Ultraviolet Hippopotamus- Ann Arbor, Michigan
Words & Photos By Greg Molitor
September 23rd, 2010
As Jessica and I approached The Blind Pig around 10:00 P.M., I noticed some familiar faces chatting outside the venue. A large reason why my involvement with local music has been so rewarding is that it provides for me a chance to mingle with old friends I rarely see. A trip to Ann Arbor always seems to brighten my horizons. The initial turnout was surprisingly low, but by show time, a solid crowd had gathered to witness the local Hippo sighting.
After attending the band’s controversial last appearance at The Blind Pig where the staff unjustifiably decided to shut the venue down after one set, I was eager to see how UV Hippo would respond. As the band hit the stage around 11:00 P.M. to the delight of its Ann Arbor faithful, it was obvious that UV Hippo had some mixed emotions about returning to The Pig. Regardless of attitude, one should never doubt the band musically as it always seems to bring the heat regardless of venue or time slot.
The first set was quite a bit longer than expected, containing a handful of Ultraviolet Hippopotamus classics, the band pushed through the set with a workmanlike approach. Things really got cookin’ when UV segued into “That 1 Jam” which provided the first monstrous musical moments of the evening. The band has been crushing “That 1 Jam” recently and this evening held true to that notion. The song showcases UV’s ability to take an instrumental section to dizzying heights then, in unison, drop into a funky, syncopated psychedelia that is bound to rattle some cages. The highlight of the first set was closing offering of “Verlander > The Game > The Marine”. The jams throughout were fast-paced, unrelenting, and aggressive, especially those contained in “The Game”. After each time I’ve seen this song, I’ve been left speechless and in-awe of UV’s technical prowess. As expected, serious musical chops were on display at The Blind Pig this evening.
After a brief intermission, Ultraviolet Hippopotamus took the stage for its second set. This was a victory in itself considering what had transpired at the band’s last Blind Pig show. Sounds like a good excuse for a celebration!
The band kicked off the second half of the show with a kickass version of “Stoked on Razaki” featuring a sit-in from keyboardist Jesse Clayton (The Macpodz). He and UV’s keyboard wizard Dave Sanders traded lines with the band throughout the song, and one could tell both were in the moment, enjoying their contributions while showing a deep respect for their counterpart. The remainder of the set played out in a similar fashion to most UV sets, but this isn’t to say what the band does is typical by any fashion. “Yin Yang”, the band’s third song of the set and signature piece of music is anything but ordinary, and in Ann Arbor, Ultraviolet Hippopotamus proved that notion once again.
An instrumental tune, the song contains all the elements UV Hippo enthusiasts crave in its music: powerful melody, emotion, grit, tension and release…all of these are injected into the trance rock “Yin Yang” with stunning success night after night. Whether it be the Herbie-influenced lines from Sanders, the harmonized phrases from guitarists Sam Guidry and Russell James, low-end thunder from bassist Brian Samuels, or the groove-driving rhythms from drummer Joe Phillion and percussionist Casey Jones, there is constantly something to grab onto with UV music. After a funky throw down of “Cheshire Cat”, a personal favorite, and the always heartfelt “Head in the Trees”, Jessica and I decided to make our way back to Lansing. Unfortunately, I had to wake up for work at 8:00 A.M the next morning, and although my night of music was over, I am grateful for any opportunity to see Ultraviolet Hippopotamus for whatever time length. The night was a great success.
It baffles me why this band doesn’t sell out every show it performs. Granted, UV doesn’t have a superstar vocalist and could more songs in their standard rotation, but with regards to overall musicality and consistency, the group outshines a very large majority of what is being put out in today’s jam scene. With proper promotion and attention to details, there is no reason why Ultraviolet Hippopotamus can’t be a national touring force for many years. The fans obviously would like to see the band take it to the next level…who wouldn’t want to help spread the music that has touched us devoted fans over the recent years? If UV can find a way to mobilize its fans, its future will be filled with success and stardom. Whether the band is ready to take that step is anyone’s guess…I certainly hope so.
Set 1: Kindred Spirits, The Scar > That 1 Jam > Bob the Wondercat > Square Pegs
Round Holes > Run Rabbit Run, Verlander > The Game > The Marine
Set 2: Stoked on Razaki, Broomhilda > Yin Yang > Cheshire Cat > Head in the Trees >