Snarky Puppy, Prince, Snoop Dogg, Erykah Badu, Herbie Hancock and more. Only playing the first 9 stops on the Vibe Up Tour, Ghost-Note set the tone for the tour delivering a non-stop set of up-tempo jazz-funk fusion.
As the excitable crowd was engaged in each other’s company, all attention soon shifted towards onward as Lettuce took the stage led by Eric “Benny” Bloom (trumpet, percussion). The guys of Lettuce have been long at work on their fifth full-length LP, frequently playing unreleased numbers throughout 2018. The start of 2019 was no different as the band kicked off with the unreleased “4th Dimension” featuring a dark and commanding bassline from the funk-lord Eric “Jesus” Coomes juxtaposed with the work of the both Bloom and Ryan Zoidis (sax). The band hit their stride early and never looked back. From here, they seamlessly grooved into more unreleased material like “Blaze”, which was debuted on Jam Cruise in 2017.
In recent years, the band has seen the loss of Eric Krasno and Neal Evans, leaving Lettuce with 6 members. In their absence, guitarist Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff has proven himself to be dynamic, displaying incredible rhythm work as well as taking the helm for psychedelic riffs leading into huge jams getting the Rochester crowd in an absolute frenzy. Frequent stand-in Nigel Hall (keys & vocals) has taken a more permanent position in the band rocking the keys while still holding down the mic doing what he does best: keeping the party jumping. The boys of Lettuce do more than play party tunes as was demonstrated in the unreleased “Khru: which featured a heavy old-school R&B type jam as Adam Deitch (drums) worked the kit ever so smoothly while Shmeeans let his guitar sing the silkiest of melodies.
The boys had found a groove and were letting Rochester feel it on a bumping Thursday evening as they bounced from one unreleased song to the next. It wasn’t until deep into the set that Lettuce played a familiar tune, “Silverdome” coming from the 2015 album Crush. Following this crowd pleaser, the show would see its last unreleased song of the evening “N’Dugu”. The Deitch-written track was premiered for the first time on October 10th, 2018 in Omaha, NE and pays homage to the late Leon “N’dugu” Chancler who was a world-renowned American pop, funk and jazz drummer. The funk-sextet would go on to close the set with two Lettuce classics, “Sam Huffs Flying Rage Machine” and “Madison Square” that left a deafening roar from a crowd as the Lettuce walked off the stage as smoothly as the entered.
When they re-took the stage for their encore, the band was joined by a special guest and bassist extraordinaire, Dwayne Thomas Jr. better known as MonoNeon. Although known for his bass work with Prince before his passing, Mono was rocking a guitar alongside the sextet as the band launched into fan-favorite “Sounds Like A Party”, truly summing up the feel of Lettuce’s Vibe Up Tour. From start to finish, the night was one that left not a single still body in the room.
Funk is alive and well in the hands of Lettuce, and the Vibe Up Tour is simply not something you can miss. They are already firing on all cylinders and are sure to continue dropping much more new and unreleased material coming before the arrival of their newest album.
After their 9 days with Ghost-Note, the Vibe Up Tour will feature a run of “Evening with Lettuce” shows before finishing off the tour on the West Coast with support from The Greyhounds. So go on and get you some, you won’t regret it.
[Video: Mike Florentino]
Setlist: Lettuce | Anthology | Rochester, NY | 1/10/18
4th Dimension (unreleased), Blaze (unreleased), Khru (unreleased), Royal Highness (unreleased), Purple Cabbage (unreleased), Ready To Live (unreleased), Silverdome, N’Dugu (unreleased), Sam Huffs Flying Rage Machine, Madison Square. ENC: Sounds Like A Party (with Mononeon)