I got the chance to talk with Russel Jones of Ultra Violet Hippopotamus about their upcoming show this weekend at the Vogue in Indianapolis, Indiana. This will be their last show before taking a hiatus this winter, and they are more then excited to be celebrating it here in Indianapolis with all of their friends and family. This is sure to be a special show!
Mojo: Saturday Night at the Vogue will be a three set show, will we be seeing any horn section?
Russ (UV Hippo): “Unfortunately, No. We are not going to have the horns with us, but we are still finalizing some of the details on a few surprises for you guys. The horn section is definitely something we want to continue in the future. When we come back we’d like to look into doing a whole tour with the horns.”
Mojo: Well it’s good to hear you talking about the future. A lot of people have been worried that this hiatus would lead to something more permanent.”
Russ (UV Hippo): “Yeah hiatus can be one of those words that people read into a little bit too much. We have been discussing taking a break for a while, but we didn’t want to have to announce anything. The whole plan was just to wind things back so we could focus on writing and progressing the music. We didn’t want to make an announcement and freak everyone out, but we wanted to answer any rumors going around about what was happening. We have all been itching to progress our music beyond a certain point, but we haven’t been able to allow ourselves to do so because of the amount of time we have been spending on the road. We really want to write a new album with an approach we have never had before, and it’s going to take time to develop something great.”
Mojo: “So at the end of this hiatus we should expect a new album?”
Russ (UV Hippo): “Yes there will be a new album. We are going to just take a break from each other in December and the beginning of January. We are going to get back together in January and just keep writing and finalizing some of the ideas we have going and progress things from there. There’s no strict time line on things because we want to allow ourselves to go through a creative process.”
Mojo: “Why did you guys pick Indianapolis for your last show, you are all from Michigan, so what made you choose Indy?”
Russ (UV Hippo): “Well our home base as of right now is Grand Rapids, Michigan, but Indianapolis and really Indiana in general, is one of the main reasons we have been able to do all that we do. We have made such good friends anywhere in Indiana that w have played and they have played such a big part in making us feel like yeah, we can do this. Indiana is one of those where bands go and they know a crowd will show up rain or shine because they want a good show and they appreciate good musicians.”
Mojo: “Last questions, there is a post on the World Wide Hippo Crew Facebook page about a crowd theme for Saturday’s show. I think the front runner is Ashton’s Closet. Do you have a vote?”
Russ (UV Hippo): “Ashton’s closet sounds great to me, just as long as he dresses the band too”
Get your tickets, they are going quick! Check out the website for details, www.uvhippomusic.com
Never miss a Werkout; after all, it’s for your health. The Werkout, a 3-day event filled with music, art, and all things silly, took place from August 7th-9th in Thornville, OH. An oasis of wonder and shenanigans, what more could one ask for?
After spending the time of our lives at Legends Valley, we set upon the task of reviewing the festival, recounting it for those who were there and recapping it for those who weren’t.
How to boil it down? Condensing 72 hours of bliss into simple text on a screen can be a challenge, but we’ve debated and discussed, recalled and reminisced, and this is the result. A list of 10 moments, bands, people, and situations to paint the picture of the Werkout.
10. The Comedy Stylings of Mr. Jesse Brown AKA The Blue Power Ranger
Amusing would be an understatement had you met this gentleman moseying through the grounds on Saturday night. This guy was the real deal from the costume to his swift reenactment of “It’s morphin time!” He was a true entertainer, as most witnesses would say. His comical gestures and witty dialogue were the perfect way to transition from one set to another. I walked out of the situation with stomach cramps because I was laughing so hard. Werkout citizen Kenny Beebe went on to describe him as “Eloquent. He just kept on going forever. I didn’t want him to stop talking. This guy had to be a professional; he really put on a show.”
Jesse, if you’re out there and ever decide to go on tour just know that you’ve got yourself plenty of fans.
