Ultraviolet Hippopotamus & Yamn 7.29.11
Park Theater – Holland, MI
Words & Photos By Greg Molitor (ReMIND Photography)
Friday, July 29th, brought a double dose of the fresh and familiar to Holland, Michigan’s Park Theater, a venue completely new to me. Flanked by my good friend Dave, I made the 90-minute journey from Lansing to Holland, carrying the excitement in knowing I’d be catching one of my favorite bands, Ultraviolet Hippopotamus, as well as Colorado’s Yamn, the group I’d heard so much about but never had the pleasure seeing until this beautiful summer evening.
When arriving to the Park Theater slightly after 9:00 PM, we were met by a sparse crowd that steadily grew throughout the night, eventually exceeded my expectation of numbers. Considering that these acts were slotted against a more popular side project at Bell’s Brewery in nearby Kalamazoo, I was extremely pleased to see that by the show’s conclusion nearly 100 folks had decided to spend their Friday evening at Park Theater.
Yamn got things rollin’ around 9:30 PM and didn’t look back. Whoa… these guys were IMPRESSIVE! I was instantly hooked! First impressions signaled that Yamn actually had a lot in common with UV Hippo stylistically, but as their set unfolded, the band set themselves apart by bringing unique elements to the table, making their mark on the positively responding crowd. Already knowing about the beautiful music UV Hippo was capable of creating, I thought during Yamn’s set, “Wow… these groups would crush it on a national scale if they continued to tour together!”
Yamn’s carefully crafted songs created an canvas that led the band through extended improvisatory segments that never wandered too far from the original intent of the music. Throughout the set, the band played a healthy mix of slow chugging rock and groovy trance with progressive stops and starts and time changes unleashed with pinpoint accuracy. The quartet was obviously in control, taking theme after theme to tension’s edge and releasing emotion with a sense of commanding duty that proclaimed, “We’re not messin’ around with Michigan tonight!”
After Yamn finished, it was time for the best rock band in the Midwest, Ultraviolet Hippopotamus, to take the stage. I’m fortunate enough to catch a ton of shows, and I don’t make such a statement of praise lightly. The truth of the matter is that nobody creates the type of magic UV Hippo conjures night in and night out, not only in the Midwest, but across the entire United States. They’ve singlehandedly made me believe in the power of local music once again, but local they won’t be for long. In fact, the Hippos just landed at #3 on jambands.com’s radio charts, beating out a who’s who of nationally established artists. Check it out for yourselves…
Like always, Ultraviolet Hippopotamus sounded incredible this evening. Beginning with an over-the-top “Cream Soda > Closer > Final Boss”, their music cooked early and often with keyboardist Dave Sanders’s virtuosic musicality leading the way. Bassist Brian Samuels, guitarist Russ James, drummer Joe Phillion, and percussionist Casey Butts are all amazingly technical players in their own right, but Sanders on keys is what separates this band from the rest. Each time I watch UV Hippo, I feel as if what I’m seeing is historical greatness unfolding before my eyes.
If there was anything to complain about Ultraviolet Hippopotamus’s set, I certainly didn’t pick up on it. Highlights beyond the monster “Cream Soda > Closer > Final Boss” included the gorgeous composition, “Bob the Wondercat”, a cover of Ween’s “Voodoo Lady” featuring Yamn guitarist Brian Hamilton sitting in for one of the most intense jams of the evening, and a “Verlander” that grooved so hard I never wanted it to end.
After “Verlander”, the band pleaded to the staff for extra time. They got their wish and busted out a “Tugboat” that had the whole dance floor moving ‘til its final moments. The band was seemingly ending “Tugboat” with a huge, ‘let the instruments ring loud’ rock finish, and just when I thought the music would go silent, the band came together and brought the house down for one last signature trance-rock jam. I left the Park Theater mesmerized yet again, thankful that Ultraviolet Hippopotamus calls Michigan their home.
One Set: Cream Soda > Closer > Final Boss, Bob the Wondercat > Metaphorical Pipe > Miss Brown > Voodoo Lady, The Scar > Verlander
Encore: Tugboat > Looney Tunes
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