Article by Tim McLaughlin, Photography by Hapless Guitar Photography
I am a huge blues fan, I am a hug rap fan (80s / 90s), I love live music and I think that a band CAN be judge by their rhythm section. G. Love and Special Sauce checks those boxes, and they have a GREAT rhythm section.
G. Love has these meet and greets where he will place an acoustic set. Its one part requests, one part storyteller, and one part photo/autograph session. This time at the HiFi in the Fountain Square neighborhood of Indianapolis was unique because the mix of music and questions was quite varied. G. was asked when he learned to play and talked about playing in grade school and how he didn’t think his singing was good enough. His punchline made all present chuckle, “I learned to play Norwegian Wood, but told everyone that this song doesn’t have lyrics.” He was also asked about playing the guitar, singing, and playing the harmonica he said it easier than playing the drums. What surprised me was that he busted out Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” and stunned those in attendance. I don’t really see him as a folk player, unless its in the context of Delta Blues.
You ALWAYS see the opener!
Ron Artis II and the Truth
Each time I’ve see G. Love as a solo artist or with Special Sauce he has an amazing band open up for him. The first time at The Vogue in 2015 he had a local act, Indianapolis duo, Ghosts of Kin. The second time at The Vogue 2017 he had Boston’s Funk/Blues/Soul band RIPE, and this time is was the Hawaii trio Ron Artis II & The Truth brought a mix of Blues/Funk to Indy. I was blown away by this band as their range rivaled that of the main act. One song was like Gary Clark Jr., the next like James Brown and all had the crowd dancing. They certainly earned more than a few new fans in Indianapolis on this night.
Ron Artis II
Even though G. Love plays guitar, sings, raps, and plays a killer harmonic, it’s the rhythm section who has his back that makes up what is “Special Sauce.“ On the bass you have Vermont native, Boston University graduate, Jimi “Jazz Prescott, who when he isn’t playing with G. Love is the leader of the Jim Prescott Trio. On the drums you have a fellow New Englander, Jeffrey “Houseman” Clemens who lays down the funk like a zen master. Oh yeah, he’ll sing a little backup too. Clemens has a been with the band since the beginning, but brings along some of the influences since he’s played with the likes of Dan Auerbach, Harry Connick Jr, and Kenny Vaughan while not on the road with G. Love.
If you’re in Indiana you know basketball.
G. Love and Special Sauce came out to their hype man as usual and greeted the crowd with their standard banter, and got down to business. Seeing that this is the 25th Anniversary Tour of the band, 15 records in the books and a new one coming out this year, the setlist contained over 20 songs. Starting with “Don’t Drop It,” and contained many of the well known songs like “G. Love’s Blues,” “Baby’s Got Sauce,” “Shooting Hoops (aka Playing’ Basketball).” If you’re in Indiana and you have a basketball song on your setlist, you’re golden. Like many of the songs, G. Love grabs the mic and does some freestyle rap and high fives the crowd. He reached backing into the archives and played my favorite “I-76,” and with that song the night for me was complete. For the crowd though I think the favorite was “Who’s Got the Weed.” including the freestyle rap “Obama Smokes Weed Freestyle,” making sure to reference Indiana some of it’s cities in it.
G-Love with Jimi Jazz
The more the merrier
Another staple of a G. Love show is for him to bring up the opening act and this was no different. So many times the opener has stage time with the main act, but these shows EVERYONE gets to play with the band. The best part of the G. Love is that it is always about “The Show.” The opener, the band, the sound guy ,the meet and greet, and most of all the crowd.