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.

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