The Mother Hips’ HIPNIC IV: One Fan’s Perspective
Jackie Greene with the Mother Hips
Personally, I don’t care what it takes to get The Mother Hips on the larger stage. With two stunning documentaries available, a hardbound book of photographs of the Hips by the infamous Jay Blakesberg, and a Sierra Nevada beer named after the band—it seems, by any fan’s account, that TV appearances, worldwide tours, the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine and movie soundtracks should be within reach. But it’s proven to be more elusive than just this fan’s late night dreaming. Perhaps, and this is what I believe, The Mother Hips, are America’s greatest secret because of their dogged determinism to not fit in. They have been too busy mining the shaft they found many years ago, harvesting diamonds and other assorted gems, both precious and semi-precious. One day, the world will catch up with this assertion—in the meantime you can only take my word for it.
For the current state of the band, front men Tim Bluhm and Greg Loiacono are craftsmen who have honed a more than impressive catalogue of songs that have lost none of their carb-loaded springboard action since their early CSU dorm days. Bluhm garners much of the press which underscores how crucial Loiacono is to The Mother Hips. I believe it is Loiacono’s even keeled nature that has kept the band afloat through the dry years, and is at the helm when rocks appear in the turbulent waters that border the Ocean of Fame.
Over the years these two have honed a songwriting excellence that is on par with such penultimate songwriting teams as Cesar Rosas/David Hildago, Lennon/McCartney, Jerry Leiber/Mike Stoller and Burt Bacharach/Hal David—adding to the (hidden) treasure trove of classic American music. Loiacono’s steely gaze guides the band from the sideline, and when he gets a chance to shine on songs like “Young Charles Ives” from 2009’s finely chiseled Pacific Dust —the passion can be heard above the monumental groove that crescendos throughout the song like a tsunami crashing into a church.
And if Loiacono is the man behind the man, then drummer John Hofer is the man behind it all, literally. Since joining the band a decade ago Hofer has brought a steady hand—clearly in it for the long run. A drummer’s drummer, Hofer adds inspired flourish to the mainstay—a cool gent driving the core to the furthest point of dissolution then returning to the steady heartbeat that makes the band tick.
It was only a year ago at HIPNIC III that bassist Scott Carter Thunes had a music stand in front of him with the wind and rain turning sheets of notated paper into worthless fluttering debris. His hilarious blog tells insider stories of his time as a Frank Zappa henchman for eight years and the deep longing (if you look beyond the scathing sarcasm) to reconnect with that golden period. Now back in the maw of the Zappa Plays Zappa tour alongside Dweezil, this year’s performance at the HIPNIC, especially on Friday night’s concert, was a jaw dropper, a doozy and an eye-opener to the power and depth of Thune’s skill set. Thune’s thundering bass dominated the show with rock star poses and incredible bass bombs that he unloaded like a man possessed—Thunes is a revelation. He’s a hired hand, a professional ringer—and, if you look at the cover of the ebullient Hips album Shootout —Thunes would be the one doing the shooting, not the one being shot.
And this seems to be the kick in the jaw that The Mother Hips needs right now. The songs are gems, Tim and Greg have never sounded finer and stalwart John Hofer keeps everything steady with a backbeat that is crucial to the Hips machine. Greg and Tim are the heart and soul of The Mother Hips, this cannot be ignored, but they need a fully functioning band to make the monster move—breath alone cannot awake this sleepy-eyed Golem.
Originally, Chico, California based, but now denizens of the world, The Mother Hips have led the way for over two decades influencing bands as diverse as the Infamous Stringdusters (who in a recent interview referred to The Mother Hips as legends and rock stars) to country turbo-charged Waylon Speed. Their recent 20th Anniversary weekend in Chico was a Mother Hip’s wet dream. Bicycle tours led by seminal Hips fan Molly Tuttle—visited all the Hips origin highlights and former crash pad houses with surprise appearances by members of the band and multiple kegs of beer which created a living diorama combining past and present.
On a personal note—I’m a longtime contributor to Jambands.com and an even longer fan of The Mother Hips. Back in 1996 I contributed a healthy swath of Northern California bands to Dean Budnick’s book Jam Bands: North America’s Hottest Groups and amongst them was The Mother Hips. Having come off 500 Dead shows, I knew that The Mother Hips were not a “jamband” per se, but rugged individualists who were pursuing a new sound, carving virgin territory and claiming spaces that were to become musical landmarks—a mixture of John Muir and The Grateful Dead—troubadours for a new era, a time that is still being defined, revolutionized and understood.
DNA is a stand-up comic living in Santa Cruz, CA.