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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Paying It Forward: Josh Clark and Turbine At The Bowery Poetry Club 

By: David Schultz
Photo By: Stacy Berger

The pages of TMZ are filled with stories of musicians treating their friends and too often their fans with a deplorable lack of respect. Tales of selfish behavior make for great press and unfortunately seem to nestle snugly inside the glove that is the egocentric world of celebrity. On the flip side, whenever a musician performs a good deed that’s falls short of bringing debt relief to the Third World, adopting a Malawaian child or staging a benefit concert, such news usually flies under the radar; that is, unless a reporter wants to cast a skeptical eye upon the situation. Josh Clark, guitarist for San Francisco’s Tea Leaf Green, performed one of those rarely discussed acts of kindness by flying across the country to participate in a Friday night farewell soiree for one his fans. In playing an acoustic set at the Bowery Poetry Club, just across the road from the John Varvatos store occupying the former home of CBGB, Clark, along with upcoming local jamsters Turbine, gave the club a decidedly rowdier form of lyrics, meter and verse.

Seated on stage, Clark ran through a ninety-plus minute set of stripped down Tea Leaf Green tunes, accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar and occasionally on harmonica. It’s always fun to see a skilled guitarist play in an acoustic setting and Clark didn’t disappoint. He provided a small amount of fretboard fireworks but for the most part, closed his eyes and focused on the music. Initially, Clark battled an unnecessarily chatty crowd by offering acoustic renditions of hard-edged songs like “Dragonfly,” and “Bouncin’ Betty” as well as “Stick To The Shallows” off of Tea Leaf’s recently released Raise Up The Tent. As the set progressed, Clark charmed the crowd, bringing them into his world. Whenever he would banter with the audience, flash a mischievous smile or simply get them into the partying mood with songs like “The Bacon Song” (what you get when you give the guitarist whiskey), “Relax And Get Naked” and an emphatic rendering of Ween’s Spaghetti Western styled “Buenos Tardes Amigo.”

Clark may not have hit the right vocal heights for his cover of The Beatles’ “In My Life” but for “Working Class Hero,” Clark clearly inhabited the song’s proletariat soul. By the end of the night, Clark and the crowd, which contained a healthy smattering of Tea Leaf’s active New York fan base, were working as one, with the fans providing supporting vocals to “Piss It Away” and howling along to a cover of G&R’s “Used To Love Her.” Clark finished the night with a pair of his finest compositions, the wistfully hopeful “Carter Hotel” and the slightly harrowing “Jackson Hole,” which he segued nicely into The Meat Puppets’ “Lake Of Fire.”

Following Clark, New York City’s Turbine kept the BPC dancing till the wee hours of the morning with their jamtastic blend of funk, blues and rock. They may not have conjured up the restless spirit of CBGB but they did raise the ghost of Wetlands Preserve. In that vein, Turbine does sound a little too derivative of the jambands of yore; over the course of the night you could detect some Widespread Panic as well as some Grateful Dead, Eric Johnson and Justin Kimmel do a good job emulating the rhythm section of The Police and when a band prominently features a harmonica player, you’re going to have Blues Traveler flashbacks. Blatantly showing your influences isn’t that much a drawback though; O.A.R. has made an entire career out of serving up healthy doses of warmed-over Bob Marley. That all being said, Turbine possesses a fine spark and built their songs into satisfying jams, displaying a fire and creative energy that kept their set interesting. Jeremy Hilliard plays an enjoyable lead guitar and Ryan Rightmire does wonders with his harmonica. When Rightmire’s not engaging in John Popper inflected riffage, he uses an assortment of pedals to transform the sound with a wide range of effects. For the end of their set, Clark returned to the stage with an electric guitar, joining in on an extended run through Eric Clapton’s “Got To Get Better In A Little While” that, for some reason, moved along to the beat of “Forever Man.”

After the Labor Day weekend, Turbine will be heading west for a number of dates in Colorado and then pass through upstate New York in early October. After his one-off solo performance, Clark will rejoin Tea Leaf Green and, as is there wont, hit the road. They will return to New York City’s HighLine Ballroom for a pair of pre-Thanksgiving shows on November 25th and 26th.

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