When we were young, we used to smirk as our parents toddled off to the Lobero, desperate to catch the tag ends of some gone act like Guy Lombardo or Sammy Kaye. What must our children think of us, then, filling that same hall to watch Hot Tuna’s Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, whose heyday was nearly 50 years ago? Like it or not, acid rock is closing in on being sexagenarian now.
If there, you likely thought, “The hell with the kids,” especially when hearing Hot Tuna play “I Know You Rider,” a song gathered from traditional sources and then recorded by (among many others) Joan Baez, John Renbourn, The Grateful Dead, and The Byrds (one of whom, David Crosby, was in attendance, grooving along). Because the players are so good, the songs become dignified by the passage of time. And maybe we do, too — no doubt the Guy Lombardians felt the same.
Concoctions are what opener David Bromberg is all about, though it’s difficult to otherwise describe his musical shtick. He may appear to be just another white bluesman, but Bromberg uses 12-bar sad rants as a stepping-off point to exhibit the talents of his own nimble fingers. It was a lucky night for his fans; the presence of some bootlegging archivist prompted Bromberg to play “stuff even he’d never heard,” though standards like “Statesboro Blues” were still there.
Hot Tuna arrived a bit short-changed and weren’t necessarily stars of their own evening, though. A number of new songs sounded fine, though the best (“Children of Zion,” “Let Us Get Together Right Down Here”) were composed by the Reverend Gary Davis, who also taught Bromberg. And then there were the truly traditional reveries, like “Parchman Farm,” and the aforementioned “Rider.” It was a night of nostalgia being kept alive by the breathing practitioners. Our children should be proud.