Hot Tuna | 07.28 | Atlanta

Words by: Jarrett Bellini :: Images by: Kim Panzitta

Hot Tuna :: 07.28.07 :: Variety Playhouse :: Atlanta, GA

Hot Tuna
There's probably never going to be some beautiful, idealized father-son moment, when my future child looks up at dear old dad and asks, "Did you ever get to see Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady?" Stupid kid didn't even pronounce Jorma's last name correctly. It's COW-kuh-nin. Ah hell, it doesn't matter. Like I said, probably won't happen. But, in the event that he is wise enough to ask such a question, I figure it's best to be prepared with a proper answer. "Indeed, I did."

Besides, it's not like I had a choice. When two Rock and Roll Hall of Famers come to town for twenty-five bucks, you go. And when they headline a small, eclectic venue in a small, artsy neighborhood, you bring friends. It's a moral obligation.

Here, in Georgia's capital, just about every living, breathing, performing major name in rock and roll lore finds a marquee. They play the arenas. They play the sheds. They play the new hole in your wallet. Kaukonen and Casady are different. As founding members of Jefferson Airplane , they are unquestionably as important as their psychedelic brethren in the timeline of American music history. As simple musicians, their talent is rarely surpassed. Yet, these are the guys whose images rarely appear in the glossy photo pages of mega-star autobiographies.

Jorma Kaukonen - Hot Tuna
On July 28, they showed up, playing second fiddle to no one, at Variety Playhouse in Atlanta's Little Five Points to remind music fans, young and old, to re-read those captions under the photos. They'll find more than just names.

Hot Tuna. Hotlanta. Hot venue. It was noticeably warm inside the long, narrow theater on Euclid Avenue, and Oteil and the Peacemakers had just finished a sizzling opening set – their last supporting gig of the tour. Electric Hot Tuna would soldier on down the road without the Allman Brothers bassist.

Finally, just minutes before ten o'clock, Kaukonen and Casady casually sauntered onto stage with drummer, Erik Diaz and multi-instrumentalist Barry Mitterhoff, opening with a haunting "Serpent of Dreams." Then, "Been So Long" changed the mood, allowing the band and crowd to comfortably settle into their next number, a slow, bluesy "Barbeque King," punctuated by trade-off solos from both Kaukonen and Mitterhoff.

"Can't Get Satisfied" enlisted the use of Kaukonen's signature bright red Epiphone electric, and the show took on a slightly edgier feel, opening things up for Casady's first standout moment of the evening - a simple, grooving bass intro to "Bowlegged Woman." There are some people who tend to believe that Casady is one of rock and roll's most overrated bass players. After all, his official website touts him as Jack Casady – Legendary Bassist. So, in defense of his critics, it's fair to say that the man more or less directly solicits scrutiny and evaluation.

Jack Casady - Hot Tuna
Call him legendary or call him overrated. Depending on what one values in music, either assessment is correct, or, perhaps, dangles on the outer fringes of perspective. But, too often, it seems the quality of a bassist is primarily measured by his ability to slap, pop, tap and the speed at which these techniques are applied. If there is an argument to be made for conservative note selection and overall tone, Jack Casady is the model of a simple, grooving bassist.

Keeping to that theme, the next two songs were among the finest of the entire evening. "Sea Child" filled the air with melody, and "Watch the Northwind Rise" brought a pleasant touch of Mitterhoff's mandolin into the night.

It would be three more tunes before the sparks truly started flying. After cruising through "Hit Single #1," a bluesy "Rock Me Baby" and "Corners Without Exits," the band absolutely flashed to life with the start of "99 Year Blues." As Kaukonen roared through his finger-picked guitar solos, the show became all about you. "Talkin' 'Bout You," "I Wish You Would" and "Living Just for You" rounded off the tail end of the set, bringing the temperature inside Variety to peak levels.

Kaukonen & Mitterhoff - Hot Tuna
Cooling things off, Mitterhoff took a few moments to introduce the "rock and roll royalty," crack a few jokes about their age and shamelessly pimped the band's merchandise. Though teetering on amateur, Mitterhoff's short banter was filled with a fun, easy, self-deprecating humor and one rather curious and obvious mistake (Erik Diaz isn't the bassist, Barry). No big deal, Casady may or may not have been sleeping.

Finally, the near two-hour set ended with a blistering "Funky #7," showcasing the soloing talent of drummer Erik Diaz. The band then crept into darkness with two parting words by, previously comatose, bassist, Jack Casady: "Jorma Kaukonen." And just as quickly as these two childhood friends walked off stage, Kaukonen and Casady led their band back out for one last song – a steady rocking "Come Back Baby."

To Atlanta? Anytime.

