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Published: 2014/02/20
by Josh Frances

Lettuce, Port City Music Hall, Portland, ME- 2/7

The seaside city of Portland, Maine predictably turned to funkytown as Lettuce rolled in for a much-anticipated, booty-shaking dance party at Port City Music Hall, the local and uber-popular 600 “seat” music venue. As the sold out crowd piled in and local funk-lovers fought for prized real estate on the rail, the crowd was treated to guitar guru Eric Krasno-turned-“DJ Kraz,” spinning his notorious digital turn tables to get the crowd funked up. This master of the six-strings showed that his talents definitely reverb beyond his better known guitar skills.

Lettuce consists of Eric Krasno (guitar),Adam Deitch (drums),Ryan Zoidis (saxophone),Eric Bloom (trumpet),Neal Evans (keys),Erik “Jesus” Coomes (bass) and Adam Shmeeans Smirnoff (guitar) who have been playing together for 20 years. Though many of the boys (including vocalist/keyboard extraordinaire Nigel Hall and Saxophonist James Casey) and have equally successful projects that keep them busy, Lettuce has been the constant in their lives, musically grounding them since their days together at Berklee College in Boston. Krasno plays in Soulive and can often be found filling in on Bass with Tedeschi Trucks Band and others. Deitch is the pack leader for Break Science, while Evans performs with Soulive and the Alan Evans Trio. Smirnoff is the front runner of Shmeeans and the Expanded Consciousness, while horn gurus Zoidis and Bloom both jam in additional projects nationwide.

As the boys from Brooklyn took the stage, it was clear the crowd was in for a special treat. Dietch pounded the skins hard, as the team led off with “Double Header,” a jam that gave everyone around the horn a chance to warm up and start to cook. As the crowd continued to get their funkadelic juices flowing, the band moved through “Suppit” and “Dilla” into two extremely tight and stellar versions of Ziggowatt and Bowler, both hits from their latest LP, Fly. Rivaling legends such as Sly and the Family Stone and George Clinton’s Parliament, these tracks were complex and compact, displaying seamless arrays of musical connectivity. By this time it was clear that the rocket ship to the lunar-funk-a-sphere had taken off.

While Evans consistently displayed otherworldly keyboard talent, Shmeeans and Coomes played off one another through the next few jams, never once stopping their feet from moving and bouncing. Blues siren and frequent collaborator Alecia Chakour (Allman Bros and Warren Haynes Bands) dropped unspeakable vocals as the arm-waving, head-bobbing, booty-shaking crowd jammed in awe. Local soul singer Kenya Hall also came out for an excellent version of “What do I have to do,” injecting her neo-soul/funk knowhow to Lettuce’s soulful salad. The highlight of the night came in the form of “Madison Square,” with Bloom and Zoidis exploding on the horns, Jesus dropping unbelievably tight bass lines and Shmeeans bopping non-stop. The energy brought the crowd to their knees, and back to their feet again and again, as the boys closed out the night. Dubbed “The Royal Family,” Lettuce demonstrated the veracity of this moniker. Clearly Lettuce is on top of their game, reigning as the kings of funk.

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