With a stage demographic that mirrored the audience, the folks who came out for a helping of Hot Tuna and David Bromberg could have a seat and take in songs and jams from artists that have been at it for, well, over half a century, and joining the crowd of bands taking their nifty 50 lap in recent years. At their core, Hot Tuna are a power trio deeply staked in the blues and the psychedelic spirit of their Bay Area peers. Yet, it’s not hard to draw a line between the band, and, say, Gov’t Mule. Hot Tuna’s just been doing it longer and have a few more rings to their trunk.
Guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady go at it like an old couple keeping the argument going, egging each other on. Kaukonen switched between his Chet Atkins Gibson SST, for more traditional finger picking tunes, and a pair of cranked up Firebirds set to in your face sandblast throughout the night. The raucous “Talkin’ ‘Bout You” was backed with the darkness of “Ode to Billie Dean”. The tried and true “Hesitation Blues” was close to a sing along while Casady rumbled through Muddy Waters’ “Can’t Get Satisfied”.
An extended “Bowlegged Woman, Knock Kneed Man” flexed some squonky call and response between the two with Kaukonen wringing every drop of feedback from his Firebird. The scabrous grit of Son House’s “Walking Blues” cleansed my palate of every snoozer take on this the Dead ever pulled out back in the day, and “Volunteers”, the album that spawned “Good Shepherd”, that followed, should be as present now as when it dropped over 50 years ago (“stay out of the way of the long tongue liar”). “Jack, you know what to do!”, prodded Kaukonen, before Casady and his signature hollow-body Epiphone got down with “Funky #7” towards the end of the set. Drummer Jason Guip, who has been grounding the electric Tuna for some time, anchored and pushed with his mates throughout.
I had never seen Bromberg and he was far more than the folky throwback I envisioned. Featuring nice moments of intertwining fretwork with guitarist Mark Cosgrove and fiddler Nate Grower (especially on the almost set closer “A Man Should Never Gamble”), plenty of flat picking and bluegrass bowing, with the dash of appropriate political commentary. A fine opener for this crowd.