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ekoostik Hookah- Otto’s, DeKalb, IL, 5/3

Set One: Music->Silver Train, Moonstone, Schwa!, Daffodils in Detroit, I
Been Down That Road, Dragonfly, Voodoo Stew, Little Maggie, Red Light Boogie
Set Two: Utopia, Springtime Again, Goin' Up the Country, Indica &
Sativa->Ice Cream Man->Indica & Sativa->Grass, The Masquerade,Merry-Go
Jam->Good Time Encore: Echoes (truncated)

It always seems that I leave town with the good intentions of arriving a
little early, but always over-estimate the driving time to the venue. This
night was no exception. I arrived early enough to get in a little early and
chat with Chopper, Greg and the interim sound man, Chris (I believe). Upon
walking into Otto's, I realized that things had changed somewhat radically.
The booths that were a mere 15' from the stage were no more. The stage was
slightly larger. The standing area and dance floor were much larger. It
seems that Otto's has new management. After hearing about the experiences of
New Orleans and Louisville, I left in search of road food. As it should
happen, there's a nice little Thai restaurant directly across the street
from Otto's. After a filling meal of pot stickers and red curry with
chicken, I got my gear and headed back into Otto's to set up.

The real questions of the night came to bear now. First, where do I set up
now that the booths are gone? It took a little guess work, but I found a
nice spot about 20' from the stage and got to work setting up for the night.
Second, with the new management, is this still the home of the $3.50 32oz
Guinness/Bass Ale Black and Tan. Bad news struck: no, it isn't. Good news
followed: it's now the home of the $4 32oz Guinness/Bass Ale Black and Tan.
I got a beer and waited for the show to begin. The opening act, whose name I
have conveniently stricken from my memory banks, was something to write home
about, in much the same way that you would write home from camp to warn your
parents about the fact that you had sprained your ankle and fallen head
first into a large patch of poison ivy in the process. Some folks in the
venue appreciated them, but I saw nothing remotely entertaining about them.

Hookah took the stage a little late, since the opening act decided that
their set wasn't over at the end of the allotted time. Music opened the
show. What interested me is the fact that Music wasn't a stronger opener. It
set the mood, but didn't bowl the crowd over. The segue into Silver Train
continued the subdued mood. Moonstone brought a burst of energy to the set,
but the show still wasn't rolling. I mean, it was a good set, but it wasn't
something totally spectacular. I accounted for this by the fact that the
band was crowded on the stage. They really didn't have enough room to do
much of anything other than play. That being said, they played Schwa to
follow Moonstone and the show took off. Daffodils in Detroit really got
things moving. I Been Down that Road brought back the subdued feeling, but
it was a much needed break for the dancing crowd as the entire set had
gotten their groove going. The break didn't last long. Dragonfly is destined
to become a staple of the Hookah show. This tune is a dancer's dream. I was
stunned at how many folks were up and grooving so quickly. Voodoo Stew
continued the pace. When Cliff approached the microphone, I wondered which
tune he would bring. Little Maggie was a nice, nice treat. With so many
other tunes being brought to the table by Cliff these days, the return of
Little Maggie was sweet. The bluegrass tunes always delight folks. With a
moment's break, the band launched into a funky version of Red Light Boogie,
replete with Otto's orange neon "Boogie" sign flashing on and off at the
appropriate times. I was hoping for a Streetbeater segue, but the Boogie
brought the set to a close and it closed it well.

During the setbreak, I had a chance to chat with some folks. The common
comment regarding the set was "that was phat!" Indeed, it had been a good
set. Nice choice of tunes. Solid playing, even under the aegis of a small
stage.

Set two began with a very nice Utopia. That got the crowd back to their feet
in a hurry. Not letting grass grow under their feet, the band kicked into a
mostly solid version of Springtime Again. After a conference onstage, the
surprise of the night hit. Cliff steps up to the microphone and begins Goin'
Up the Country. I don't know when the last time I saw Cliff sing twice in
one show was. Better still, I don't know when the last time I heard GUtC
was! The energy was going crazy. Plain and simple. Folks were dancing and
fully focused on the boys. Bringing it back down a notch, the Indica>Ice
Cream Man> and Sativa>Grass segue was very nice. The Masquerage picked up
the pace again and set up the set closing Good Time nicely.

I'd overheard the owner talk about being off stage by 12:50 to expedite
getting folks out before the 1 AM curfew. The second set ended about 10
minutes short of that. I figured that there would be a short Ed cover encore
based on the time and the way the set had played out. The first keyboard
notes of Echoes took me a little off base. I even mentioned to the guy
patched out of me that they were teasing Echoes. When Steve hit the first
two guitar notes, I realized that this wasn't a tease. How??? Twenty-three
minutes of encore in less than 20 minutes of space til curfew doesn't work.
As it would turn out, it didn't. That's perhaps the worst thing about this
show. I've heard several versions of hookah covering this classic Pink Floyd
song. None of those versions came close to the fire that they were playing
with at Otto's. About the time that Johnny absolutely went OFF on the
congas, just prior to the guitar solo, the house lights came up. In the
midst of Steve ripping on the solo, the white stage lights came on. A quick
conference eliminated the spacey section and brought the tune into that
culminating crescendo and the last lyrical parts of the song. Out by curfew,
but an aborted Echoes that was on it's way to being the best ever, at least
in my opinion.

While I don't know for sure, I do believe that Otto's is going to become a
great venue for jam band shows. The new folks have some great ideas for the
place, while maintaining some of the great parts of the old establishment.
Who knows, the mid-sized bands may have a new must stop club to play in the
coming months. I look forward to those dizzying possibilities and the other
Thai dishes that it could mean. Long live the $4 draft black and tan! Long
live Otto's! May the DeKalb police lighten up on the curfew.

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