San Francisco has birthed a cosmic number of bands over the past half-century. Tea Leaf Green represents the Bay Area’s stellar contribution to the current Jam community. The band coalesced in 1997 around rhythm section jams between San Francisco State University students Scott Rager and Ben Chambers, on drums and bass, respectively. Los Angeles defector Josh Clark brought guitar to the party and fellow student Trevor Garrod joined on keyboards. For the first five years, TLG was a progressively evolving local band that attracted a huge local following, with a pair of studio albums and a live set, plus sold-out club dates around the city.
Tea Leaf Green’s national ascent began in 2002 with its appearance at the High Sierra Music Festival and a feature in the Jam bible, Relix, followed by a whirlwind three-year period of cross-country touring (including opening slots for Bob Weir, Gov’t Mule and Trey Anastasio), two more live albums, two new studio discs and a 2006 Jammy Award for Song of the Year for the title track of Taught to Be Proud. TLG’s profile expanded with the DVD documentary Rock ‘n’ Roll Band, directed by Justin Kreutzmann, son of Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann, leading to its first actual label deal with Surfdog Records.
Simultaneously, Chambers announced his departure. Two months later, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey bassist Reed Mathis joined, splitting time between both bands. When the original trio began pursuing side projects, it looked like TLG might have run its course, but late in 2008, after the release of the David Lowery-produced Raise Up the Tent, Mathis announced he was leaving JFJO to devote full attention to Tea Leaf Green.
The band’s sixth studio album, Looking West, dropped last summer, but its unofficial catalog of live recordings is voluminous (at last check, there were 881 live shows available just at archive.org). You’ll probably be able to find the 20th Century show on the Web the day after the show, but wouldn’t you rather be on the recording than just listening to it?