I was there too early, before the doors opened. I was a little more stoned that I should’ve been, more than I wanted to be, the shit I’ve been smoking is deathly powerful and I still haven’t grasped that yet. The scene became downright surreal as the Mother Hips, fronted by Tim Bluhm, Nicki Bluhm’s husband, and himself a fantastic solo auteur in his own right, took the stage. The Mother Hips are a jam band, in the same vein as the Allman Brothers with a splash of the Dead. They aren’t like Phish or Buddha-forbid the Dave Matthews Band, both of which are utterly inconsumable.
That said, the band goes on very long, jammy solos and a short song is between five to seven minutes long. This is the main reason I got stoned on Friday. I prefer to go into most shows with a clear head, but for the Mother Hips that would be an exercise in futility. They are made for the stoner, the surrealist, the imbiber in all of us. Their mission on Friday was simple: perform two sets for their rabid local following.
All that despite such a fervent following that when you mention this band to a casual Bay Area native, their eyes light up and hearken back to when they were in college and Bluhm was leading the jam band charge up the hill towards euphoria. When you’re trapped in the current of the Mother Hips’ wave you become overwhelmed with the site of hippies dancing and glossy eyes with the words emitting from their vocal cavity like a Manson follower reciting a mantra.
Some were even closer to the ground than others as I discovered in the middle of their first set. I rarely go upstairs where the other journalists like to go to hide from the crowd. Instead, I like to be in the middle of the action. I enjoy hearing their guttural cries of joy for a band that is passing through on a long tour. I like to see the pure childlike fever that seems to envelope them as they watch this band do things with instruments we all dreamed about as children.
The flailing arms of hippie dancing, the bright colors from the stage of red, green, blue and the interesting shapes of things being played out on the ceiling. I was consumed by all of it. Then came the midgets. There were three of them to be exact and they surrounded me. Two in front, one in the back and I, still very stoned, was frightened out of my mind. It was all too much to take. I kept asking the one behind me if he’d like to get in front to which he always replied, courteously I might add, “No, thank you.” Yet, I knew I was blocking his view and I felt terrible. A little part of me thought I was going to get jumped.
Meanwhile, back on-stage, the band was superb, yet seemed slightly nervous. Bluhm kept checking his guitar amp, and his tall, lanky frame struggled to get low enough to hear it. There was no banter with the crowd, not until the set was finished and a great set it was. I stuck around just long enough to catch a few songs of the second set, but by that point my mind was too far gone to comprehend anything that was going on.
A Mother Hips show is not an ordinary show; it is a fucking three ring circus and believe me when I say all the freaks come out. The band is only half the fun, the people that do come to see them are worth the price of admission alone. That’s what you want as a band though, isn’t it? This band won’t ever go platinum, nor sell out Staples Center and won’t win a Grammy, but what they will achieve is a place in the memory of those that saw them at the peak of their powers. They will instill a sense of happiness most bands only dream of giving a tenth of to their fans. This band on this night showed me that the love of a band does not stop when their popularity oh so slightly wanes. Not for the diehard, not for the real fans and the Mother hips most certainly have real fans.