9. El Fuego
A non-musical, yet integral, part of the festival were the performance artists throughout the weekend. Nestled near the stages was a performance area set up specifically for performance artists of all kinds: hoopers, poi spinners, fire breathers and more. Performances of this kind are not uncommon to festivals by any means; in fact, they’re almost as expected as music is. However, Saturday’s events were something special.
As nightfall came and Zoogma tore through their incendiary set, fire performers captivated throngs of audience members with their craft. The performers worked three at a time, joining forces to create choreographed masterpieces of movement and light. Bright flames circled around on smooth trajectories, tearing beautiful patterns into the cool night air. It was mesmerizing. It was unreal.
Honorable mention: Fire cannons. Specifying further, computer-controlled, propane-fueledfire-cannons… with whistles to boot! Who knows what to officially call these contraptions; they shot short blasts of gas through an exhaust whistle and past an igniter. Epic. But… why, you may ask? Because that shit is awesome.
8. Ultraviolet Hippopotamus’ Saturday Night Special
Making the list of incredible performances to hit The Werkout on Saturday night was UV Hippo’s groovy performance. Always blistering and always on point, the band set the evening vibe right with their second set of the extended weekend. Starting out with the soothing and surreal, “Medicine”, Hippo amped up the energy track after track for the duration of their hour-long set. Moving through a 6-song set bordering on an average of 10 minutes a song they jammed their way through as only Hippo can do. The result? A meandering trail of color-clad humanoids dancing their way throughout the venue.
Set List: Medicine > Verlander, Georgie (w/ Kenn Mogel on guitar), DNT, Tugboat, La Marea
7. The Werks’ Two Sets on Saturday
The Werks kept fans at attention with every beat of the night, hitting all of the right notes throughout both sets. They even brought the staff and production crew on stage for a solid moment of recognition; a grand round of applause. Zane Kesey and Derek Stevens from the Further bus did a narrative for the Anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s death. Dave Weissman, the festival’s media organizer, and his son even joined the stage; dressed in galactic space wear (complete with capes), they played air guitar during the last song.
Plain White Toast
Hard To Find Jam
The Other One
6. The Furthur Bus
Zane Kesey (the son of famed author Ken Kesey), Derek Stevens, and the next generation of pranksters made their way to The Werkout on their 50th anniversary tour. The bus, a beautiful piece of art and history on wheels was a one stop shop for fun, games, merch, and even a wedding! The Werk Out was the 6th official stop on their tour outside of their initial travels in Oregon in June. I had the pleasure of speaking to Derek over the phone to ask a few questions, detailing their experiences on the road.
How did the Werk Out become so lucky to be one of the stops of the tour?
“Actually, we were privileged enough to be invited by Rob Chafin of the Werks. I had the pleasure of talking to him over the phone a few times, and he said that they were trying to plan something special for us out there and said he’d appreciate it if we could make it.”
Is it safe to say that the Werks was probably your favorite gig out there?
“Without a doubt. The Werks were on top of it, it was a great gig across the board. They really stepped it up.”
Were there any other bands that caught your attention? “
Actually to be honest I didn’t make it out on the grounds to explore very much until late night but hands down Zach Deputy. We had him on the bus, a little private recording session, and he just blew us all away.”
Is there any advice that you want to share with the youth of America and next generation of merry panksters?
“Best thing to keep in mind is that it’s okay to think differently. It’s okay to express yourself with music and art. Whatever it is that brings up your passion…. We’re not saying to tune in, turn on and drop out by any means. We don’t even roll like that anymore, especially right now on tour. You can be high on the hill but you end up missing those little things, you know? Be you and have fun. It’s okay to be yourself. You don’t have to go down any set path to be free and have fun. It’s all about living in the moment and not missing those little things.”
He went on to share a few intimate moments they had along the tour and added, “It’s those stories that color what this entire experience is about. You know, we actually had an opportunity to get – and I’d hate to mention it – corporate sponsors, but we turned it down. It didn’t feel right not having the bus on the road interacting with people. That’s not what this bus was about and we’re glad that we didn’t. We’ve made so many friends – lifelong friends – along the way.”
