By: Kevin Flinn
The Mother Hips/Dusty Rhodes & The River Band/Blue James Band
04.11.10 :: briXton :: Redondo Beach, CA
Redondo Beach's briXton played host to three very stylistically different yet thematically linked bands. As passé as the "hippie" moniker may be in the Age of the iPad and Obama and Whatever We're Calling This Decade (Tens? Teens?), a communal sense of purpose and spirit was alive and well in the South Bay.
The evening's opening act, Los Angeles's Blue James Band, showcased its acoustic/electric jam-pop, never straying far from the formula that makes it successful - catchy hooks, reggae-tinged grooves and chops-laden solos. Frontman Clifton Williams and keyboardist Valerie Taylor's harmonies complement each other perfectly (as on "Believe") and an impeccably tight drums and bass combo allows them to trade solos with equal aplomb ("Full Circle"). It didn't take long – just two songs - before the Blue James Band had the first dancer of the night on her feet, swaying and flailing as the band chugged along happily and handily.
Second to the stage was Anaheim favorites Dusty Rhodes and the River Band (Winners of 2010 O.C. Music Awards for Best Rock Band and Best Live Band). While the sextet's first few numbers may have been turned up a bit too loud, eventually the group found its footing (and its audience) towards the end of the set with "Blind Lead the Blind," an anthemic shout-along that showcases all the group's seemingly idiosyncratic facets into a cohesive, effective jangle. Watching the band perform feels like someone donated a van full of instruments to a commune of twenty-somethings, locked 'em in a room and was likely blissfully surprised by the result - a throwback to a bygone rustic era of Music From Big Pink filtered through laser-sharp prog synthesizers and violins.
The headliners, The Mother Hips, embody the laidback atmosphere of the S.F. Bay Area that the band calls home. Tim Bluhm and co. have practically trademarked the dual-guitar hum and rattle that pervades each of their well-crafted songs. Bluhm and co-founder Greg Loiacono play off each other's strengths, filling gaps in guitar melodies and vocal harmonies as only 20-year veterans of the road and studio can. Backed by a superb rhythm section, the songs stand on their own merit, regardless of who's singing - Bluhm on the opener "Esmerelda" or Loiacono on "Confirmation of Love" - with most tunes sounding like slightly beefed-up brethren of Neil Young's early 70s recordings with Crazy Horse, but with a swank and swagger all their own, courtesy of these Northern California stalwarts.
From a foursome eager to strut its virtuosity to a gaggle of high-spirited nuevo-folkies trying on some indie-stomp to psychedelic Americana rock heroes who've only improved with age, it's a good bet that one (if not all) of these acts will return to the briXton sooner rather than later.
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