G. Love jams for free at the Chapel

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Few minimally publicized events can draw crowds on a Tuesday night, let alone crowds that wrap around the block hours before the doors even open. But free music from G. Love & Special Sauce, a band that has been around for decades, and an open bar have the ability to do just that.

The Chapel, in the heart of the Mission, hosted the intimate show Nov. 11 for the alternative blues band from Philadelphia. Pandora partnered with Norton to sponsor the event, resulting in promotional materials crowding the venue. Norton went so far as to give a free, yearlong subscription to anti-virus security, tucked inside a drawstring Norton backpack aside a box of Norton mints, to the first 50 guests in line. Even the custom-made G. Love screen prints stood as promotional material for the companies.

But with the offer of a free night of music and a well-stocked open bar, little attention was given to the event’s commercialization. The concert drew an audience that ranged from 40-year-old diehard G. Love fans to those who flocked to the event for the promise of free entertainment.

Although the band released its first album in 1994, G. Love & Special Sauce only recently reunited after an extended hiatus that began when bassist Jim Prescott left the band in 2009. Prescott rejoined G. Love to collaborate on its newest release, Sugar, and its subsequent tour. Along with Garrett Dutton, or G. Love, on vocals, guitar and harmonica, and Jeffrey Clemens on drums, the band creates a blend of hip-hop and lazy blues. They played under a massive disco ball, which rotated hypnotic reflections throughout the venue.

During the set, they pulled tracks from most of their albums from the last two decades, including Sugar. The title track of this recent release started the show with its raspy, looping chants. They also chose “Come Up Man,” “Saturday Night” and “Nite Life,” from Sugar, then moved to play favorites such as “Baby’s Got Sauce” and “Cold Beverage” — and during both, spectators from all walks of life took to dancing. Through the tracks, he simultaneously plucked his guitar and wailed on the harmonica while intermittently rapping — a combination that makes G. Love what it is. Dutton added a slide to his finger to intensify the grittiness of the performance.

Although their instrumentals impressed the audience, the hip-hop interludes fell short at points and distracted from the musicians’ talent in blues. They redeemed themselves, however, by making the entire set feel more like a jam session than the start of a tour in front of a packed house.

Sasha Chebil covers music. Contact her at [email protected].