Next stop on the Bus tour will be in Baltimore, MD at The 8×10 room with special guest John Kadlecik of Furthur this Tuesday, August 19.
5. The Werks’ Stripped Down VIP Set/Q&A Meet and Greet
This may have not been a part of the main festival, and it wasn’t accessible for everyone, but it definitely deserves to be on the list. As a part of the VIP ticket package for The Werkout, ticketholders were treated with a special set from The Werks in the VIP lounge. Relaxed and laid back, it gave audience members a chance to see the band and interact with them in an uncommonly intimate setting. The session started with a heartfelt thank you from The Werks, detailing how fans and supporters are truly the reason that events like The Werkout exist. It felt good.
Seated among a group of spectators, The Werks played several stripped down songs including a new and yet-to-be released tune. They told stories and joked around. It was comfortable and enjoyable. After the short performance, they moved on to a Q&A session with the audience, prompting us to ask anything about the band, the festival, or whatever else was on our mind.
The shining moment of the Q&A session, you ask? They announced that there were 7 cinematographers filming Thursday’s Dark Side performance. The kicker? The soundboard audio and video of the set will be edited and released, FOR FREE, in several weeks once the project is completed. Another tasty tidbit? Anthony Thogmartin of Papadosio is mastering the audio. The days can’t tick by fast enough.
4. Everyone Orchestra
For those who don’t know, Everyone Orchestra is the ever changing, improvisational, brainchild of musician Matt Butler. Boiled down to its core, it’s a jam session, but not just any old jam. Featuring a rotating cast of some of the world’s top musicians (past participants have included members of The Grateful Dead, Phish, moe., String Cheese Incident, Taj Mahal, a presidential candidate and more).
For The Werkout’s incarnation, EO was a 14-piece band creating brass-laden funk fusion with Butler manning the helm as the Orchestra’s psychedelic conductor. He guided the group of musicians toward their auditory goal, creating and closing sonic space as he sees fit. As any musician will tell you, that’s easier said than done, especially with 14 people improvising at a time. Butler guided the group through the jam using vocal cues, hand gestures, and a little whiteboard that he feverishly scribbles directions to the musicians on. It truly is an awesome and silly sight of madness and music.
3. Zoogma’s Saturday Night Set
The 4-piece livetronica outfit hailing from Oxford, Mississippi, took no prisoners with Saturday’s set at The Werkout festival, their second overall performance of the weekend. Sandwiched between The Werks’ two sets that night, they had some big shoes to fill. Zoogma pulled through with what may have been the most talked about set of the weekend.
As the last notes of The Werks’ first set tapered off, the bass took hold from the opposite stage… and so it began. Contrasting the stylings of the previous act’s more traditional sound, Zoogma was a swirling synthesis of organic and electronic instrumentation. Wasting no time and starting things off with a bang, they launched into what can only be described as an electro-blues banger. “Let My Shorty Ride (RL Burnside x Young Buck)”, a seamless blend of hip-hop and righteous gritty slide guitar, foreshadowed what was to come over the course of their set: an eclectic mix of originals and reworkings of a slew of other tracks.
Additional highlights of the set were the Michael Jackson and Eagles classics “Thriller” and “Hotel Crunkafornia (Notorious B.I.G. x The Eagles)”, respectively. For those of you who weren’t there, let’s get one thing straight: these were not simply covers, but incredibly solid and innovative rehashes of the original masterpieces. One has never heard such guitar playing like this during a “Thriller” performance, guaranteed.
As “Thriller” climaxed in one final intensifying crescendo, a surprise awaited, the opening notes to “Hotel California” rang out, soon to be layered in with some Biggie vocals. Intriguing? Damn straight. With dueling guitars and saw-bass low-end, Zoogma soared on this one; imagine Joe Walsh and Don Felder duking it out on the famous solo, but only that this time through they had discovered the glory of Ableton before writing the track. Hands. Down. Breathtaking.
