Article and photos by Sarah Spencer
On April 1, 2010, the day G. Love and Special Sauce hit Little Rock, I decided to make arrangements to catch the show and, boy, am I glad I did! Although I was flying solo (some of my friends can’t be as spontaneous as yours truly) the nearly 500 strong at the Rev Room made my imaginations of a lonely night disappear. It was one, big, diverse, group of fans at a groove thumping, intimate jam session.
The opening band, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, a contemporary reggae band out of New York, was gracing an Arkansas stage for the very first time with their keys and bass-driven, echo and reverberation psychedelic sound. The quartet consists of Dylan Savage on guitar, James Searl on bass guitar, Chris O’Brian on drums and Aaron Lipp on organ. It is noteworthy that all four members are talented in the vocal department. I couldn’t pinpoint a lead vocalist, although Savage and Searl caught my attention with their cool, soothing pipes. The growing audience soon was in a rhythmic sway to the vibe these New Yorkers were sending out. With a name like Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, expectations were high and they did not disappoint.
Musical veterans out of Philadelphia, formed in 1993, G. Love and Special Sauce were ready to handle the business and light up the stage with their unique blend of blues, hip-hop, and laid back rootsy funk giving a fresh summertime sound. Frontman G. Love came out with his harmonica rack around his neck and bright blue guitar in hand and immediately took a seat. They started off the set with a couple of time-tested party-startin’ favorites in “Blues Music” and “Garbage Man,” which then led to their first extended jam of the night. Timo Shanko was tearin’ it up with his upright bass when the band transitioned into “Dreamin” off the 1999 Philadelphonic album. The momentum continued with “Fire it Up” and kept moving right on through to G. Love using his harmonica as a slide during their classic, “My Baby’s Got Sauce,” with it’s slow blend of rap and funky blues off their debut and self-titled album from 1994.
For “Who’s Got the Weed?” it didn’t take long for someone in the audience to pass G. Love up a joint, which he soon passed to a different fan without a puff for himself. “Party Freakin'” had the crowd divided right down the middle for a sing-off/yell-off with some prompting from G. Love. I was pleasantly surprised they’re still kickin’ it old school with their own special version of Snoop Dog’s jam “Gin and Juice”. For the encore, G. Love returned alone and once again took a seat for a solo performance of “Still Hangin'” and “Booty Call” in which he insisted he “could tell that we gonna be friends” and with that Little Rock crew, he was absolutely right. G. Love and Special Sauce have all the ingredients for a fresh flavor that keeps fans coming back for seconds and thirds to lap up every drop year after year.
G. Love and Special Sauce are Garrett Dutton on vocals, guitar and harmonica as G. Love, Jeffrey Clemens on drums as Houseman, Mark Boyce on keys and guitar and Timo Shanko on upright bass and saxophone.