Ultraviolet Hippopotamus 2.16.12

Cervantes Other Side
Denver, CO

Words By J-man
Photos By Carly Marthis & J-man

Driving down the one road from Broomfield to Denver, there was a clear shift in energy from the previous experience of Phil Lesh & Friends, to Ultraviolet Hippopotamus. We were already feeling great as the second set of Phil & Friends was fantastic! The wheels turned and my excitement grew as I thought about all of the times I had seen Hippo and how they had progressed over the years. Growing up in Michigan, UV Hippo was the go-to "jamband" in the Ann Arbor/Kalamazoo area. I had seen them progress from playing for no one to playing for packed venues of adoring fans. Out of my passion for the band, I have been critical in the past. However, through the constant struggle of building a fanbase with a name like "Ultraviolet Hippopotamus" and through consistent progression, UV Hippo has become the front-runner for the "next in line."

Arriving at Cervantes around 11:15 pm, we obtained our credentials and headed downstairs to visit with a great group of guys. A warm welcome from the band prompted compliments on beards and mustaches before we got to a couple of shots of the band. We had a great time catching up with UV Hippo and Pete Wall who was also backstage preparing to sit in that night. At one point we had a collective discussion on how to describe UV Hippo in regards to genre. I immediately suggested "Jamtronica" which got a couple of disagreeing reactions. Others suggested Psychedelic rock (which I feel it is not at all), progressive rock and Jam. I stuck with my initial response to categorize the group. Upstairs Cervantes Other Side was filling in nicely for Hippo's entrance to the stage around 11:30 pm.

What was immediately noticeable to me was the combination of Cervantes' new Chandeliers and can lighting and UV Hippos rotating lights and floor lights. I was visually stimulated immediately. What followed was two straight hours of masterful "Jamtronica." The band can deny it and did, but that's what it was. Joe Phillion's drums were complex, yet consistent and layered well with the intense percussion of Casey Butts. The equation of Hippo's rhythm section is complete with Brian Samuels on a heavy and proficient bass.

At the front of the stage was guitarist Russel James, combining ridiculous chops with and ability to read the musical direction. On the left side of the stage behind multiple decks of keys, sat Dave Sanders. Dave's mind-blowing shredding on the keys elevated Hippo's sound to an imaginable level. Dave's fingers breezed across the keys with bends and incorporated space. I want to cry, I wanted to scream... I feared for my life during many of his solos.

One Set: The Marine, Cream Soda > Verlander, DNT*, Stoked on Razaki*, Broomhilda, Hey Tommy > EMD II > Cheshire Cat > Hey Fellas, Chorale

*With Pete Wall (Textiles, Game 7)

The set unfolded in such a way that further reinforced my previous point, as song after song came at the energetic Denver crowd in a danceable and jammy manner... "Jamtronica." "The Marine" was followed by "Cream Soda" that went into "Verlander." It was at this point that the band welcomed Pete to the stage for "DNT" and "Stoked on Razaki." The addition of Pete brought a heavy element of funk and jazz to the mix that further elevated the already incredible music. Pete went from zero to sixty, as he often does in guest situations, then eased back for some airy/jam progressions. I was a happy camper!

With Pete's exit from the stage I stepped up to grab his gear. While doing so Brian looked over, surprised to see me on stage. I looked over at him and said "Fancy seeing you here," to which he smiled. Then as I exited, I whispered to him in passing, "Jamtronica." He smiled and gave me a sideways look. Backstage, Pete was pumped about playing with UV Hippo. He threw out one compliment after another. "Those guys are great!" and "That was so much fun!" he stated excitedly. We then began to talk about UV Hippo and some of the challenges of reaching that next level with a group of younger guys on the jam scene with a name like "Ultraviolet Hippopotamus." We came to a consensus that if any group could do it and was deserving, it was Hippo.

Upstairs UV continued the assualt with extended and insane versions of "Broomhilda," "Hey
Tommy > EMD II > Cheshire Cat > Hey Fellas." The aforementioned run of songs melted and destroyed Cervantes Other Side. As is often the case when I see those guys, I felt as if they had gotten better and tighter than the previous time I had seen them (if that was possible). The band's chemistry, knowledge/ability of/on their respected instruments is above most others within' the "Jamtronica" realm.

Maybe that's why the band wasn't receptive to the classification. Maybe "Jamtronica" was a stigmatized term? To me it's something that I enjoy. Jamtronica is energetic, consistent, tight and is the natural outcome of a process that bread jam with tasteful electronic music. Hippo closed their incredible set with "Chorale," bringing a fitting end to a musical journey. I was thrilled, I was impressed and I wanted more. Ultraviolet Hippopotamus gave me a smack-in-the-face reminder of why I am such a huge fan.

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