Let My Shorty Ride
Starrey Eyed Thriller
2. Zach Deputy
The one-man-band from Savannah, GA that kept on keepin’ on! It was almost impossible to keep from ‘to his funky tunes, even if you were just passing through for that midafternoon delight. Had the dance floor not been made of rocks, people surely would have kicked off their boogie shoes! The guitar was funky with a few flicks of beat boxing here and there and Deputy laid down smooth, soulful, swingin’ vocals. This man would have you down in New Orleans one minute then out with island fever the next.
Deputy made sure to engage the audience throughout his set to enhance the vibe and step up the jive. He kept the loop train going all throughout Friday and Saturday night, even on into Sunday morning. Even the schedule didn’t know what time he would be done! Embracing his collaborative spirit, he also provided vocals during the Dark Side and Everyone Orchestra sets as well. What ‘chu know ‘bout The Deputy?!
1. And the downright obvious of the all things epic: Dark Side of the Werk Out set!
What an incredible way to bring in the first night of the festival. There was so much zest and excitement in the air leading up to this set of epic wonder. By the time The Werks ended their last song of their first set the crowd had swelled up. One could feel the intensity and the anticipation for what was about to take place – the fifteen minute set change seemed to take forever.
Finally, each band member took their place and the lights dimmed to their appropriate state. The crowd cheered louder with every pulse that lead into the sudden stroke of “Breathe”, and then the pack got wild! Chills are currently pacing their way up and down this writer’s spine just reliving that moment. And who better to open up the tribute other than the festival director and beat master of The Werks himself, Rob Chafin.
As if the Dark Side set wasn’t enough, more surprises made their way into this grand recital. Kevin Dumont laid down the smooth and saxxy melodies during “Money.” The enchanting vocals of Mr. Zach Deputy were brought in for “Great Gig in the Sky”, and, boy did that man bring a few people down to their knees! Making their way through the crowd at that moment was the full cast of Wizard of Oz, even the Lollipop Guild, as the movie played on the backdrop. Overall, it was an inspiring sight to behold.
There it is, the Werkout in review. While this isn’t an all-inclusive list or even the big picture of what went down that weekend, it’s our little version. Short and condensed, just add water – or beer – to reconstitute. Given the chance, would we go again? Yes. As for you, the reader, should you consider it next year? That’s not for us to say, but, if this article was met with intrigue and a peaked interest, you probably already know the answer to that question.
Indianapolis is in for a treat on April 25th and 26th. Ultra Violet Hippopotamus is invading The Mousetrap for a two night run they are calling “Fan Appreciation.” This power packed band has a unique jam sound and a tight fan base all through Michigan and Indiana. Indy Mojo recently spoke with the band to find out a little bit more about why they chose our city to celebrate. Casey Butts (percussion, vocals) and Russ James (lead guitar, vocals)
MOJO: You guys are gearing up for a two night run April 25th and 26th at The Mousetrap in Indianapolis and calling it the fan appreciation weekend. What makes us so special to get a fan appreciation weekend?
Russ: It’s hard to describe how great the music is in Indianapolis. Not just the musicians that are there, but the fans. We do a lot of touring around the U.S. and the type of people and the type of music lovers that are in Indianapolis are so unique. It’s like this rabid base of music lovers that support musicians and support art in general that you just don’t see anywhere. It’s got energy that you don’t get in other spots. It’s just a wonderful thing.
We’ve never done a two night run in Indianapolis. The trap is really a place where we have grown so much musically, and also financially. So much has happened from the support we have gotten from The Mousetrap and the people in that area. To be able to go back and do a two night run in a venue like that is just great. We are so excited to share that with the community.
MOJO: So what do you guys think about playing at The Mousetrap in comparison to other venues?
