Ultraviolet Hippopotamus: 6.23.11

Bell’s Eccentric Cafe - Kalamazoo, MI
Words & Photos By Greg Molitor
(ReMIND Photography)

When it comes to pre-show anticipation, there are few acts who excite me as much as Ultraviolet Hippopotamus does. During the work day before a show, thoughts of powerful UV Hippo music and inevitable friend reconnection often leave me stirring and eagerly awaiting the moment when I can bust out of the ol’ eight to five job and dive straight into the crunch cooker. Thursday, June 23rd, was no different. As soon as I finished with the daily grind, I hopped in my car, snagged a couple of Lansing peeps and drove to that evening’s promised land, Bell’s Eccentric Cafe in Kalamazoo.

Arriving to Bell’s minutes around 9:15 PM, I had just enough time to grab a beer and say my hellos before the band came onstage. It had been a few months since my last Hippo sighting, but as UV busted into the opening notes of “Cream Soda”, I felt like I’d slipped on a comfortable old pair of dancing shoes for one more go ‘round. It wasn’t long before the composed funkiness of “Cream Soda” slipped into the signature trance rock groove that defines the band’s slick, uptempo style.

Interplay between keyboardist Dave Sanders, drummer Joe Phillion and percussionist Casey Butts produced large peaks and valleys throughout the jam, creating an affectional response that, by watching its reaction, the entire crowd shared. After taking the audience to the mountaintop, the band eased back into the composition, dropping everyone off just in time to yell “WATCH OUT FOR YODA!”... and this was still the first song.

The rest of the show unfolded masterfully, featuring newer songs “Hey Tommy” and ”Final Boss”, classic material such as “EMD”, “Yin Yang” and “DNT”, as well as covers of Tool’s “Ænema” and Umphrey’s McGee’s “Nothing Too Fancy”. In fact, this was my first experience with “Final Boss”, a tune with that’d be a perfect soundtrack for an epic battle between Final Fantasy’s Sephiroth and the Flock of Seagulls. After hearing rave reviews about the song, I can now say that I know what’s up. The band finished slightly before 1:00 AM, prompting me to collect my crew and head out for an early morning’s rise and whine. As much as I would’ve loved to stick around and mingle with the Hippo faithful, obligations called and the “limousine” found its way back to Lansing.

Per usual, the Grand Rapids five-piece tore it up the entire night, chewing up tune after tune and spitting gnarly remnants of awesome all over the crowd. Yes, there were some flubs and missed notes here and there, but like most successful jam bands, Ultraviolet Hippopotamus music represents something larger than the combination of notes played. The band bravely takes chances during its jams. With that willingness to sacrifice consistency for raw, in-the-moment magic during its jams, the group is quickly shedding the image of “local band” into one that represents a collective who is worth seeing time and time again.

So what’s next for Ultraviolet Hippopotamus? Clearly bigger is the goal, but how will they achieve more success in an already overly saturated, underfunded jam scene market? As the band aims to play larger venues and festivals, its sound has to grow to fulfill future destinations. To project louder is key, especially considering the type of shredtastic, in-your-face music Hippo brings to the table. With thicker, more massive tones, the music will carry longer in cavernous spaces and across fields.

This improvement is crucial for attracting new fans at festivals as well as sounding properly at theater gigs. The talent within the band is unquestionable, and it’s only a matter of time before the band blows up the scene. How quickly it happens, of course, is for the band to decide. I’m just lucky to be a fan who’s along for an incredible ride. Thank you once again, UV Hippo!


Greg’s Photo Gallery

Set One: Cream Soda > Cyberslut, Dreams are Gone > Yin Yang > EMD, Hey Tommy, Tugboat, Ænema

Set Two: Verlander, DNT > Nothing Too Fancy > Scar > Final Boss, Breasts and a Penis, Chorale

Encore: El Scorcho


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