Featured pop concert: G. Love & Special Sauce celebrate the old and new at Festival Pier

(From left) G. Love Dutton, Jimmy Prescott, and Jeffrey Clemens.
(From left) G. Love Dutton, Jimmy Prescott, and Jeffrey Clemens.
Posted: August 02, 2014

Some of us Philadelphians are getting old. G. Love & Special Sauce - this city's prime instigators of blues-inflected hip-hop - are heading a bill at Festival Pier on Saturday night. But can it be that the band is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its first self-titled album? Could it be that Garrett "G. Love" Dutton's son Aidan turned 13 on the day of this interview?

"Everyone's good," says Dutton, celebrating his son's birthday on Martha's Vineyard, coinciding with acoustic gigs the twosome perform at beach-town clubs. "Aidan plays drums with me, doing these solo shows, when he's not studying at the School of Rock in Boston."

Does Aidan have the same sophisticated taste that led Dutton, then 21, to mix hip-hop with Charlie Christian, Big Bill Broonzy, and Muddy Waters in 1994, when he recorded G. Love & Special Sauce with partners Jeffrey Clemens (drums) and Jimmy Prescott (bass)? "Oh, man, Aidan's way more advanced as a player than I was," says Dutton. "He's got me as a dad, his stepdad is a musician, and his mom is something of a hipster."

As for the 1994 album, Dutton was well aware of the 20th anniversary, and he was even talking to Sony (whose Okeh label released it originally) about a rerelease. But G. Love & Special Sauce had something else in view - a brand-new album for 2014, Sugar. "We figured the best way to honor our first record was to play it live - front to back - which was cool," says Dutton, referring to a brief winter 2014 tour whose two-day stop in Colorado found the band taping a show for upcoming release.

Recording Sugar, it wasn't as though the reunited Sauce (apart for six years) had problems connecting. Dutton has been working with Clemens on and off ("mostly on"), and their relationship with Prescott was amiable. "Know what?" Dutton says. "We only ever fought about music - nothing else, really - because each of us is dedicated to our craft and has strong opinions about every detail." Dutton pauses, then laughs. "We're sensitive."

With Sugar, the band started with a set of heartbreak-oriented tracks, but soon worked up a new group of tunes with great passion and energy. "All we had to do was press the record button and we were off to the races," Dutton says. The tunes spoke of music itself, its pursuit, the business, making it one's life, the career arc from street busker (which Dutton was before getting signed) to road dog.

"The new songs we have, we're doing them differently than we have in the past," Dutton says. "Like, say 'Come Up Man,' which is like Elmore James meets Cypress Hill? That's our most obvious take on our hip-hop/ blues thing, which by now we have fully realized and know where it's going in the future. Because we can legitimately call ourselves bluesmen now. It's real. We're not kids anymore. We've been doing this for 20 years, marinating it, seasoning it."

Speaking of marinating, the inevitable has happened. Dutton has his own line of sauces, available online ( www.gloveshotsaucecom) in three flavors (Original Hot, Caribbean Lolo, and Sambal) and on G.Love's HOT Sauce Blues Chicken Frizzle chicken cutlet sandwiches at Tony Luke's. Another sign we are all getting older. "It's a lifestyle thing," says Dutton. "I think about what I've been doing, how long I've been doing it, and the community around that - and we've grown up. So it's about being in people's house. Either you bring the music to their house, or the food into the house. I'd like to tie in all my Philly roots together and give people something to latch on to."


Hemp Heals presents G. Love & Special Sauce, Stephen Marley, and Slightly Stoopid at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Festival Pier, Columbus Blvd. & Spring Garden St. Tickets: $20-$35. Information: 1-800-745-3000, www.Ticketmaster.com.

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