Unconventional Holiday show at the Great American Music Hall, SF sees the Conspiracy of Venus and Or, the Whale opening for The Mother Hips
Reprinted with permission from http://sf.thedelimagazine.com/
The Mother Hips, Chico-based jam-band from the nineties, headlined a holiday show at GAMH the weekend before Christmas. Although the stoner vibe of their long instrumental bits may have been a bit much for those in the audience not high on cannabis, they were tighter on certain songs and held their own even while missing many of their original members.
The showstopper was when lead singer Tim Bluhm’s wife Nicki came onstage and raised the roof with her powerhouse voice. Those completely gone from too many joints and five minute musical interludes were snapped back to attention, with the refreshing presence of a woman onstage among the five male hippie rockers.
The beautiful Mrs. Bluhm walked onstage appearing polished and stylish, and proceeded to sing with wisdom and heart. She heads her own band, Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers, which is described as a “timeless mix of classic rock, Americana, California country, folk, psychedelic blues, and powerpop” in Mr. Bluhm’s biography.
Even though she only graced the stage for one song, it hit home more than the entire rest of their performance for me. It was nice to see though, how the majority of the audience were clearly hardcore Hips fans, singing along to all the words along as loud as they could. The Mother Hips are known as a quintessential California band, as they relocated to San Francisco part way through their heyday, and were signed to America Recordings when founding members Bluhm and Greg Loiacono were still attending Chico State. Further research into Bluhm’s impressive and varied musical career reveals intriguing facts. Bluhm has opened a studio with Bay Area musician Jackie Greene (the two also comprise a band called The Skinny Singers), and engineer Dave Simon-Baker, called Mission Bells Studio.
Additionally, Bluhm and San Diego-based singer/songwriter/guitarist Steve Poltz started The High Sierra Singer/Songwriter Workshop in 2005. Over a period of four days, attendees can write songs and learn from the two musicians. In a another amazing nature experience, Bluhm and the rest of the Hips began a Family Picnic in 2009 set in Big Sur. This has become a yearly tradition.
The female power was introduced early in the show in fact, with San Francisco-based all women’s choir, The Conspiracy of Venus, kicking the show off in a rousing and fun-filled set. Choir director Joyce Todd McBride included one superb song she wrote herself in the set, but otherwise early comers to the show were treated to three Tom Waits songs, two by Joni Mitchell, and one by Duke Ellington and Juan Tizol. Additionally, a rocking choir version of the Ramone’s “I Wanna Be Sedated” got the audience dancing and joining in. Highlights of their set were a solo by Demetra Delia Markis, and fun props such as a fake toy cowboy gun yielded by Frankie Burton, when it suited the lyrics in one of the Tom Waits tunes. The girls range in age from twenties to middle age, but they all seem quite close, and it was a joy to see them all up their in their holiday finest.
More girl power was exhibited in the second opening act, Or the Whale. Led by Alex Robins, the band is given flight by the amazing singer Lindsay Garfield. Built For the Sea’s Lia Rose is a recent addition to the band as well. For those who follow Rose’s band, keep an eye out for her upcoming debut solo release, entitled When You Need Me Most. Robins and Matt Sartain (guitar and vocals) actually met through an ad posted on Craigslist titled “Wanna Form a Sweet Country Rock Band?”, and recruited vocalist Lindsay Garfield from a listing she had written looking for a guitar player. The band is rounded out by Jesse Hunt on drums, Tim Marcus on pedal steel guitar, and Sean Barnett on bass. The band has appeared Good Morning America, and their debut album Light Poles and Pines helped earn them a 2008 Hollywood Music Award for Best Americana/Roots Artist as well as a coveted spot on Radio & Records Top 100 Americana Artists of 2008. And believe me, they live up the hype. Americana without feeling cliché or too cool for school, this band knew how to rock, and how to bring it down home. Not to mention, it was precious to notice that (accidentally?) four out of six of them were clad in plaid shirts and jeans.
The highlight of the show though, was when the choir joined The Mother Hips for a song, taking advantage of the onstage box seating, which in the twenty or so shows I have seen at the GAMH, I have never seen used before. But it was not just their placement in the box that made this moment great, it was their voices with the Mother Hips, a perfect pairing.
To hear Lia Rose’s solo album, described on her website as “a passionate artist with an ear for the beauty in the tastefully adorned austerity of a set of strings, a simple truth; the quiet emotion that binds us all”, head over to the Roxie Theater on January 13th for her record release show. She will headline the show and Tyson Vogel’s (of Two Gallants) solo project The Devotionals, will open. All proceeds will go to “Free All Three Hikers Detained in Iran”. Go here for tickets and more information: http://www.liarose.com/news.php