After later days

The Mother Hips rise from the dead, or hiatus, or breakup, to play the occasional gig

Um, I know that naked Sapphic summer camp is around here <i>somewhere</i>: From left to right, the Mother Hips are Tim Bluhm, John Hofer, Paul Hoaglin and Greg Loiacono.

Um, I know that naked Sapphic summer camp is around here somewhere: From left to right, the Mother Hips are Tim Bluhm, John Hofer, Paul Hoaglin and Greg Loiacono.

10 p.m. Thursday, September 30; at Harlow’s, 2708 J Street; with Dave Gleason’s Wasted Days and Amy Cooper; 21 and over; $15.

The Mother Hips’ story reads like a textbook definition of how to successfully build a lucrative career playing rock ’n’ roll. Develop a large and loyal fan base in an ever-widening arc across the United States. Record and release critically acclaimed CDs on small labels. Eventually, graduate from those tiny independent labels to a major label. Tour more, hook more fans and sell more CDs.

So, why didn’t it work?

Sure, the band’s four members were able to avoid day jobs for 13 years, but they never really made it to the big time—at least not to the extent that fans and members of the press thought they would. Playing night after night and making little tangible progress became a grind.

And, in the end, something had to give.

What gave first was Sacramento native Isaac Parsons, the Hips’ bassist, who quit the band in 2001 to focus on his business and family. Next, about a year later, was singer-guitarist Greg Loiacono’s decision that he needed time away from the band. “Mainly, it was time for a change,” Loiacono said via telephone from his home in the Bay Area. “It’s pretty much as simple as that.”

The remaining Hips—especially the band’s other singer-guitarist, Tim Bluhm—decided that marshaling on without Loiacono wouldn’t be right and that it was, in fact, time for the band to take a break. Loiacono called it a hiatus. Bluhm may have used stronger language. The end result, though, was that the Hips were—at least for that moment—no more.

The last shows were in February 2002. Since then, all four Mother Hips members have pursued various other projects, most notably Loiacono and Bluhm’s folkie side project Ball-Point Birds, which was one of the best under-the-radar releases of 2002. Bluhm also recorded a solo project titled Wingbeats at San Francisco’s Tiny Telephone Studios, a project that is still looking for a record company to release it. And Loiacono self-released a terrific home-recorded solo project called Purgatory and has his own band called Sensations (which also features Hips’ bassist Paul Hoaglin, who in turn plays with Persephone’s Bees). What also happened was the advent of day jobs, the first the band members had since they were in their early 20s. Indeed, it was a rather jarring return to “real life.”

Eventually, the Hips’ hiatus period seemed to close in on itself like a night flower once again approaching daylight: This week, the band—Loiacono, Bluhm, Hoaglin and drummer John Hofer—will play its first Sacramento show in a year-and-a-half.

Although the Mother Hips’ hiatus is officially over, the band’s approach to the music business itself has softened somewhat. Older, wiser and perhaps a bit more accepting of their fate, the Mother Hips will approach their music career from a less aggressive stance. “A show comes up, and it sounds like fun, and we take it if everybody’s around,” Loiacono explained. “There’s really no plans for any action.”

Action or no, what remains after the frustrated dreams, day jobs and a year-and-a-half away from the Hips is a sense of beauty, of friendship, and of looking back over 13 years of making music. “There’s so much I’m grateful for,” Loiacono said. “It was so easy not to be grateful for it when you’re up in it.” Bluhm, too, has achieved a new sense of perspective: “I got to play with a bunch of rad people since I went on the hiatus,” he said. “But if I got to handpick the people I would play with, I’d pick those three [Mother Hips] guys. I don’t think I knew that before, but I definitely know it now. I’m just stoked that they want to play with me as well.”

That mutual stoked-ness will be on full display on Thursday, September 30, as the Hips play Harlow’s, with superb opening acts Dave Gleason’s Wasted Days and Amy Cooper.