Itâ€™s been a while since I thought about G. Love & Special Sauce. And by a while, I guess I mean about 17 years since I spent any significant time listening to the Philly alt-hip hop band, back in my apartment on the East Side.
1997's "Yeah, It Was That Easy" was a good album for the time; Garrett Dutton with his laid-back, friendly white guy raps and jangley guitar riffs, the stand-up bass and loose drums. It was a very â€˜90s CD. This was around the time I was listening to Fun Lovinâ€™ Criminals, Blues Traveler and bands like that. So G Love brings back nice memories.
But G. Love & Special Sauce, now a 20-years trio, is still around, and they played at the Miller Lite Oasis on a beautiful Tuesday night. They certainly didnâ€™t stop making records in the â€˜90s, but to me, they still have that Gen X sound that this, ahem, older audience came to hear.
Touring in support of their new album, "Sugar," the band is also celebrating that 20th anniversary with its original lineup. And the crowd at Summerfest seemed to approve.
But talk about an empty crowd. The front bleachers were less than half full and the back tables were empty â€“ yet the weed smell permeated the crowd within seconds of the first tune. Perhaps the jam band attendance was affected by Rusted Root also at Summerfest tonight. The guy next to me said last year's show here was packed.
G-Love played the explicit version of "Booty Call," and that's when I placed how Dutton sounds in 2014. He reminded me a little of a very white Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest. Thatâ€™s a compliment to his cadence and rhymes.
Tonight, we heard plenty of that rapping, plus lots of harmonica and drum solos, and one that transitioned into the Beatles' "Why Don't We Do It In The Road."
Speaking of crossing genres, G Love was way more bluesy than I remembered (which was sometimes good and sometimes bad). Mixing old-school blues with, well, old-school rap, was mostly a unique and pleasantly surprising mash up. Duttonâ€™s guitar playing is also better than I recalled. Or at least I didn't notice it back then.
Because of that musicianship, the mellow but happy crowd eagerly sang along to "Cold Beverage" with its extended bass and drum solos. Rusted Root not withstanding, G Love did his own version of a jam band tonight. It worked more than it didn't.
And unlike my recollection of the records, these musicians didn't sound too thin or minimalist. That's a sign of guys who are great at their craft. Keep in mind that this is just a three-piece band. Dutton (aka G. Love), upright bassist James "Jimi Jazz" Prescott and drummer Jeffrey "The Houseman" Clemens, theyâ€™re still as stripped down as ever. And happy to be here, too.
Everyone cheered when G Love sang/rapped, "Standing by the pay phone in Milwaukee, missing my baby." Nice touch. He recalled his first trip to the Big Gig in 1996 and thanked us all profusely.
Later, "Peace, Love and Happiness" included some back and forth with the crowd, rewarding a fan with his harmonica after the song. "My Baby's Got Sauce" was pretty fun, too.
I guess that sauce was literal, because Dutton busted out a guitar ostensibly made out of a hot sauce oil can, for lack of a better description, near the end of this laid back but never sleepy set. (After all, how could anyone sleep as he lead a "USA" chant for the World Cup team?)
Maybe Dutton shouldâ€™ve saved the chant for the never-ending encore that stretched on just too long.
With such a small crowd, there wasn't a ton of volume for the encore, actually, but the band delivered with a bunch of self-indulgent blues stuff (enough, already), old tunes like the drawn-out "Who's Got The Weed" (spoiler alert: everyone) and my favorite, "I-76," mashed up with Cream's "Strange Brew." They ended with a song from their new album called "Weekend Dance."
But really, it was not too shabby for a more than 100-minute show on a gorgeous summer night, although there was an ample amount of farting around with extended bluesy jams. It almost ruined the show, actually, but not quite. They were just too good, even if not very focused.
Even at 41, Dutton is making fun, good-time, party music that is chill in its own way.
Yes, G Love & Special Sauce might be a staple of another decade, but Dutton et al showed tonight theyâ€™re still growing and evolving. Not always in the right direction, but give this band credit for not standing still.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Andy Tarnoff
Published April 30, 2015
Just a few years ago, all Katie Daly knew about candles is that they smelled nice, and she liked having them around the house. Her boyfriend, Cody Weiss, didn't disagree. But Daly, always a self-admitted "type-A antsy person" found herself bored and browsing Pinterest one day, when she saw a how-to guide to making soy candles in Mason jars. The corporate trainer melted some wax on the stove, adding some lavender oil - and found herself surprised when the candle actually burned.
Published April 6, 2015
Something weird happened to me around the beginning August last year: I started wanting the Brewers season to be over.
Published April 3, 2015
Here are seven recent Brewers pitchers that I would love to get back. Even if these weren't necessarily the best players, they each brought something special to the crew.
Published April 2, 2015
In a time when Zappos and Amazon and brick-and-mortar sporting good chains have cemented their spot as go-to places for running shoes and apparel, you might not think that starting a local running store would be a sound business idea. Don't tell that to Jessica and Trae Hoepner, the owners of Performance Running Outfitters, a business that started with one humble store and expanded to three, with a fourth in the works.
Published March 19, 2015
My 18th annual Brewers Spring Training trip is now complete, and I'm back in chilly Milwaukee, which actually feels a little better after a few days under the beating hot sun of the desert. This trip was a good one. A really good one. New experiences, old friends and lots and lots of baseball. But you probably know about all that if you read my blog entries this week.
Published March 18, 2015
When I left off yesterday, I was feeling tan, rested and ready for baseball, and we made the 30-minute drive from Talking Stick Resort to Peoria Stadium a little before noon. Brewers fans were out in force for the game against the Padres. St. Patty's Day revelry was in full effect.
Published March 17, 2015
I've said this before, but sometimes Spring Training feels a lot like the movie "Groundhog Day." Events, games and trips tend to run together, because with only a few variations, you're basically doing the same thing every day (and of course, that's a very good thing). But yesterday, we did something that we've only done one other time in 18 years: we didn't go to a Brewers game.
Published March 16, 2015
When you've been awake for 24 consecutive hours, due to an early flight, a time change and the excitement of an 18th consecutive Spring Training trip to Arizona, it's understandable to make a few bad decisions. Fortunately, the only one I regret is that humungous carne asada burrito from Filiberto's at 2 a.m. Mountain Standard Time, before collapsing into a few hours of sleep at the Talking Stick Resort here in Scottsdale.
Published March 10, 2015
Every year - since 1998 - I've made the trip to Arizona to watch the Brewers get ready for a long, long season of baseball. It's my favorite work/fun trip (edging out even Las Vegas) that I get to take, but with all the fun and sun in the desert, it's surprisingly easy to forget to pay attention to the baseball on the field.
Published March 9, 2015
Mequon native Tom Wachs knew he wanted to be a meteorologist a young age. After working in several smaller markets, he returned to his home last year, and even in a tough, demanding job, he's loving every minute of it. We caught up with Wachs to talk tornados, technology, and what it was like to dress up as a clown at his last job.