With the impending L train shutdown looming ahead of us, it seems that everyone is getting out to a live gig before it’s too late. Williamsburg was buzzing on Friday night as G. Love & Special Sauce launched their 2-night residency at the beloved Brooklyn Bowl. With opening band The Ries Brothers along for support, the space filled in early, with people eager to get right up to the stage and immerse themselves into the action.
Not knowing what to expect when I saw a drum kit stationed next to a lonely bass, I was surprised to see that Charlie Ries, the older of the two, held down drums, keys and vocals, while younger brother Kevin displayed some serious bass chops of his own, along with accompanying background vocals. The Tampa, FL two-piece’s sound is heavily reggae and funk influenced, but easily found its way amongst the sound of pins crashing, clinking glasses and crowd clapping. One of many highlights during their set was when I heard the familiar lyrics of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” take on a whole new life in their clever rework of the timeless tune. Having just heard Eric Clapton’s take on that song just moments before over the PA system, the juxtaposition of the Ries Brothers breezy, eclectic sound sounded absolutely refreshing.
As the stage was readied for G. Love & Special Sauce, the impossibly tight crowd got even tighter as everyone heaved closer to the stage. An upright bass was laying to my left, a lone chair stood in front of me with a guitar nearby, and a drumkit was set up to my far right. The three men took the stage to deafening applause, and it was evident that all the die-hard fans from years past were just as eager to see them for this 25th Anniversary Tour.
They wasted absolutely no time getting down to business, with Garrett, Jeffrey and Jim easily showcasing their talents on their respective instruments. Throughout the night I struggled to even see Jeffrey behind his drum kit, but it was well worth my restricted view for the amount of deep pocket grooves he threw down. Watching Jim wield his bass, and lead the group through a fantastic solo was a thing of beauty in itself. Garrett’s ability to go from singing to rapping was as smooth as silk, and as effortless as breathing. The crowd clapped, danced, sang and rapped along from the very beginning to the end of the show without fail. Bowlers even stopped their games to watch the show at times, and Garrett made sure to make his way over to their side of the stage to add that extra bit of entertainment their games clearly lacked.
During the wait for the encore, a woman standing near me was screaming at the top of her lungs for the band to return for a few more. The guys standing next to her assured her they’d be back, to which she replied, “Oh, I know, I just like to yell for them, they’re my favorite.” I smiled at her enthusiasm, and laughed a bit at her reaction when Garrett appeared solo, acoustic guitar and harmonica in tow. The long acoustic intro with just him gently strumming away on guitar and playing harmonica was oddly beautiful coming from the same man who just rapped to us about “Baby’s Got Sauce,” but it all worked together beautifully, and was the perfect end to a monumental show for the band. Now, of course, I wonder if they were able to top that performance during Night 2. Judging from what I saw, my bets are on “yes.”
Article: Lesley Keller