After last night, I’d have to say that Hot Tuna is one of the best live acts ever. Jack Casady & Jorma Kaukonen amazed me; there is no doubt as to why they’re in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I’d argue that there aren’t two musicians who are more “in tune” with each other. I saw Hot Tuna about a year ago at Warren Haynes’ Christmas Jam, but it was an abbreviated set and I was much farther from the stage. Seeing them at Starr Hill was quite a treat. On a side note, that venue is by far my favorite in Virginia. Very intimate setting (you feel like they’re playing in your living room), great acoustics, and cheap beer :o)
The crowd packed in, and if it wasn’t sold out, it was damn close. I felt young amidst the sea of baby boomers, but I planned on an older crowd. The music started at about 10:00pm. For most shows, Hot Tuna is either acoustic or electric. On this tour, they’ve been mixing it up. As someone who can get lulled to sleep by too much acoustic, I was very appreciative of the variety. I got traditional blues numbers, some sweet folk songs, a nice mix of country bluegrass, and some straight-up heavy rock ‘n roll. It was like going to see four bands for the price of one. Another plus – acoustic & electric meant that I got assaulted with an arsennal of instruments. Jack Casady used his signature Epiphone all night, while Jorma & mandolonist Barry Mitterhoff kept switching it up. Jorma also played his signature Epiphone for the electric numbers. For the acoustic tunes, he had a few different axes, most notably this sweet-ass acoustic electric that didn’t have a sound hole or any pickups. I wish I could find a picture of that one. Barry Mitterhoff had such a plethora of instruments on stage that I couldn’t even keep track. Shit, I couldn’t even figure out what half of them were. All I know is that electric mandolin is where it’s at, and Barry should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame too.
The highlight of the night for me was the “Bowlegged Woman” in the second set. Jack’s smooth, relaxed bass lines were the perfect complement to Jorma’s blistering solos. Getting to hear that song was worth the price of admission alone. Also got a Merle Haggard cover, “More Than My Old Guitar,” which went into my second favorite of the night, “Hesitation Blues”.
Closing remarks- Hot Tuna receives my sincerest accolades. At the risk of sounding cheesy, Jack Casady & Jorma Kaukonen are truly the stuff that legends are made of. Go see Hot Fucking Tuna while you still have the chance!