Trigger Hippy | 02.07.09 | Georgia

Words by: Frank Etheridge | Images by: Ian Rawn

Trigger Hippy :: 02.07.09 :: Cox Capitol Theatre :: Macon, GA

Jimmy Herring – Trigger Hippy :: 02.07 :: GA
Expectations and preconceptions can too often limit and hinder one’s live music experience. Whether these restrictive mind-sets arise from an intricate knowledge of the music or an obsessive mapping out of the sonic peaks and valleys you hope to travel during the show, it’s refreshing, and unfortunately all-too-rare for many, heading in not really knowing what to expect.

A breath of fresh air blew into Macon, Georgia’s fan-friendly Cox Capitol Theatre last Saturday night with the debut of Trigger Hippy, a combo that melded the jazzy, psychedelic Southern rock of Widespread Panic and The Black Crowes with a dash of boogie woogie courtesy of bassist-singer Nick Govrik. Propelled by the brilliant guitar work of Jimmy Herring (WSP) and Audley Freed and the in-the-pocket grooves of drummer Steve Gorman (Crowes), the band organically grew enough face-melting moments amidst a curious selection of cover material to sprout hopes that this “down-time” project pulls the trigger and collaborates in the future.

Another unforeseen and unexpected bonus arrived with the unannounced opening act Genetic Drift, a youthful trio featuring guitarist Nick Johnson, drummer Duane Trucks (Derek’s little brother) and bassist Kevin Scott. Playing an all-instrumental set of mostly covers with a few originals, the group, which has a weekly Tuesday night gig at The Five Spot in Atlanta, displayed considerable talent – Johnson simply shreds with a Steve Kimock-esque flair – and the band plays with enough requisite chemistry that they seem destined for larger stages soon. A cover of Frank Zappa’s “Peaches en Regalia” was a highlight.

Govrik & Freed – Trigger Hippy :: 02.07 :: GA
Next, the venue MC introduced Trigger Hippy as “not a super group, but more like an amalgamation of friends.” Prior to the show, Herring confirmed this casual approach to forming Trigger Hippy, saying it was the result of his conversations with Gorman following sit-ins with the Crowes and a desire to get together when they had the time. (Anyone who saw Herring help nail a cover of the Allman Brothers’ “Dreams” with the Crowes at Chastain Park in Atlanta in August 2007 knows well his connection to them and the possibilities it holds.) With Panic taking the spring off save for a week in April, and the Crowes having completed a marathon tour that lasted pretty much all of 2008, the time had come. Combine open calendars with an invitation to help raise money with a benefit concert for efforts to create the Big House Museum out of the Allman Brothers’ home in Macon, they rounded out the band with like-minded musicians, practiced a few times and headed down I-75 for a one-night experiment.

It took just a few minutes into the opening tune – a spacey, slow instrumental that seemed to crest along a blissful apex for nearly 10 minutes – to understand why Herring and Gorman would be so drawn to one another’s playing. Gorman kept perfect time and held down an ideal groove for Herring’s mastery, somehow keeping the guitar Jedi in a slow, deliberate-but-unrestrained tone that cast an unassuming backlight to the rest of the players. Such a style is a far cry from what critics of his playing with Panic (yes, there are folks brash and spoiled enough to do so) describe as a rapid-fire machine gun that is too fast for WSP’s sound. Of course, there were moments when Herring sprang free to spin some searing solos to delight the crowd and seemingly stun his Trigger Hippy bandmates.

Kevn Kinney w/ Trigger Hippy :: 02.07 :: GA
The soulful energy Govrik brought to the ensemble was featured next during a cover of B.B. King’s “Driving Wheel,” which he sang with a bluesy bravado similar to Jimi Hendrix. This continued in a cover of Freddie King’s “Big Legged Woman” and an excellent version of Al Green’s “I’m a Ram” that followed. The tribute to the group’s blues and R&B favorites continued with Albert Collins’ “Snatchin’ It Back” and Lee Dorsey’s “Ride Your Pony” that had the crowd jumping into full dance-party mode. J.J. Cale’s front-porch foot-stomping “Clyde” closed out the set.

While it was entertaining to see the band have fun playing up-tempo, danceable covers, when they teased, just for a few moments, Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” with a fierce, brutal intensity well-suited for it, one couldn’t help but ponder the possibilities of other cover choices more closely matching the hard-hitting styles of WSP and the Crowes. As in: What would have happened if the pick of destiny had led them to monster out and just destroy a set of Zeppelin, Sabbath and the like? Would Macon have survived?

Their propensity for brilliant work in classic rock covers surfaced in an outstanding encore featuring friend Kevn Kinney, who lent inspired vocals and acoustic guitar to Neil Young’s “Keep On Rockin’ in the Free World,” which slowed down into the poetry of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” before the group went back into “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World” that was a full-on frenzy by its conclusion.

In their first outing, Trigger Hippy helped a worthy cause celebrating their peers in the Allman Brothers, paid tribute to other legends and forged a small bit of their own. Will they play again? Who knows. For with this group, thankfully there are no expectations.

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