Ultraviolet Hippopotamus: The View from the Chicago Jam Scene
Jeremy Frazier, who runs a blog at www.chicagojamscene.com, which places a partiuclar focus on local bands, shares this look one of his local favorites.
Ultraviolet Hippopotamus, Founders Brewery, Grand Rapids, Michigan (8/28/10)
If you love live music and haven’t seen Ultraviolet Hippopotamus, I offer my sincerest condolences. Granted, aside from a jaunt out to Colorado/Montana earlier this year, they haven’t spread their love much outside the Midwest. But if you happen to live in the Midwest, you have undoubtedly taken notice that UV Hippo have made themselves a serious member of the new wave of homegrown jam music. Appearances at regional music festivals like Muncie Springfest, Summercamp, Rootwire, and Hoxeyville (and the upcoming Wuhnurth!) have made Midwest festivalgoers solid believers in the Hippo.
Fighting out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, UV Hippo has engineered an eclectic & otherwordly sound that defies genres and electrifies the partyin’ peeps. The band is led by Brian Samuels, a founding member of UV Hippo, who brings an infectious positive energy along with his dense thump of bass guitar sounds. Pounding out the rhythms are Joe Phillion on the skins and Casey Jones on auxiliary percussion instruments. Like most bands of their ilk, UV Hippo features two guitarists. But what separates Hippo is the fact that neither of them is the ‘lead guitarist.’ Sam Guidry and Russell James bring the heat with treacherous riffs, lightning-fast simultaneous finger tapping, and shred-heavy solos that would make any metalhead swell up with raw enthusiasm. Rounding out the group is the newest member, Dave Sanders. Even though he is the junior member, Sanders has really taken the reins of this band with his work on the keys, and most importantly, his Moog Little Phattie. The addition of Sanders to this band exponentially increased the electronic energy of the music and amplified the band’s already present songwriting prowess. His impact on the band is readily apparent when today’s shows are compared with live recordings taken during the pre-Sanders era. The result of this evolution is a sound that is undeniably intense & complex. They eagerly bend genres with fiery original tunes that slide easily into the emerging genre of ‘jamtronica’ and pump out incredible covers from the likes of Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd, and Umphrey’s McGee. This band is on a skyrocket trajectory indeed.
I left Chicago on a Saturday afternoon headed for Founders Brewery in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This was to be my first full, two-set UV Hippo show and my excitement level was through the roof. I only previously saw them perform festival sets and an opening set for the legendary Garaj Mahal in Evanston, Illinois in December 2009. Needless to say, the craving for a two-hour-plus Hippo show had been building for a while. We arrived to Founders early enough to catch a sound check of “Square Pegs, Round Holes”. I ordered a Red’s Rye and sampled the most intriguing item on the beer menu. Something called Devil Dancer called out to me with its intimidating advertisement of a 12% alcohol content. The barkeep hooked me up with a snifter and I threw it back eagerly, not expecting this potent elixir to taste more like a mixed drink than beer. It was strong— a little too strong for the night I was hoping to have. Nonetheless, by the time Hippo hit the stage Founders brew had me feeling right and I was ready to shred.