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Live Review: The Mother Hips, Conspiracy of Venus, and Or the Whale @ GAMH

Live Review: The Mother Hips, Conspiracy of Venus, and Or the Whale @ GAMH

The Mother Hips, Chico-based jam-band from the nineties, headlined a holiday show at The Great American Music Hall the weekend before Christmas. Although the stoner vibe of their long instrumental bits may have been a bit much for those in the audience not high on cannabis, they were tighter on certain songs and held their own even while missing many of their original members. The showstopper was when lead singer Tim Bluhm’s wife Nicki came onstage and raised the roof with her powerhouse voice. Those completely gone from too many joints and five minute musical interludes were snapped back to attention, with the refreshing presence of a woman onstage among the five male hippie rockers. The beautiful Mrs. Bluhm walked onstage, appearing polished and stylish, and proceeded to sing with wisdom and heart. Even though she only graced the stage for one song, it hit home more than the entire rest of their performance for me.

The female power was introduced early in the show in fact, with San Francisco-based all women’s choir, The Conspiracy of Venus, kicking the show off with a rousing and fun-filled set. Choir director Joyce Todd McBride included one superb song she wrote herself, but otherwise early comers to the show were treated to three Tom Waits songs, two by Joni Mitchell, and one by Duke Ellington and Juan Tizol. Additionally, a rocking choir version of the Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated” got the audience dancing and joining in. Highlights of their set were a solo by Demetra Delia Markis and their fun props such as a toy cowboy gun yielded by Frankie Burton. The girls ranged in age from twenties to middle age and it was a joy to see them all up their in their holiday finest.

More girl power was exhibited in the second opening act, Or the Whale. Led by Alex Robins, the band is given flight by the amazing singer Lindsay Garfield. Or the Whale has appeared on Good Morning America, and their debut album Light Poles and Pines helped earn them a 2008 Hollywood Music Award for Best Americana/Roots Artist as well as a coveted spot on Radio & Records Top 100 Americana Artists of 2008. And believe me, they live up the hype. Americana without feeling cliché or too cool for school, this band knew how to rock, and how to bring it down home. Not to mention, it was precious to notice that (accidentally?) four out of six of them were clad in plaid shirts and jeans.

The highlight of the show though, had to be when the choir joined The Mother Hips for a song, taking advantage of the onstage box seating. In the twenty or so shows I have seen at the GAMH, I have never seen it used before. But it was not just their placement in the box that made this moment great, it was their voices with the Mother Hips, a perfect pairing.


Words and Photos by Shauna C. Keddy

Or the Whale Photo by Melanie Robins

Published: January 05, 2011 |

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