Tea Leaf Green titled its latest CD “Raise Up the Tent,” a nod to the band’s near-nonstop touring habit.

The guys in the band like to raise their tent in every corner of the country. The more time on the road, the better.

“It’s a lifestyle choice, really,” said keyboard player Trevor Garrod, who is also the band’s principal songwriter. “Maybe it was some kind of adolescent dream that we couldn’t shake loose. It gives us something to do every day. It’s the way we like it.”

Tea Leaf Green arrives in Portland on Friday for a show at the downtown Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St.

The San Francisco-area quartet is known as a jam band, and that label is partly accurate. Tea Leaf Green definitely knows how to jam it out, and like any band that cultivates its following on the road, it is endowed with ardent fans who follow them around the country, tape every show and engage in voluminous online discourse about the band and its music.

But Garrod, who shares vocal duties with frontman Josh Clark and also plays a bit of banjo and harmonica, is a dedicated fan of the pop song. He likes to write hooky tunes, and cares deeply about the integrity of song structure.

“Writing songs is something I have been doing since I was really young,” he said. “Ever since I started playing the piano at the age of 10, I was kind of composing. It’s a bit of a cliche, but when I was 8 or 9, I started listening to the Beatles. In junior high school I found Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead, and I guess I’ve always been enamored of the song.

“It’s my spiritual quest, really. It’s very metaphysical, the whole concept of the song. The best songs are the simplest things in the world, but they are so hard to keep from complicating. Just like life.”

Garrod talked about the band during a tour stop in Florida, as it began crawling its way up the East Coast into New England. This week’s itinerary is fairly typical for Tea Leaf Green: The band started with gigs in North Carolina and Virginia, and tonight will play in Burlington, Vt.

After the Portland show on Friday, the band will travel to western Massachusetts and Connecticut before heading back south to Virginia and, by mid-April, back to its home base in California.

Despite its dedication to the road, Friday’s show marks only the third time Tea Leaf Green has played in Maine. Their goal this spring is to cultivate new fans and continue to build a following in preparation for a new CD, which Garrod said should be released by summer. The band recorded the disc last fall, and is in the process of mastering it.

In an unusual move, the band actually took time off last year to regather its strength and record. In 2009, it played just 70 live shows — by far its lowest total since 2001. Typically, Tea Leaf Green plays a Dylanesque 130 shows a year. Its high mark was 151 in 2006.

Fans who show up Friday will hear a lot of the songs that will be on the still-untitled new record, as well as a range of songs from throughout the band’s history.

The live shows have a reputation for cutting wide swaths. There are a lot of loose jams, and the band plays with a funky edge. Tea Leaf Green is also known for trotting out choice covers, particularly during the encores. These last few weeks, it has favored songs by artists as diverse as Paul Simon, Jimi Hendrix and INXS.

Those artists represent the kind of music that has influenced Tea Leaf Green as well as the range of sound the band is capable of producing. being diverse, the band keeps things fresh and lively.

“I think if you look at other rock ‘n’ roll bands, you see a lot of flash. A lot of media. This is their byline and sound byte. We’ve never had that sense of focus,” Garrod said, attributing the band’s ability to stay together more than 15 years to the variety in its music and the interplay among the members.

“It’s always been kind of a free-for-all between the four of us. We all give each other as much room as needed to express ourselves each night.

“What breaks up a lot of bands, I think, individual members feel they are not contributing. That’s not an issue for us. Each night, we all feel like we have contributed something.”

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

[email protected]


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