In November of last year, in the span of a week, spacey Funk/Fusion ensemble Lettuce played shows with Waka Flocka Flame and the Colorado Symphony orchestra. That gives a clue to the (mostly) instrumental sextet’s dynamic appeal and multi-dimensional musical approach, but only a very small one. Guessing what the band actually sounds like based on those concert-mates would be like guessing what Edvard Munch was trying to paint in “The Scream” based solely on the color scheme.
Listening to Lettuce — or, better yet, experiencing Lettuce live — is the best way to truly understand the group’s psychedelic mystique, which sits at the interstellar crossroads of Flying Lotus, Miles Davis, The Beastie Boys’ instrumental album The Mix-Up, Tower of Power, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Thundercat, Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters and Funkadelic.
Lettuce’s origin story begins in 1992, when the musicians met as teenagers at a summer program at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. When they returned to attend school at Berklee a couple of years later, they began to play together in local clubs, eventually getting into touring and developing a fanbase that ultimately extended all the way to Tokyo. Lettuce released its debut album, Outta Here, in 2002. Besides their work together, the members of Lettuce have put their Berklee studies to good use individually; the musicians are go-to players/producers in the music world, working with everyone from Talib Kweli and Kanye West to John Scofield and Britney Spears.
Lettuce has released a slew of albums since its early ’00s recording debut, including 2015’s Crush (which topped the Jazz charts upon its release) and 2017’s Witches Stew, a blissfully loose and impulsive live tribute to Miles Davis’ landmark 1970 album Bitches Brew. But Lettuce shows its true self best on stage, with an improv-minded mastery that has helped to make the group hugely popular in Jam band circles. The deep Funk grooves, eclectic horn work and masterful guitar and keyboard/organ riffing are swirled together deliciously, combining to create an experience that is both dance-friendly and cerebral.
Lettuce’s current tour — which comes to Covington, Kentucky’s Madison Theater this Thursday (Jan. 24) — is in conjunction with the nonprofit voter education organization headcount.org’s Cannabis Voter Project, which is traveling with the band and sharing information at each stop. The CVP launched its website, cannabisvoter.info, last year to help voters find out where candidates across the country stand on the legal issues surrounding cannabis.
If you visit the site, you can search specific to your state and find out what candidates and current officials have said(and how they have voted) on things like legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational use.
In Kentucky, for example, you can see that Mitch McConnell has not supported any move towards cannabis legalization (though he did introduce the Hemp Farming Bill last year, to end prohibition on industrial hemp), while his fellow Kentucky senator, Rand Paul, has said “there should be no federal laws prohibiting marijuana.”
Ohio’s officials and representatives are divided more sharply along political party lines, though, surprisingly, Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown has expressed pretty conservative views on the drug, earning him a “D” grade from NORML in 2016.
Lettuce is donating $1 from every ticket sold on its current tour to the Cannabis Voter Project.