In 1968, Bill Graham created San Francisco’s Fillmore West in order to, literally, hold space for the bands of the time to jam, party, play and create music. The psychedelic era was upon us and The Fillmore was in the forefront of that era, hosting the likes of The Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Janis Joplin and many an Acid Party for tripping hippies. The most current incarnation of Fillmore West, now on Fillmore & Geary, was opened by Graham in the mid-80’s and then reopened in 1994 after damage from the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989.
Over time, The Fillmore has continued it’s legendary legacy of showcasing some of the world’s most amazing performers. The venue’s hallowed halls and chandeliered dance floor has held a sacred plethora of musical history. To this day, The Fillmore’s elegant interior and amazing sound system keeps the fans of the music happy and the bands that perform there well nourished.
With a new age of rock and roll always upon us with genres melting into each other, hybrid sounds are created that are familiar yet new. The Mother Hips, one of California’s best independent jam bands for well over 20 years, and the Hard Working Americans, a super group relatively new to the jam band scene, are two bands that strive to create sounds from the musical history of the past while blending it with the music of now. Both bands recently lent their talents to the ongoing legacy of the Fillmore with their Friday, August 12th double bill.
The Mother Hips guitarist Greg Loiacano reminisced about the band’s own history with The Fillmore, “The first time we played the Fillmore was in 1994. It was within the first month of their re-opening celebrations. It was a huge moment for us. We walked in with great reverence and big excitement and rocked the place. We have headlined there multiple times but one of my fondest memories is when we got to open for Johnny Cash!”
The Mother Hips opened the evening with a bang. Entering onto the stage with crutches after foot surgery, guitarist, songwriter and co-ring leader Tim Bluhm sat himself down and didn’t let his injury take away from his heartfelt and energetic love of the songs. The band, Tim’s brothers-in-song, lead guitarist Greg Loiacono, bassist Scott Thunes and drummer John Hofer, began the hour-long set with the sucker-punch, guitar-driven “Smoke,” and I knew we were in for a happy joy ride of stellar country-blues-rock and roll tunes.
The band’s huge back stock of songs was represented in their performance, from country-twinged “Gold Plated” to the thumping opening basslines of Scott Thunes on “Been Lost Once.” Deep instrumental tangents elongated the songs into sonic chaos, like the band’s “Space” jam which drove them into the hard and gritty “Magazine,” that gave each member of the band a chance to shine. The crowd was singing along, the feet were moving and the smiles of the fans created a spark of their own within the shining light of The Mother Hips. Says Loiacono of his long and winding road with the band, “It’s great being in a band for as long as I have. The band has always been a second family to me, right from the start. The musical connection that Tim and I have cultivated over the years has been the life force of the band and it is still really fun!”
The headlining act, the Hard Working Americans, culls its members from some of the music industry’s most influential jam bands. Badass bassist Dave Schools hails from Widespread Panic, Neal Casal shreds his guitar most recently in the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Chad Staehly grooved on his keys with Great American Taxi, plus longtime pro’s Duane Trucks on drums and folk guitarist Jesse Aycock, who lent his slide and electric guitar chops, round out a loud and boisterous band that blends Americana, Country, Blues and Rock.
The Hard Working Americans’ front man is long-time folk troubadour and storyteller Todd Snider, who opened their set with the rollicking blues-based “Mission Accomplished.” Snider preened, pranced and danced as he sang with his gritty yet melodic voice all the while interacting playfully with the crowd and band; a true seasoned performer fronting a stellar lineup of players.
The band blew through many of the songs from their current album, Rest In Chaos, and songs from The First Waltz as well as their self-titled album, Hard Working Americans, showing us their diversity of sound as well as their blatant professionalism as musicians and performers, from the monster-bass of Dave Schools, who uplifted drummer Duane Truck’s heartbeat of drumming, guitar virtuoso Neal Casal’s blend of psychedelic southern blues to jammy-jazz, to the down and dirty keys from Chad Staehy.
Highlights from the set included “Stomp And Holler” and “Down to The Well,” giving guitar hero Neal Casal an opportunity to show us what he’s made of, shredding it on guitar; while Jesse Aycock’s soaring lap steel added a soft contrast to the songs. The pre-encore ending of the set was a continuous sonic-jam montage that went from “High Price of Inspiration,” “Burn Out Shoes,” “Another Train,” “Is This Thing Working,” and ending with “Train.” Encores were a trio of goodies from “Acid,” which showcased Neal Casal’s grungy, guitar-feedback filled riffs, to the melancholy “Wrecking Ball,” that went into the uplifting country jam, “Purple Mountain Jamboree.”
Greg Loiacono talks about the fantastic pairing of these bands, “The run with Hard Working Americans was so much fun. Both bands agree that we should do more of it. I hope that happens. It was fun listening to [Dave] Schools and [Scott] Thunes talk bass and music; two legends for sure. Tim, John and I have known Neal [Casal] for years and it was great meeting Todd [Snider] and the other guys. All of them are fantastic musicians and humans.”
As the crowd dispersed at the end of the show, smiles were aplenty, talk of the songs abounded, and another night of legendary music happened within the famed walls of the amazing Fillmore.
Hard Working Americans
Mission Accomplished, Dope Is Dope, Stomp and Holler, Opening Statement, It Runs Together, Half Ass Moses, Run A Mile, Down To The Well, Something Else, Roman Candles, Blackland Farmer, High Price Of Inspiration>Burn Out Shoes>Another Train>Is This Thing Working>Train
Encore: Acid, Wrecking Ball, Purple Mountain Jamboree
The Mother Hips
Smoke, Gold Plated, Clean Me Up, Confirmation of Love, Been Lost Once, Whiskey On A Southbound, White Falcon Fuzz, Space>Magazine, Del Mar Station, Toughie, Stoned Up The Road