I’ve seen the Mother Hips about a dozen times. And these eyes have seen the many faces of those Hips—the unpredictable instrument-swapping kids, the sweaty, full-throttle bar band, and the play-it-safe adults. Many times I thought they were the best live band around, although there was a show where I had a difficult time keeping these eyes open.
It’s been a few years since I’ve been to a Mother Hips show, and I’ve never actually seen them outside of their old stomping grounds of Chico, Calif. I was looking forward to finally seeing the band far away from the drunken throngs … in the acoustic wonderland of the Doug Fir, no less. But I left the show a little unsure as to how I felt about the whole experience. It wasn’t bad. The performance seemed to lack energy. I don’t know if unenergetic is even the right word. It was just … slow. They were tip-toeing through their songs instead of stomping.
The Mother Hips also eased into a fair amount extended jams, “jam band” being an an old association they’ve tried to distance themselves from. Sometimes those jams worked—usually when they were more on the spacey and adventurous side. Other times they were derivative and sounded like noodling for the sake of noodling.
There were songs made for the stage—”Red Tandy,” “Del Mar Station” and “Timesick Son of a Grizzly Bear” to name a few—combining Tim Bluhm, Greg Loiacono and Paul Hoaglin’s stunning Beach Boys-meets-Bee Gees harmonies with pop hooks and loud guitars. There were times, however, that I found myself waiting for the next song to start. Now I’m anxiously waiting for the Mother Hips’ redemption song.