The Mother Hips: 4-5 December 2009 - Austin, TX

Greg M. Schwartz

Those who spent the weekend with The Mother Hips received a delicious double-dose of soulful psych-rock at its finest.

The Mother Hips

The Mother Hips

City: Austin, TX
Venue: Emo's
Date: 2009-12-4-5

Some Northern California touring bands don't seem to be hip to the way that Austin's thriving music scene and progressive vibe mirror that of the Bay Area. It's a connection that dates at least back to Janis Joplin, who started her legend in Austin before moving to San Francisco. The Mother Hips, however, have the veteran savvy to recognize such a good thing. Their weekend stand at Emo's was their second trip to Austin this year, following up an appearance at the SXSW Conference in March.

The rootsy yet psychedelic power pop rockers have been one of the great music stories of the past few years. The band was good back in the '90s when they first came on the scene and headlined venues like San Francisco's fabled Fillmore Auditorium. But The Mother Hips have been on a major resurgence since the release of 2007's Kiss the Crystal Flake, a superb album that evolved their sound with tighter songwriting and even more melodic hooks. This in turn seemed to open up their shows to a higher level of jamming, but always jamming with a purpose…no noodling here. With the brand new Pacific Dust just out this October, a stellar follow up to Crystal Flake, the band seems poised to continue this mid-career ascension to new heights.

They open up the show with an older tune, their classic “Red Tandy”, which sets a rocking tone. The band then moves right into “White Falcon Fuzz”, the lead single from the new album. It's a signature tune which sums up exactly where the band is at these days, both musically with its deliciously fuzzy chords and with the insightful lyrics on the music industry from singer/guitarist Tim Bluhm. “Is that what the world is saying / That your rock 'n' roll band can't last if you haven't got a really good singer / And you're finding it rough to get yourself across / Get lost in the White Falcon fuzz if you are a good singer.” Bluhm sings about overcoming what some might perceive as a lack of virtuoso pipes with a good dose of rock spirit.

Bluhm and band co-founder Greg Loiacono (guitar/vocals) might not be mistaken for Bono, but they've developed a chemistry in both their guitar playing and sweet vocal harmonies that stands out from a modern music scene where strong vocals are tough to come by. They've also got a great bassist in Paul Hoaglin, who jazzes up every tune with melodic riffing and counterpoint playing on his trusty Rickenbacker. Hoaglin left his awesome sounding eight-string bass at home on this run, but that Rickenbacker sounds so good (note to all rock bassists – more of you should play Rickenbackers). Hoaglin and drummer John Hofer bring a dynamic rhythm section to the party, elevating nearly every tune with just the right accents.

The hard rocking “Time-Sick Son of a Grizzly Bear” from Crystal Flake is another highlight, featuring some of Bluhm and Loiacono's best guitar interplay. Crystal Flake's “Time We Had” stands out even more, with gorgeous vocals and melodies that conjure a lost utopian vision from childhood. It's a tune with an instantly classic vibe and serves as a fantastic jamming vehicle.

Austin is famous for Sunday “Hippy Church” gospel rock concerts at Maria's Taco Xpress, and the band conjures some of that vibe during the first encore with a funky but extremely soulful and uplifting tune where Bluhm sings a chorus of “Ever-light is bright and shines on you”. The sweet harmonies make it seem like a higher power is indeed shining down on the audience. The group follows with the heavy title track from the new album, as Bluhm and Loiacono throw down some bluesy riffs and dirty chord changes, but still with those melodious vocals intact. A big jam reaches a huge crescendo for the finale, and it’s a great way to end the show.

The word must have gotten out on Saturday, because there was a larger crowd in the house for night two. An early highlight is “Third Floor Story”, an older fan favorite that was only just recorded on Pacific Dust. The song about record company politics is one of the band's signature tunes, featuring great tandem vocals, sharp riffs and a popping bassline.

Loiacono leads on “Del Mar Station” from 2001's Green Hills of the Earth, a tune that is one of the shining gems in the band's catalogue. Loiacono's heartfelt vocals touch any soul with ears bent to hear the tune, while Hoaglin's melodic bass line gives the tune an extra swing to get folks swaying. Bluhm delivers a fierce solo on a sizzling jam toward the end, powering the tune to heights not always reached.

The energy is building now and really soars with “Magazine”, a rip-rocking tune featuring super funky riffage and a supremely groovy bass line. “White Falcon Fuzz” is featured again, appropriate since the new song is such a commentary on where Bluhm and the band are at in 2009. The hard rocking “Pacific Dust” is also repeated, leading toward another “Time-Sick Son of a Grizzly Bear” that ends the set with even more rocking power than it had on the previous night.

The encore ends with another big melodic rocker that leads into a surprise jam on Led Zeppelin's “Living Loving Maid” that has fans heading to the bar for last minute Jaeger shots. There's a huge number of choices on any given weekend in the Austin music scene, but those who spent this weekend with The Mother Hips received a delicious double-dose of soulful psych-rock at its finest.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.