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Lettuce at Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas

by Chad Berndtson on April 15, 2014

Photo by Paul Citone/ Erik Kabik Photography


Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas

Las Vegas, NV

March 30

Lettuce and Las Vegas are a fine match.

A Vegas audience is inevitably a mix of good-timers looking for a drinking crowd, business travelers wanting more than an 80s cover band in their music on a night out from whatever conference they're in town for, and all types of concertgoers in between.

Since returning to active duty a few years ago after many years of sporadic reunions, Lettuce has quietly been one of the scene's most consistent bands. The sound is old-school funk, groove, soul and R&B, but the execution is aggressive, present and immediate -- this band comes at you as much as it invites you over. Watching Lettuce be its typically brilliant self on a recent Sin City Sunday, it felt possible to have a soul-soothing instrumental jazz-funk experience, a transcendent night of greased-up guitar-, horns- and organ-driven improv, or just a good old fashioned excuse to shake ass. You get the party and the depth, in the other words. And there's no rushing things; whether it was the core-tickling funk of "By Any Shmeeans Necessary" or the choogling "Madison Square" or the rat-a-tat horns and whirring guitars of "Last Suppit" or the workouts and extended teases of Bob Marley's "Exodus" or Jay-Z's "Niggas In Paris," everything felt rightly extended and mined for possibility.

You hear those characteristics in other Royal Family bands, not least Soulive, but Lettuce is a bit greasier, a bit gnarlier, apt to let its edges fray, though when it needs to be, as precise as a Swiss watch. You can tell the group's individual members are thinking this way; Eric Krasno, in Lettuce, is much more Eddie Hazel than George Benson, and the horns more often take control than color the music. And less-discussed, even among the Lettuce faithful, is how adept the band is at going deep into psychedelic funk territory -- there may not be a more faithful heir to the sound of early Funkadelic at it most menacing -- and creating layers of cosmic, sometimes corrosive noise that go several steps beyond a more straight-ahead, get-up funk style.

Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas -- owned, as is Relix, by Peter Shapiro -- is a larger version of the jamband temple in New York that somehow nails the tone of the original Brooklyn Bowl while feeling right at home -- chicken, sound systems, bright lights and all -- on the heart of the Las Vegas strip. No easy feat, but then, those who'd scoff at it probably miss what a significant jamband culture exists in Las Vegas. Bring on the music, in other words.

Authors: Chad Berndtson