Casey: Well, there’s a certain energy in that room, and that’s what that place is all about. It’s small and we can barely fit on the stage anymore. There’s no room for us to move in there, but there’s just an energy in that place that you don’t get playing in the other venues. It’s almost like playing a house party or something in the sense that we are down there with the crowd. It’s not us playing above the crowd. It’s like we are all in this together and that’s what creates the energy in that room.
Russ: Yeah, Casey brings up a good point. There is a definite sense of beauty and wonder when it comes to playing large rooms like the Fox Theater and things like that- they are fantastic- but at the same time there definitely is a disconnect that you get from the crowd that makes you have to generate the energy back and forth with each other.
MOJO: I want to talk to you guys a little bit about the album you just released, Translate. Why did you decided on the title Translate? Most of your other albums are titled with song names.
Russ: As you just pointed out, we have always chosen a song title. This album isn’t as thematic as the ones before. It’s more about a bunch of different types, styles and genres of songs. In a way, fan interpretations of songs that we do- chord progressions, or stories that we tell- it’s all up to a person’s translation of that. That’s kind of the reason we chose to go with that title.
MOJO: So how would you say that this album sets itself apart from your previous albums?
Casey: We have definitely upped the whole production of everything. We put more work and time into this album than before. First, we went into a top-notch studio, with top-notch engineers. We were able to go in there and get more done in ten days then we have in any other previous albums. I think bringing in the horns and bringing in the background vocals just gives the album a much larger feeling to it then we previously had. I feel like pretty much, all around, every song has a larger scope to it than what our previous albums have. I feel like it represents where we want our music to go. It’s definitely more progressive rock and even more jazz influenced than before.
MOJO: What is your favorite song off of the album?
Russ: I think it’s different for everyone in the band. For me personally, I love “La Marea.” It’s funny how different songs come together and the writing process. The way that “La Marea” came around is we were just warming up for practice and Brian, our bass player was laying down a line and Joe was playing a drum line over top of it to get warmed up. We started warming up with some guitar lines, and within 15 minutes we had a song. It’s always beautiful and wonderful the songs that come together like that. I think that’s the song I enjoy playing the most right now.
Casey: For me it really depends on the day. When I listen to the album it even depends on what mood I’m in. The last 20 seconds of “Ruben,” whenever I hear that with the trumpet line, I’m like pumping my fists in the air. Then other days I’ll hear “Tiny Eyes,” which is a song we never play live. We’ve maybe played it twice live, but I hear it on the album and it sounds so beautiful. I don’t even think we should play it live again. I’m not sure we can match how great it sounds on the album. So, it really just depends on the day for me personally.
MOJO: It looks like you have a pretty full summer festival tour. You’re going to be at Summer Camp, Dark Star Jubilee, GrooveFest and a bunch more dates. What are some must see shows on this summer tour? What are you most excited about?
Casey: All of them! Just quit your jobs and come on Hippo tour. Summer Camp is going to be amazing- that whole weekend playing both Summer Camp and Dark Star Jubilee.
Russ: Summer Camp has a special place in our hearts because it’s in the Midwest and one of our first huge festivals. To be able to go out to Groove Festival in Colorado, that’s just going be a blast. We go on before Carl Denson[’s Tiny Universe]. It’s going to be an amazing time.
Casey: Another thing about Summer Camp: when we’ve played in the last couple of years, and we look out into the crowd, I feel like I recognize the first 30 rows of people. I feel like it’s become this spot where all of our Midwest fans have all come to collaborate and meet each other and basically celebrate that for the weekend. That is obviously very special to see all the work we’ve been doing in all different regions come together for this one event.
MOJO: So, say we miss a date on the summer tour; we can catch up with it on “The Hive” right?
Russ: This is something that is still a little bit in development. Ultimately the goal is to record every show and release every show so that if you miss it or just want to listen again you will be able to do that. As of right now we aren’t doing every show. We are trying to raise the funds to get a digital soundboard and all the things necessary to record everything, but this is kind of just the early stages of that. Right now we are just releasing stuff that we have had in the archive for a while. Hopefully by Fall or by the end of the year we will be recording and releasing every show.