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Published: 2011/03/14
by James Martin

The Mother Hips, Humbrews, Arcata, CA – 3/4

The Mother Hips are a band that has a storied past that spans over 20 years. So when bassist Paul Hoaglin went on an extended leave of absence in February and Scott Thunes of Frank Zappa fame joined the group it opened a new chapter for a band that’s being working hard for a long time. The Humbrews show was the first live show the Hips played with Thunes, but you wouldn’t have known it. While Thunes appeared to play it safe, reading off sheet music and not letting loose too much, he still did a great job bringing a strong backbone to the music.

The Mother Hips started off their energetic set with fan favorite “Honeydew.” When Tim Bluhm sings “This is the sound” one wonders “What exactly is the Mother Hips sound?” Hard to label, it is a mixture of psychedelic rock, blues, soul and even a little bit of country music all melded into one. The Hips’ website describes it best as “California soul,” which seems fitting. “Whiskey on a Southbound” is one example of that country sound and has been covered by Bluhm’s friend Jackie Greene. Dan Eisenberg adds a nice touch on his Hammond and when he gets into the groove he really goes off. During “Transit Wind” Eisenberg was in top form kicking up his leg during the jam. The night’s setlist wasn’t limited to back catalogue, but included songs off the group’s most recent album, Pacific Dust, released last year.

Another early highlight was guitarist Greg Loiacono belting out the rocker tune “Bandit Boy,” where he shared heavy guitar riffs with Tim Bluhm. Bluhm, who spent some time over the summer playing with The Rhythm Devils, offered a nod to that experience when he segued into the Grateful Dead’s “Easy Wind” during “Song in a Can.” As for Thunes, he has a more aggressive sound on the bass than Hoaglin, which isn’t a bad thing, just different. He and drummer John Hofner clicked well and held it down all night, creating a tight rhythm section.

Going back to the Grateful Dead, during the “Two River Blues” that had Bluhm and Loiacono trading riffs the band went into a short “Other One” with Bluhm singing the first verse. They then ended the hour and forty-minute set with the tempo changing rocker “Pet Foot.” Given Thunes’ Zappa tenure, it was only appropriate that they did an instrumental version of “The Torture Never Stops” sandwiched between “Can’t Sleep At All.” Then with “Mission In Vain,” the band concluded a night that saw the group leading impromptu sing-alongs at times, while also eliciting a dancing frenzy at others. The Hips have quite a few shows coming up and it is well worth checking out this version of the band as it continues to come together.

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