Symphonic finesse and elegance was the theme of December 30 when Acoustic Hot Tuna, aka Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, have entered into a three-night residency at the intimate Freight and Salvage Coffee in Berkeley, California. The longtime duo kept the crowd entertained with two ensembles of acoustic blues, roots and spiritual music – mostly dating from before WWII – that were both complex and enjoyable to hear.
While some songs and instrumental passages inside sparked memories of those legendary and powerful marathon gigs of the Hot Tuna power trio of the mid-1970s, the mature crowd in attendance (the vast majority appeared to be over 50) looked like to children. sitting at their elders’ knees, listening intently – and contributing a few timely hoots and yells – to distinguished renditions that highlighted a large chunk of the duo’s song catalog. Although Kaukonen has offered over a year of free weekly Covid-era ‘quarantine concerts’ streamed live from its Fur Peace Ranch, and Hot Tuna has performed selected shows at the end of the East, ” it was the first time I had boarded a plane in two years, ”he said.
There were young people in the crowd, including 19-year-old Zac Meurer from neighbor El Cerrito. The three-night run, his very first concerts of acoustic music, was his first live experiences with the band. “I thought it was a really good performance,” he said of the 30th show, “and seeing that bass was really something else. My favorite song that night was probably“ True Religion ”; it was one of the first songs I heard by Hot Tuna and hearing it live for the first time was amazing. I discovered Hot Tuna through Jefferson Airplane a few years ago. I really am got into the psychedelic movement of the 60s, and all that went with it My friend put me at Hot Tuna.
The duo performed two dozen songs that night, clever cantations, ie “Keep on Truckin ‘” and “Barbecue King” to sad lamentations, ie “Death Don’t Have No Mercy “and” Another Man Done Gone “. Casady’s silky smooth bass passages complemented Kaukonen’s finely dexterous and graceful fingering guitar and storytelling voice perfectly. The two-set, three-hour performance of soul-heartwarming music consisted of songs they had traveled with on their musical road trips. Kaukonen, 81, and Casady, 77, first partnered with small club gigs in Washington, DC in the late 1950s, before becoming world famous as core members of the Jefferson Plane, and over the decades as Hot Tuna, Vital Parts / SVT, and more Hot Tuna.
The triad of shows was originally scheduled for four, including New Years Eve, but the band and the venue decided not to hold a concert on the 31st. A thoughtful statement on the subject of the band included the following: “The shows New Year’s cargo and salvage are more than a night of music. There are several breaks (sic), food, drink etc, champagne countdown and second midnight toast. The decision was made to forgo all NYE events and due to rapidly changing conditions … the safest choice was to cancel the event. For the other shows that we take on a day-to-day basis, all concessions have been canceled. No food, no drink. Masking at all times. Proof of vaccinations / boosters if eligible. … We make it as safe as possible. If the fans don’t want to take the risk, refunds are issued. Indeed, the evidence of vaccination was scrupulously checked and everyone inside the site, except Kaukonen and Casady, wore masks.
Once on stage, the musical lexicons took us through Americana’s songbook, many of which were originally African American spirituals, although Kaukonen / Hot Tuna performed and kept these songs alive for so long. that they are also widely regarded as “Hot Tuna Songs.”
Such selections included, just in the first set, “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” (Jimmy Cox, 1923; Bessie Smith, 1929), “Another Man Done Gone” (Vera Hall, 1940), “Come Back Baby ”(Walter Davis, 1940),“ How Long Blues ”(Leroy Carr, 1928) and“ Keep on Truckin ‘”(Bob Carleton,“ Keep on Truckin’ ”, 1918; as well as Blind Boy Fuller, blues singer / guitarist ‘Truckin’ My Blues Away ‘, 1937).
And then of course, there were Hot Tuna songs and standards, such as “I See the Light”, “Sea Child” and the encore, “Serpent of Dreams”. In addition, Hot Tuna also offered three songs by Reverend Gary Davis, including a pair of songs to close the first set, “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” and “Let Us Get Together Right Down Here”, as well as “I ‘Everything will be fine one day.
In addition, the concert delivered other songs written by Kaukonen, including “Too Many Years”, “Highway Song”, “Ain’t In No Hurry” and “Broken Highway”, and contained a few songs sung by Jefferson’s Kaukonen. Aircraft catalog, “Trial By Fire” and “Good Shepherd”.
Towards the end of the first set, someone asked for the origin of the group’s name. Jorma said it could have been worse; it could have been the Dickheads, before he gave the answer. There are several rumors but that’s the real story, he said. “I remember it was me, Jack and Paul Kantner, probably other people too,” Kaukonen said, “and one of us, probably me, known to have said inappropriate things at the wrong time, was said, ‘What’s that fishy smell, oh baby?’ And Paul said, ‘Hot tuna.’ And I was like, “Well, that’s a great name for a band.” “Which is actually a good transition to play this song.” At that point, they said, “Keep on trucking”.
Kaukonen said he had a great conversation with Wavy Gravy, who was scheduled to host this New Years Eve show. , I’m going to have to dream about it, ”Kaukonen said. “Anyway, many times he has done this; it is a fact. And I myself have put on a clown’s nose from time to time. Regarding a question of “How is he?” from the audience, “He looked like he was doing really well,” Kaukonen said. “He was in better shape to run the ball. God bless him indeed. He’s one of the few people I know who’s older than me. This one is for Wavy Gravy, words to follow and it’s called ‘Let’s Get Together Right Down Here.’ ”
Notes: Over the three nights, Hot Tuna only played two songs in all three shows: “Barbecue King” (recorded in 1980 by Jorma and John Stench as Vital Parts) and still an audience favorite, ” Hesitation Blues ”(traditional).
Thanks to Freight & Salvage, which due to Covid has improved its HVAC system “to bring in 100% outside air seven times per hour and ensure the purest air possible.” They also removed the first two rows of seats to create a pandemic. appropriate distance between stage and audience.
Going forward, Hot Tuna (mostly acoustic with a few electric gigs) has a big show itinerary planned for February and March, as well as a spring / summer tour with Little Feat as Acoustic Hot Tuna, with drummer Justin. Guip. Additionally, New York City’s Carnegie Hall finally appeared to celebrate Kaukonen’s 80th birthday on April 22, with a show featuring Electric Hot Tuna.
Spicy tuna, December 30, 2021: Set One: True Religion, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down, Another Man Done Gone, Too Many Years, Highway Song, Come Back Baby, Sleep Song, Trial By Fire, How Long Blues, Keep on Truckin ‘ , Death has no mercy, let us gather here below. Second set: Blues of Hesitation, I’ll be alright someday, Mind problems, Ain’t in a rush, Broken road, Terrible operation blues, I see the light, Sea Child, Good Shephard, Barbeque King, Keep your lamp off and on. Again: Serpent of dreams.