JamBase | Georgia
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[Published on: 8/9/07]

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DELYEAH starstarstarstarstar Sat 8/11/2007 06:42AM
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Hot Tuna is incredible live. I've only had the priveledge of seeing them once at Warren Haynes Christmas Jam a couple of years ago, but they blew me away! I wish I could've seen this show in ATL.

durazno Sat 8/11/2007 11:23AM
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I HATE MYSELF FOR MISSING THIS ONE!,,, damn job!! Im sure it was a great night specially with oteil opening.

dedhed6111 Sat 8/11/2007 12:31PM
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with all the incensed passion going around the scene these days, its good to see the old guard doing it best. I'm sad that there aren't more comments on this page, its the kind of "Jam" article that all the kids are complaining there aren't enough of. Hot tuna rules!

rabbitsfoot starstarstarstarstar Sat 8/11/2007 08:05PM
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i agree w/ dedhed. i'm only 21 and these guys are one of my favorite bands of all time. before last summer, i had never even heard of hot tuna. since last summer, i've spread the word to all of my 'younger' friends about the band. i'm surprised when some of the 'older' friends have never heard of them either. anyway, great article about an under rated band. peace

tekla Sun 8/12/2007 09:51AM
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The Fillmore show they did about a month ago was about as good as anything ever gets. Playing together for 40 some years will do that. Without rocks on the stage, lots of equipment, tons of lights they just do what they are supposed to do, play.

canoftunapudding Sun 8/12/2007 01:28PM
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great article

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Mon 8/13/2007 04:27AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

I saw this last year at the VP..

I love the old school!!!!!! Jorma is a historic writer and a fantastic player.. I LOVE IT!!!

too bad I missed this year..

Road To Shambala Mon 8/13/2007 10:30AM
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Road To Shambala

Got to see Tuna for the first time in 91 with WSP opening up for them @ Reading Airport in PA. Ya can't beat this kind of talent.

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Tue 8/14/2007 04:07AM
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this is a fine example of our demographic here on jambase.
Younger jamfans, have no clue about Airplane, or Tuna.
They do not know what they are missing.
I say this is an example of our demographic on jambase, because camp bisco article has 70 comments and this one has only 9. I credit my highschool buddy for getting me into HOT TUNA music, Jorma and Jack are Legends. Jorma has written some of the best songs ever!!

RothburyWithCheese starstarstarstarstar Wed 8/15/2007 12:33PM
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Well stated MilesGone, I saw these guys in flagstaff a few years back and they were wonderful. Uncle Sam's Blues a an amzing song. If you guys like early Airplane check out Skp Spence's OAR album. Enjoy!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Thu 8/16/2007 04:56AM
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I saw WSP in 2000 at the Warfield and Jorma came out and played and sang Genesis with them!! I also got to see Merl in the four night run also!! :)

guitardave starstarstarstarstar Mon 8/27/2007 12:08PM
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Jorma is the man! Class act all the way. Fret not old timers, Tuna will find its way into any heart that is guided by open ears. Genesis is such a beautiful effin' song.

biglegemma1 starstarstarstar Mon 9/10/2007 10:16AM
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My first Tuna show was in 1973, and I've been many times since. I now go with my 20 year old son. I think the only reason he listens to me at all is he likes my music.

And if you think the electric shows are hot, try an acoustic one....

infraredruby starstarstarstar Wed 4/2/2008 11:57AM
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I first saw HOT TUNA at Stonybrook University on Long Island in 1974. Since then I've seen them at least once or twice a year, excepting the few years that Jorma and Jack fell out from like 1979 till they got back together again coming out electric in 1982 (The show at the old Ritz,in NYC) Hot Tuna used to routinely play FOUR OR FIVE HOURS STRAIGHT!!! No intermission, like a Dead show, but four plus hours of straight ahead, mind blowing LOUD ear candy. These guys are the real deal.

I suggest the younger heads get it while the gettings good! Jorma will be 68 years old this year, it's Jorma and jack's 50th year of playing together this year!


"If you don't know Jorma, you don't know Jack!!" :)

meters420 starstarstarstarstar Wed 7/23/2008 05:14PM
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Attention Neophytes.......

If You Don't know Hot Tuna, you don't know Jack!

maxmoose starstar Mon 8/25/2008 02:53AM
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JK and Jack are not "as important as their psychedelic brethren" -- they ARE the psychedelic brethren. Both were members of Jefferson Airplane in San Francisco in the 60's, both are founding members of the psychedelic genre, in fact, both played (electric) on "White Rabbit." You don't get any more psychedelic than that (but "Embrionic Journey" comes close.)

As far has his acoustic work, though, Jorma is also the pre-eminent American finger-style guitarist of the last 50 years. YES I am prejudiced, as I was privileged to have him as my guitar teacher in NYC.

Consequently, I am all the more able to attest to his power as a guitarist and a singer: when you are sitting in a room with JK and half a dozen students, and he is playing and singing with no mic or electronic help of any kind, there is nowhere for him to hide. I was amazed at how great he sounded just sitting with us and performing songs to teach us. There's a reason he's a major star.