Reviews

Sing Out for Seva feat. Mickey Hart and Friends, Tea Leaf Green, and Chris Robinson's Wooden Family

Greg M. Schwartz
Wavy Gravy

What happens when San Francisco’s finest pay tribute to infamous activist and hippie extraordinaire Wavy Gravy on his 71st birthday? Psychedelic insanity...

Sing Out for Seva

Sing Out for Seva feat. Mickey Hart and Friends, Tea Leaf Green, and Chris Robinson's Wooden Family

City: San Francisco, CA
Venue: The Grand Ballroom
Date: 2007-05-18

Taking its name from the Sanskrit word for service, the Seva (pronounced say-va) Foundation is a non-profit organization that has been raising and distributing funds for a variety of altruistic deeds since 1978. The group helps the blind gain access to affordable cataract surgeries in countries such as Tibet, India, Nepal, and other regions throughout Asia and Africa; brings healthcare, clean water, and educational support to poor indigenous communities in Guatemala and Chiapas, Mexico; and provides health and wellness programs for Native Americans. Proving that no good deed goes unnoticed, musicians gathered at the Grand Ballroom for the annual Sing Out for Seva benefit show in honor of hippie activist Wavy Gravy’s 71st birthday -- an event which doubled as a fundraiser for the Berkeley-based foundation. Seva’s co-founder, Gravy made a fitting MC for the proceedings, bringing a dose of '60s vibrations along with the flat-out joy that comes from still being here on this mudball after a full life’s worth of activism and adventure. For his part, Gravy and a variety of mime-like comic cohorts provided Merry Prankster-like entertainment between acts. Though the show has taken place at the Berkeley Community Theater in recent years, San Francisco’s Grand Ballroom turned out to be quite a classy alternate venue: the room blends the intimacy of the Great American Music Hall with psychedelicized chandeliers that recall the Fillmore. The venue was just the right size -- it seemed fairly full but not totally jammed -- and the blend of old and new acts brought in a diverse crowd whose ages spanned the spectrum. Local up-and-comers Tea Leaf Green got things cooking with a signature blend of jam rock that borrows equally from '60s and '90s acts. Gravy invoked the names of no less than Jerry Garcia, Bill Graham, and Janis Joplin when introducing Tea Leaf Green as San Francisco’s heirs to the city’s jam-rock throne. Coming off of their scintillating April 20th show at the Fillmore, TLG did not disappoint. While the set was relatively unique, with guitarist Josh Clark and bassist Ben C. donning acoustic instruments, the band still rocked: Clark ripped off the same hot leads he does on the electric guitar, and keyboardist Trevor Garrod stole the show with soulful vocals and piano plunking. One got the sense that the older fans in attendance were pleasantly surprised at the quality and depth of the young guns.

Chris Robinson

Chris Robinson, lead singer of the Black Crowes, was up next with his Wooden Family -- an acoustic trio with boasting two guitars, a bass, and no drums. Some were disappointed by the fact that Robinson didn’t rock out, and he acknowledged that it is something of a challenge to be in the one band on the bill playing without a drummer. Still, Robinson is one of his generation’s finest songsmiths, and the trio’s set was rich with melody. “Tumbleweeds in Eden,” from the singer’s debut solo album, New Earth Mud, was a particular highlight -- recognized by some as the tune Robinson had played as part of Phil Lesh and Friends in the fall of 2005. Alas, rumors that Lesh would make an unbilled guest appearance with Robinson did not come true. But the Crowe did deliver one surprise, pulling out a soulful, stirring version of the Grateful Dead classic “New Speedway Boogie.” San Francisco stalwarts since 1984, Zero hit the stage next, throwing down a searing set of funky and jazzy jams. Powered by lead guitarist Steve Kimock, drummer Greg Anton, keyboardist Melvin Seals, and saxophonist Martin Fierro, the band has gone up and down over the years, but this dazzling set showed that it has all the energy it needs to keep moving forward.

Mickey Hart

Headliner Mickey Hart and Friends took the stage later for the evening's final set. The former Grateful Dead drummer was joined by two of his bandmates from last fall’s well-received Rhythm Devils tour -- vocalist Jen Durkin and guitarist Kimock (who was pulling double duty with Seva). Fellow Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann and Phish bassist Mike Gordon weren’t present as they had been with the Rhythm Devils, but legendary Meters bassist George Porter Jr. and Phil Lesh and Friends drummer John Molo were more-than-able fill-ins. Sikiru Adepoju also joined in on the talking drum, conjuring superb polyrhythmic sounds. The band threw down a number of the songs that Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter recently wrote for the Rhythm Devils, with “Fountains of Wood” rocking the crowd into a particularly excellent groove. Porter funked it up in a supreme way, while Molo and Hart were synched much like Hart and Kreutzmann had been in days gone by. Some were surprised when the band started in on the evening’s second version of “New Speedway Boogie,” but, whereas Robinson’s version was slow and acoustic, this one was electric and fully freaked out. The “one way or another, this darkness got to give” chorus rang as true as ever. From 1969’s lament for the murder of a fan at the hands of Hell’s Angels at the notorious Altamont Festival, to 21st century blues for the world’s current conflicts, the song remains a timeless commentary on injustice and pain. The band wrapped things up with a splendid rendition of Dead classic “Fire on the Mountain” that gave every band member a chance to shine and got the crowd fully immersed in a kind of old-school, psychedelic-groove ecstasy. Alas, when the song ended and the band left the stage, it seemed the set had been a bit brief. But according to the clocks, fans had just witnessed over four hours of music, and, with all the evening’s proceeds going toward the Seva Foundation, it was one hell of a birthday party. Long live Gravy.
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Film

Alastair Sim: A Very English Character Actor Genius

Alastair Sim belongs to those character actors sometimes accused of "hamming it up" because they work at such a high level of internal and external technique that they can't help standing out.

Music

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's New LP Is Lacking in Songcraft but Rich in Texture

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's The Mosaic of Transformation is a slightly uneven listen. It generally transcends the tropes of its genre, but occasionally substitutes substance for style.

Music

Buzzcocks' 1996 Album 'All Set' Sees the Veteran Band Stretching Out and Gaining Confidence

After the straightforward and workmanlike Trade Test Transmissions, Buzzcocks continued to hone their fresh identity in the studio, as exhibited on the All Set reissue contained on the new box-set Sell You Everything.

Books

Patrick Madden's 'Disparates' Makes Sense in These Crazy Times

There's no social distancing with Patrick Madden's hilarious Disparates. While reading these essays, you'll feel like he's in the room with you.

Music

Perfume Genius Purges Himself and It's Contagious

You need to care so much about your art to pack this much meaning into not only the words, but the tones that adorn and deliver them. Perfume Genius cares so much it hurts on Set My Heart on Fire Immediately.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Confinement and Escape: Emma Donoghue and E.L. Doctorow in Our Time of Self-Isolation

Emma Donoghue's Room and E.L. Doctorow's Homer & Langley define and confront life within limited space.

Books

Political Cartoonist Art Young Was an Aficionado of all Things Infernal

Fantagraphics' new edition of Inferno takes Art Young's original Depression-era critique to the Trump White House -- and then drags it all to Hell.

Music

Folk's Jason Wilber Examines the World Through a Futurist Lens in 'Time Traveler' (album stream)

John Prine's former guitarist and musical director, Jason Wilber steps out with a new album, Time Traveler, featuring irreverent, pensive, and worldly folk music.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.