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Saw Hot Tuna Last Night

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The only time I attended a partially seated show at The Orange Peel in Asheville, NC the floor was split a little off center down the middle.  One side was seated and the other was wide open giving everyone who wanted to stand near the stage half a chance, maybe a 60% chance, to get close without having a chair.  When the option of a seated or standing ticket came up, my choice was for the lower priced standing ticket.  That was 2014 when The Zombies played a show.  An assumption that the seating/standing situation would be the same for Hot Tuna proved to be a problem.  When I picked up my ticket at will call I was told there were seats left for an additional $13.  It would be OK.  Thanks.  Standing is good enough for me. 

My estimate was 256 chairs.  That whole floor was nothing but chairs.  You had to have a wristband to use a chair.  There was only about six feet between the chairs and the mix area.  There was much more room behind the chairs on the sides.  Crap.  Crap.  Crap.  One couple upgraded to get wristbands for chairs.  I stood slightly off near the lighting console.  By showtime there had to be another 150 to 200 people standing at the back. 

The show started on time at 7:30 PM when Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley hit the stage.  Both of them have taught music camps at Jorma Kaukonen's Fur Peace Ranch, and their resumes as players are top notch.  They have played with a lot of people, and a lot of those are BIG names.  Trey Hensley played what looked like a Martin, and he used a few effect pedals sparingly.  There was a phase/flange effect at one point.  One was a sitar effect, and another pushed the notes up an octave.  That boy can play!  Rob Ickes has won the International Bluegrass Music Association's Dobro Player of the Year award 15 times.  He did a lot of fast stuff, but his solos sounded like he was going for a melody first rather than just showing off.  The set was about an hour, and worth the price of admission if you like watching hot shot musicians showing what can be done on their instruments.  They made me want to see more.  If these guys are playing your area they are worth checking out. 

At 8:50 PM Hot Tuna took the stage.  The current tour is billed as Electric Hot Tuna because Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady have been touring as Hot Tuna doing acoustic shows the last couple of years.  Justin Guip is playing drums on this tour. 

My interest was in Jack Casady just to watch him play, so I was in line with his bass amp across the room.  His bass lines have always been really cool to me because he moves around a lot while holding down the bottom.  He had an Aguilar rig with some cabinets beside it.  The only bass he played was his Epiphone signature model.  He has an anniversary model, too, bu the only one he played was the regular goldtop version.  He will drop his fingers down on the string creating a big crack every once in a while.  Mostly his right hand looks like his fingers are laying flat on the strings. 

Jorma started off the show playing a nylon string Gibson Chet Atkins SST model guitar using a thumb pick and fingers.  The only "real" electric guitar he played was a Gibson Firebird which he played through a Marshall half stack behind a plexiglass shield.  He definitely had the tone of a Firebird through a Marshall.  He switched between the SST and the Firebird a few times during the show, but every time he played the Firebird I kept thinking about how that late 60s and early 70s approach to soloing was so alive in Jorma's playing. 

For the encore they did Baby What You Want Me To Do with Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley joining in.  Trey played a Les Paul for that final jam.  The show was over just after 10:20 PM. 

The audience was eating up everything Hot Tuna was playing.  There was a lot of long gray hair in the audience.  The old San Francisco hippies on stage had short gray hair.  This was my first time seeing Hot Tuna, and to me it was seeing a part of history.  The recordings have been cool, but seeing the guys who made them was to be interesting.  Well, Jack does not smile much while he plays.  He does smile, just not much.  He moves around, though.  Jorma does not move much.  Jorma is 78 now.  Those guys just love playing. 

Here is the set list from last night.  They change it up for every show, so if you go you will get a different setlist with about half of the same songs. 

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Hot Tuna is always a good time. Their acoustic shows are insanely good and Jorma's fingerpicking is top notch. 

Did you happen to notice Jack keeping time with his eyebrow? The first time I saw him do it, I thought he was just messing with me in the front row -  but I've seen him enough times to think sometimes he just does that instead of tapping his foot. 

They may be old hippies who attract old hippies, but I'll go see them as long as they care to keep touring.

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