Hot Tuna | California | Review | Pics

Words & Images by: L. Paul Mann

Hot Tuna :: 03.10.11 :: Lobero Theatre :: Santa Barbara, CA

Hot Tuna :: 03.10.11 by L. Paul Mann
Generations of music fans exchanged stories from their murky memories of one of America’s most enduring rock groups at the backstage pre-party at the Lobero Theatre. Sipping on bottles of an exclusive blues label wine and cocktails, partying patrons could be heard talking about rock guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady playing gigs with the original Jefferson Airplane, in the 60s.

The backbone of that seminal rock group, the pair has actually been playing together, since 1958. They went on to form their own group, Hot Tuna, in 1970 with iconic electric violinist Papa John Creach and a slew of rotating rock greats from the San Francisco rock scene. The band has endured in one form or another, led by Kaukonen and Cassidy, longer than most any rock band in history. The sold out crowd at the historic Lobero was treated to a music marathon of two sets by Hot Tuna and guest blues harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite. Sadly, songwriter extraordinaire Jim Lauderdale had to cancel his guest appearance. The tiny 680-seat theatre is the oldest continuously operating performance hall in California. The original venue was founded in 1873 and is a state landmark with a rich history of stage, screen and musical performances. Since last fall’s invasion of the normally stoic little theater by the thunderous Smashing Pumpkins, the lineup has continued to amass a more aggressive rock music presence than in times past. While the first acoustic set by the Hot Tuna band may have been more soothing to many senior music patrons of the Lobero, the second electric set sated those fans hoping for a hard rock blast from the past.

Hot Tuna :: 03.10.11 by L. Paul Mann
Kaukonen and Casady began the first set of the evening quietly sitting on stools, joined by long time collaborator Barry Mitterhoff, who played a variety of mandolins and guitars. The acoustic set kicked off with “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” a song by the Rev. Gary Davis, who Kaukonen credits as one of the biggest influences on his acoustic guitar style. One of Hot Tuna's most recognizable recordings, “Hesitation Blues,” came next. Countless YouTube videos dating as far back as 1970, document the band’s variety of improvisations based on the classic song first popularized by Jelly Roll Morton. Later, drummer Skoota Warner soon joined the band adding another dimension to the acoustic set. Finally, Musselwhite sauntered onstage to add his vocal and harmonica skills, singing some of his own songs, old and new, from his nearly 50 year career. The first set also included two new songs from Hot Tuna's upcoming album Steady As She Goes, set for release in just a few weeks.

After an intermission complete with an outdoor beer, wine and coffee bar, elated fans returned for an electric set of Hot Tuna classics. Kaukonen (ranked number 54 on Rolling Stones Magazine’s list of the 100 Greatest Rock and Roll Guitarists of all time) immediately launched into an aggressive assault on “Ode For Billy.” Musselwhite later joined in the electric festivities with old songs like “Cryin Won't Help You” and songs from his new CD like “Where Highway 61 Runs.”

Towards the end of the set, Hot Tuna played an extended version of “Bowlegged Woman, Knock Kneed Man” that belied their skills honed since their earliest days as one of America’s first true jam bands. The symbiotic force of Kaukonen and Casady's electrifying music led the band into a seminal rock jam. The stunning performance cemented their continued presence as a fresh and innovative face of blues rock more than fifty years after they began playing together.


Set 1 (Acoustic): Death Don’t Have No Mercy, Hesitation Blues, Second Chances, Vicksburg Stomp, River Of Time, Uncle Sam Blues, I Know You Rider, How Long Blues, Sad And Beautiful World, Red River Blues

Set 2 (Electric): Ode For Billy Dean, Children Of Zion, Bowlegged Woman, Knock Kneed Man, Goodbye To The Blues, If This Is Love, Cryin’ Won’t Help You, If I Should Have Bad Luck, Where Highway 61 Runs, Christo Redemptor, Come Back Baby

Encore: Hit Single #1

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