Saturday, July 16, 2016

CONCERT REVIEW: The Mother Hips Plays Surprise Set at West Hollywood's Troubadour

By Jessica Klausing

Tim Bluhm perfroms at The Troubadour
photo by Jessica Klausing
Longtime fans eagerly awaited The Mother Hips co-founding guitarist Tim Bluhm as he slowly made his way center stage to his seat. Bluhm donned a foot cast and crutches for the evening due to an unfortunate paragliding accident in September 2015 that left his ankle shattered. 

This injury didn’t hold back Bluhm’s energy filled powerhouse performance at West Hollywood’s Troubadour.

Tim Bluhm (guitar/vocals), Greg Loiacono (guitars/vocals), John Hoffer (drums) and Scott Thunes (bass) with special guests, Scheila Gonzales (saxophone/vocals) and Jason Crosby (keys/violin) played a very special show for Los Angeles.

The band teased fans with the promise of covering a surprise record as part of their two set show. As soon as the band opened with the anguished guitar ballad, “Gimmie Shelter,” the sold out venue erupted in cheers.  The Mother Hips played The Rolling Stones’ Let it Bleed album in its entirety.

Bluhm and the gang slayed through the classics such as “Monkey Man,” “Country Honk,” “Let It Bleed” and the iconic “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” The songs were performed ready to burst of hard rockin’ blues with surprisingly dark undertones that was both sexy and horrifying at the same time. This stellar performance would have made Mick Jagger proud.

On top of a secret set, the Hips had another surprise in store for fans that night. Fans were gifted with a free download of the new single, “I Went in Hard.” This song is a sneak peek of the group’s new album due out later this year. The song addresses the accident that badly injured Bluhm but the band was not going to kiss and tell any more secrets about the new album.

“We decided not to play the new single tonight. We wanted the audience to go home and experience it for themselves—plus we don’t really know how to play it,” confessed Bluhm.

After a brief intermission, the band returned to play their originals for the final set.

The Hips kicked off the second set with the alternative rockin’ “Smoke” followed by a bluesy jam of “White Falcon Fuzz.”
Scott Thunes and Scheila Gonzales
photo by Jessica Klausing
 Scheila Gonzales had the audience swaying to her jazzy saxophone parts in “Esmerelda.” Gonzales can play a mean sax! It was her beautiful saxophone solo that stole the show during “Toughie.” It was the kind of thing you would hear at a jazz nightclub from the French Quarter in downtown New Orleans. Things mellowed out with Scott Thunes’ heavy bass groove in “Clean Me Up.” The momentum picked back up with Greg Loiacono’s rich lead vocals to the more psychedelic “Confirmation of Love.”

To nail the Hips down to one specific genre would be nearly impossible. A few songs into the set and already the audience were treated to a delicious musical buffet of Americana, blues, jazz, country, alternative and psychedelic rock.

What makes the Hips so special is perhaps the musical bond between Tim Bluhm and Greg Loiacono as evidenced during “Been Lost Once.” Their call and answer vocals section was the main highlight of this heavy Southern rock guitar jam. These two guitarists were quite a mesmerizing sight with their dueling compositions. This was not a battle of the brawns but more of a means to challenge the musical dynamic of the song.
Tim Bluhm of The Mother Hips
photo by Jessica Klausing

The Hips closed out the night on a high with “Magazine” and “Stoned Up the Road.”

The Mother Hips are quite a trip to watch live in person because of their Grateful Dead-esque extensive jam sessions. However, they are much more than just a northern California jam band. These guys are constantly looking for ways to take their songs to new heights. Part of the fun is not knowing where these guys will end up. It’s more about the journey, not the destination.

Secret Setlist:

Gimmie Shelter
Love in Vain
Country Honk
Live with Me
Let it Bleed
Midnight Rambler
You Got the Silver
Monkey Man
You Can’t Always Get What You Want


White Falcon Fuzz
Gold Plated
Clean Me Up
Confirmation of Love
Third Floor Story
Singing Seems To Ease Me
Been Lost Once
Do It On The Strings
Delmar Station
Time Sick Son Of A Grizzly Bear
Rich Little Girl
Pet Foot

Stoned Up The Road

Friday, July 8, 2016

CONCERT REVIEW: Tyler Stenson Delivers Elegant Folk to Hollywood's Hotel Cafe

By Jessica Klausing

Tyler Stenson performs at Hotel Cafe
photo by Jessica Klausing
Tyler Stenson brightened up the Hotel CafĂ© with his unique brand of “Elegant Folk” music. His set was as comforting as a warm hug from an old friend on a bad day. His heart wrenching lyrics and charming presence was a much needed gift to Los Angeles.

Stenson walked onto the main room stage at 08:00PM, picked up his acoustic guitar and crooned right into the delicate “Monday and a Mountain.” 

 This singer-songwriter from Portland captured the attention in the intimate room with his soul lifting melody and humble lyrics, “I was born on a Monday, in the thickening snow, so it’s safe to say that hard work is habit that lives in my bones.” His presentation didn’t include a backing band, making this performance a stripped-down version similar to his 2010 album, Bittersweet Parade.

Tyler Stenson performs "The Arsonist" at Hotel Cafe
photo by Jessica Klausing
Stenson picked up the pace with his second song, “The Arsonist.” This was the highlight of the night because he would be simultaneously playing the guitar and harmonica. In this song, Stenson asks the heartbreaking question, “Why build a bridge if you’ll just burn it down?”

Stenson has always proved to be a bold, honest lyricist. What makes his work so unique is his meticulous attention in the sincerity of his simple words. Some examples were lyrics such as the heartbreaking, “I’ve gotten good at being alone,” in “That I’ll Know You” and the rejoicing of “Gone are the days of the dark shades of grey,” in “How Bright.”

A personal favorite of the night was “Cannonball.” This was the opening song on his 2000 album, The Low Ceiling. During that time, Stenson served as a front man for his band, Rhetoric Tuesday. Hearing the line “I’m so close but I’m so far” performed live gave it even more emotion than hearing it on a recording. You can feel the desperation he delivers with each note. Even with his front man experience, it seems pretty evident that Stenson much prefers the reflections of an acoustic solo artist.

He launched next into a slower paced cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Celica” interwoven with Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire” alts.

“You Already Know,” and “Carry On” were slightly older hits that told more stories of love, hope, heartbreak and courage.

“Say No More” was the newest song played in the set. This single was Stenson’s first release in 2015. The song was written as an earnest apology to his sister. It teaches us about the consequences of saying the wrong thing to loved ones.

Tyler Stenson
photo by Jessica Klausing
The show ended with the more upbeat “Best Laid Plans.”

 “This is one of my most optimistic songs. It came from a darker place in my life. I wrote it at a funeral,” said Stenson.

 He encouraged the audience to sing along with him. Soon enough the room was chanting, “You must believe what might have been, can yet still be.” This positive lyric seemed to spark a glimmer of hope within the audience. Throughout this emotional journey tonight it felt like there really is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Hearing Tyler Stenson live was definitely a memorable experience. His voice is a timeless blend of vulnerability and confidence. Many concerts are filled with orchestral arrangements and heavy production, which are great! Stenson proves that a strong voice and a guitar can leave just as much of a lasting impression.


Monday and a Mountain
The Arsonist
You Already Know
That I’ll Know You…
How Bright
Cecilia-Simon and Garfunkel cover with I’m On Fire alts by Bruce Springsteen
Carry On
Say No More
Best Laid Plans