SXSW 2010 Quick Hits, Day 2: The Mother Hips, interview with guitarist Tim Bluhm

These veteran Bay Area rockers threw down a jamming set of their melodic psych-roots rock. The band loves to play in Austin and it showed. Bassist Paul Hoagland played his custom 12-string Hamer bass for the entire set, which helped pump up the groove on dynamic tunes like “Magazine” and “Third Floor Story.” Guitarists Tim Bluhm and Greg Loiacono were in fine form, trading riffs and harmonizing vocals throughout the high-energy set, which featured one melodic rocker after another. “Time-Sick Son of a Grizzly Bear” brought the short but sweet set to a rousing conclusion with a furious assault of fuzzy riffs and pounding rhythms.

“Our whole approach to touring these days is to find cities we like to play and go there all the time,” said Bluhm, whom I interviewed at the bar earlier in the afternoon. Bluhm said the band almost broke up in 2005-06, but couldn’t help but come back together. This has a been a boon for music fans, since the band’s last two albums have been among the best work of their career. 2009’s Pacific Dust was recorded at Bluhm’s own Mission Bells Studio in San Francisco, where he also produced the upcoming album from pal Jackie Greene.

mother hips

The band also seems to be jamming a little more these days, and Bluhm said that had been a back and forth process.

“We used to jam a lot, then spent a bunch of years intentionally not jamming, trying to shake these distasteful associations we were getting. But then, we always want to change, keep evolving, so right now we are jamming out more and enjoying it, it’s fun,” said Bluhm. Regarding SXSW, Bluhm said he loves to play it but finds trying to go out a bit much.

“I honestly find it’s overwhelming at SXSW, and I never have the patience to stand in line,” said Bluhm when asked about what other bands he wanted to see at the festival. He did say he’d enjoyed seeing Spoon the previous night and was looking forward to Or the Whale, whom the Mother Hips would share a bill with the next day.


SXSW Music 2010, Day 2: Upping the Ante

AUSTIN – I sacrificed an extra hour of sleep to make it out for what was scheduled as an 11:35 am day party set from Sass Jordan, the sensational Canadian blues rock goddess that seems like she’d be more from a place like Austin. But the stage at the club had collapsed and they had to move to another venue, pushing their set back to 12:20 pm. I told Sass I’d catch one of her other two shows, because I had a moral imperative to catch the 12:30 pm panel on “Music and The Revolution,” featuring ex-Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers, Country Joe McDonald, the MC5’s Wayne Kramer and Kent State 1970 massacre survivor Alan Canfora. This was an amazing panel that I will report on in-depth in my SXSW wrap-up next week (along with more on all the following bands.)

Then there was a great panel on the 40th anniversary of Miles Davis’ seminal jazz-rock masterpiece, Bitches Brew. More on that next week as well. The 1969-70 revolutionary rock magic was clearly in the air…

After a quick lunch it was over to the Jambase Treehouse Party at Cheers Shot Bar on 6th Street, up on the roof deck. Very nice setting for Red Cortez, a band out of Los Angeles that are pals and tourmates with the Airborne Toxic Event. They have an edgier sound, but clearly some of that same soulful, tuneful indie-rock thing that has long been brewing in LA’s Silverlake district.

The Mother Hips from San Francisco rocked it next, throwing down a hot set of their rich, melodic and bluesy sound. Paul Hoagland even brought his 12-string custom Hamer bass, and did it ever sound great out in the sun in the 5 o’clock hour. I was originally planning to stick around to see a couple more bands, but some gear issues had pushed it all back a half hour. I rode my trusty Trek 800 over to Threadgills to meet a friend, where we also heard a bit of Austin legend Roky Erickson, from the 13th Floor Elevators. Classic sounds…

Then it was over to Auditorium Shores, where LA’s Ozomatli was headlining the free outdoor fest by Town Lake. The band entertained a huge audience, driving the crowd into a frenzy with a “Masters of Puppets” tease during one funky bluesy jam (recalling Metallica’s electrifying semi-secret performance at Stubbs during SXSW 2009.)

From there it was over to the Austin Music Hall for Stone Temple Pilots, who threw down a true headlining set of 90 minutes that featured some strong new material and just kept getting better. The peak was during the encore when Robbie Krieger of the Doors joined the band for “Roadhouse Blues”! Absolutely epic SXSW moment that seriously raised the bar for the rest of the weekend. Krieger tore it up.

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals were up to the task afterward at Antone’s, throwing down a captivating 75-minute set that went right up til 2 am, also featuring very strong material from their impending new album. At least three tunes went into sick jams catalyzed by the fantastic bass skills of new Nocturnal (and former Cardinal of Ryan Adams), Catherine Popper. The two of these gals were just dynamite and a hoped-for cover of “White Rabbit” did indeed materialize (they play it on the soundtrack for the new “Alice in Wonderland” flick), a great match on the evening with “Roadhouse Blues.”

Now I have to go find out when Potter & Co are playing tomorrow and try to get some sleep!


The Mother Hips: Pacific Dust

RIYL: Crazy Horse, the Eagles, New Riders of the Purple Sage

Granted, any band that’s been around more than a decade and a half should have been picked up on the public’s radar by this time, and the fact that the Mother Hips have barely registered a blip doesn’t exactly offer any sort of attribute in their favor. It’s a misfortune they lament on “Third Floor Story,” a tale of record company imbroglio that ranks as one of several highlights on this otherwise agreeable new album, their seventh outing to date and possibly their best shot at routing the indifference that’s greeted them thus far. Indeed, based on the evidence offered herein, there’s no reason why this California combo ought not finally win the following that’s eluded them so long. Faithful purveyors of West Coast country rock, with more than a hint of a ‘70s sensibility, they serve up unfettered melodies that once would have invited radio play and the adulation of the masses. Songs like “White Falcon Fuzz,” “One Way Out” and “All in Favor” recall the dusty, free-wheeling affinity that made the Eagles, Neil Young, the Jayhawks and others of that ilk rank so prominently as heartland heroes. Perhaps their problem lies in the fact that they could be perceived as retracing terrain that was so widely traversed more than 30 years ago, and is now considered somewhat out of sync, especially given competition from boy band wannabes, unrepentant rappers and the various other pop pretenders that dominate the charts these days. Too bad – it may not be hip to like the Hips, but when it comes to mining a solid, road-weary sound, they become the Mother of reinvention. (Camera Records 2009)

The Mother Hips MySpace page


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