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Sunday, July 03, 2005

Hot Tuna 
Old joke: How many guitar players does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Answer: Twelve. One to change the bulb, and eleven to stand around and say "Yeah, he's good, but I coulda done better."

So anyway, I saw Hot Tuna. Jorma Kaukonen was one of the founding members of Jefferson Airplane. Jefferson Airplane peaked with "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love," of course, and Jorma wisely jumped ship before they could morph into Starship and torture us with "We Built This City," quite possibly the dumbest pop hit ever cut.

Well, Jorma and Jack Casady are two very competent instrumentalists, and I caught them on tour last night in Fort Lauderdale.

Jorma's a fantastic fingerstyle guitar player. But the show was marred by its format. No seating. It's an outdoor stage, and the open area's made for dancing, not listening. Combine a packed crowd with South Florida heat and humidity in the summer and, well, you get the idea.

Saw it with one of my usual gigging partners. Both of us pretty much figured that if we put on a show like that, we'd never get asked back to the pub.

Everything was blues in E or A, same uptempo White Boy Blues, same time signature. These guys are good technicians, but the sameness of the material was difficult to take, and my ears tired after a while.

It was kinda funny because the place was crawling with middle-aged guitar pickers, all comparing their penises with Jorma's. And all brought their wives and girlfriends who seemed to be less into it.

Jorma's good, but I can play the same shit around my house for free all night long and not even break a sweat.

They were accompanied by a mandolin player, whose name escapes me. Competent, but not inspiring. A far cry from the brilliant Sam Bush, who occasionally appears with them, and whom I was hoping to see.

My compatriots and I...three of us guitar players, one of them a Berklee college of music grad, actually left the show early. The consensus: These guys are living off of past glory and not pushing themselves.

A bunch of people asked me how come I wasn't fighting my way to the front of the crowd. "Don't you want to watch his hands?"

I'm thinking, "Why? I already know how to do everything he's doing! Let someone else go up there. It's too hot."

I can't execute it as well as Jorma right now. He's a very clean player. But that's just a matter of practice.

All in all, a disappointing performance by some players I'd expect more of.

Splash, out

Jason

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