I wanna hold your hips
DVD documents the musical history of the Mother Hips
Chico fans of the Mother Hips, the most successful band to ever come out of this town, may not realize that its sojourn here was amply documented on videotape. Archivist Bill DeBlonk has gathered many of these recordings together, added them to his own, and put together a new DVD documentary, This is the Sound, a wonderful digital record of the 12-year harmony shared by the band and its Chico audience.
The DVD is worth buying just for the early studio footage of the Mother Hips recording their groundbreaking album Back to the Grotto.
And the scene of the Mother Hips playing the downtown Music Revolution to a crowd of 2,000 people is a frozen moment of communal bliss that captures the band at its popular peak.
The music of the Mother Hips is a combination of Motor City rumblings, high lonesome Appalachian harmonies and Bay Area psychedelia. The group was so popular in Northern California, regularly filling the house in some of San Francisco’s largest venues, that many felt it was only a matter of time before the Hips became national stars. But it never happened.
DeBlonk explores the reasons for this, and members of the band talk about the poor management decisions they found at American Recordings, the difficulties of being a touring band and the decisions some band members made, choosing family over careers in music.
In the end one must decide if the Mother Hips are a band whose time has passed. Of course, DeBlonk thinks the band’s best days are still ahead of it. “The Mother Hips have a style that is distinct and stands the test of time.” (It’s worth noting that the group still gets together to play and did a reunion show recently in Sacramento.)
In any event, the Hips had a great run by any reckoning, and DeBlonk captures it well. Editing together hundreds of hours of footage on a Mac version of Final Cut Pro, he has assembled a seamless collection of interviews, live and studio performances as well as vignettes of the band just goofing around and enjoying the ride.
Quite a bit of the footage comes from sources other than DeBlonk. Christof Certik, who played banjo on the Hips’ “Two Young Queens,” handed over his live recordings, and Mike Wellins and Duffy’s co-owner Doug Roberts volunteered their footage of “Leaving It All to Bad Marie” to the project as well. DeBlonk put all the pieces together through intensive editing, weaving together individual guitar licks, mouthed lyrics and cymbal crashes from dozens of shows into each track.
Working his way through the band’s colorful history, DeBlonk focuses mostly on shows that occurred in Chico. “The only show I couldn’t find footage of was their performance at the Bidwell Bowl,” he said.
While This is the Sound features equal coverage of both Mother Hip drummers, John Hofer and Mike Wofchuck, Wofchuck steals the show. Wofchuck’s return to the drum stool, playing the popular set-closer “Superwinner"—a song written in response to the local indie-rock Superwinner Summer Rock Academy music festival that took place in 1994—is triumphant.
There are also the more candid moments, such as co-front man Tim Bluhm leading the camera on a tour of Chico neighborhoods and then inviting us to meet his family, first at their home and then in an awkward moment in a dressing room. All the band members get ample screen time, including bassists Issac Parsons and Paul Hoaglin and co-front man Greg Loicano, who in one memorable scene (looking like a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army) begins reciting what sounds like a nursery rhyme that culminates with the entire band dancing out of the frame.
This is the Sound is, so far, the definitive look at a band whose sound inspired a scene —not just in Chico, but throughout the West as well—under the banner of California Soul. Bonus materials include "outtakes" of 20 songs!