Bands don’t get to Red Rocks by accident, and in the case of seminal “future funk” unit Lettuce, they’ve proven themselves a few times over to be a consistent headliner at the legendary venue. This Friday’s “Rage Rocks” event, which they’ll be co-headlining with Lawrence, KS electro-funk sensations The Floozies, will be the third annual recurrence of what’s sure to be a blissful rage party under beautiful Colorado skies. And as anyone who has attended a concert at Red Rocks knows, our skies are even more gorgeous when a masterful band like Lettuce fills them with their wondrous sounds.
Another thing that basically never happens is an act getting to Red Rocks overnight. Sure, buzz bands come and go, but they mostly go. Lettuce has proven they’re not going anywhere with a solid two decades of consistent and persistent touring and recording, while making many ears and feet incredibly happy. And as proven yet again on their most recent release, a live recording of their Miles Davis tribute Witches Stew, there’s a lot more going on in their music to feed listeners’ thirsty ears, minds, and souls than simple dance grooves. This reimagining of songs from Davis’ intensely creative late 60s/early 70s experimental jazz/funk fusion period shows that the members of Lettuce are more than adept at the art of sophisticated, soulful group improvisation. The album, which features re-readings of songs from Davis’s Live-Evil, In A Silent Way, On the Corner, and of course Bitches Brew, shows Lettuce not content to merely replay the songs, but to take them to a whole new level. Given that they’re pushing the genre forward in this way, it’s a small wonder that they’ve been compared to other contemporary fusion pioneers like Flying Lotus, Thundercat, and Kamasi Washington. Add this skill to their fierce dedication to the almighty funk groove, and you’ve got a formula guaranteed to please both the body and the mind.
Lettuce certainly have the pedigree for it, as can be seen just by looking at the credits boasted by their mighty rhythm section. Drummer Adam Deitch, who also plays with Break Science, has played with some of the biggest stars in jazz, hip-hop and soul, including John Scofield, 50 Cent, Talib Kweli, and Wyclef Jean. And bassist Eric “Jesus” Coomes has not only toured with Britney Spears and The Game, he’s also a noted producer, having worked with the likes of Kanye West and Dr. Dre. The other members- keyboardist and vocalist Nigel Hall, guitarist Adam Smirnoff, saxophonist Ryan Zoidis, and trumpeter Eric Bloom- are all highly sought-after musicians who can be heard working all over the international music scene.
Lest anyone get too caught up in this musician’s-eye view of what Lettuce does, let’s be perfectly clear here that this Friday’s show, like all the shows they do, is going to be a party. You don’t need to know anything about jazz to catch the electric buzz of Lettuce’s lightning-rod performances. Above all, this band knows how to get an audience moving and smiling. Co-headliners The Floozies, a duo comprised of brothers with producer/guitarist Matt Hill and drummer Mark Hill, are widely known for their combination of cutting edge electronic music production with insanely infectious dance party grooves and incendiary live performances. With breakout Canadian act The Funk Hunters and Portland, ME rising stars Jaw Gems also on board, it feels entirely safe to say that this Friday’s event at Red Rocks will more than live up to its “rager” name.
All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.