The night after Oteil & Friends ride the energy of heavy funk, Lettuce headlines Eagle Block Party at 9 p.m. Saturday.
In much the same way Oteil Burbridge ripples out the good vibes produced by Dead & Company’s last tour, Lettuce brings a sense of unity after separation caused by the pandemic.
“Unify,” the band’s eighth studio album, completes its loose trilogy, which began with the 2019 Grammy-nominated “Elevate” and continued with 2020’s “Resonate.” The beginnings of “Unify” emerged when Lettuce gathered at Colorado Sound to work on “Elevate” and generated enough material to fill more than two records. The band’s short, 2021 tour led to further material. But truncated tours due to COVID-19 prevented them from extensively road-testing the tunes; instead, the band discovered the depths of the music in the studio as they made it, enhanced by Nigel Hall’s brilliant lyrics and Eric “Benny” Bloom’s fiery horns.
“We were excited to see each other after a long break (due to the pandemic). We missed each other as friends and playing together, and the record really reflects that. There’s a lot of love in that record,” said drummer Adam Deitch, describing the album as up-tempo, trippy and spacey with vocal tunes. “It’s one of our best pieces we’ve put out in 30 years. We weren’t in a rush. We had time to write the music all together. We sent cuts to each other throughout the pandemic.”
One of Lettuce’s idols, the legendary icon of funk Bootsy Collins, partially inspired the album — and endorsed it, singing and playing bass on “Keep That Funk Alive.”
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“Our audiences are going to hear how we end up interpreting these songs for the first time, in the live form, and then for the 300th time,” said guitarist Adam Smirnoff.
During its Boston beginnings, the soulful funk outfit named itself after originally showing up at college parties, asking if they could play a few songs. “Let us play” became a joke among friends and led to the shortened name: Lettuce.
“We dreamed this up when we were teenagers, and here we are. We’re doing it,” saxophonist Ryan Zoidis said.
As Deitch points out, “It’s been a long, evolving process, and we’re doing our best work at this point. Everyone is on point.”
The band, and its latest album, aims to “teleport you to a funky galaxy far, far away, where all life coexists as one in peace, love, harmony and music.”
Lettuce is stoked to share the Block Party lineup with Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, which plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“We really respect and love General Karl Dennison, and it’s always great to be on the bill with him,” Deitch said. “He’s kind of like our uncle who paved the way in instrumental funk.”
Deitch used to be a member of Pretty Lights, so if you couldn’t get tickets to that show, he said:
“We’ll be breaking it down and bringing the heavy funk on Saturday. No matter what kind of music you like, whether it’s EDM, funk, hip-hop or jam bands, this festival is for you.”