Two Nights of Ultraviolet Hippopotamus 3.3.11 & 3.6.11
Words & Photos By J-man
Having Michigan's own Ultraviolet Hippopotamus in Colorado was an exciting experience. It takes a lot of effort and logistical planning to get five guys across country in a timely and safe fashion. After being riddled with vehicle issues it was great to hear that they had made it to Colorado. Those two nights in Denver would be telling to where the band is headed after the departure of one of their two guitarists, Sam Guidry. With the evening getting off to a slow start attendance wise, it would be up to the band to take the experience to the next level.
I have never seen a venue so consistently empty as I have Quixote's. It's by far one of my favorite venues in the Denver area, but it appears that promotion has taken a back seat. Those two nights at Quixote's would boast some of the lowest attendance I have seen in some time. Where was the disconnect? Shouldn't a venue want to promote itself, whether through street teams or via social networking sites like Facebook? Those nights it would be up to UV Hippo to make something happen...
And make something happen they did. Let's start by saying Hippo does not have a huge fanbase with followers turning out in droves to see them. What they do have is the desire to expand and those who are fans are loyal. Both nights in a similar fashion, Ultraviolet Hippopotamus turned up the heat. Their directional jams bent my mind and left me wondering, "Why god, why!?!" The way Hippo has come to really explore their space since Sam's departure caught me off guard. Is it possible that they have tightened up and come together more as a band since the untimely loss of their guitarist? Yes.
Russel James has stepped up to assume the full-time lead guitar slot. His playing continues to get better every time I see them, which is saying a lot as he was a great player the first time I saw the band. Brian Samuels' bass playing is as solid as most on the scene. His huge bass lines, combined with his huge smile and his fury made me desire more, not from him, but from the sound guy. I thought to myself, "Turn Brian up!"
On drums, Joe Phillion. Joe is on the high end of the scene as far as overall skill and ability. His chops are incredibly strong and at times overwhelmed me with excitement. He slid in and out of a dance vibe, into jazz, into progressive rock with authority and passion. Casey Butts adds percussion to the mix, creating layers of percussive glory. The musical chemistry between Joe and Casey is evident and on a level above most of the duel percussionists on the scene. Casey did a great job of adding exactly what was missing sonically with the touch of a hand.
Then there was Dave Sanders. Dave is horrifying. The speed and precision with which his fingers move across the keys, coupled with his utilization of tonal bending and effects make him one of the most interesting key players on the scene. I can't help but to grunt and make dirty spaceface's throughout most of his playing. His sound has really helped to separate UV Hippo from a large portion of the generic bands on the scene.
Their sets were incredible both in setlist arrangement and translation. It was a wonder to me that Quixote's was so empty. In addition to the lack of promotion, folks must not be all that familiar with Hippo. Otherwise, the venue would have been packed. What we saw over the course of those two nights at Quixote's was some of the most enjoyable, directional, expansive, precise and raging music on the national jamband circuit. Make room live music fans, there's a new band emerging onto the scene. Don't just go and see them if they come to a venue in your neck of the woods, seek them out.
From their polished sound, to their solid light rig, to the vibe that they project and their individual characters; I was impressed. I felt connected to this band, so much so that I bought a t-shirt... something I never do.
Following the two nights, I thought to myself, "What's it going to take to elevate Ultraviolet Hippopotamus to the level in which they deserve?" The clear answer is you. You can help to elevate this band. Tell your friends about them, spread their music, but most of all go see this band live. I say with great confidence that you'll be happy that you did.
J-man's Photo Gallery From The Show