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Gerald Carpenter: Hot Tuna, David Bromberg Coming to Lobero

Lobero Live will present the groups in a concert at 8 p.m. Friday

For the theater’s first concert of the new year, Lobero Live will offer the explosive double bill of Hot Tuna (acoustic) and David Bromberg (quartet) at 8 p.m. Friday in the Lobero Theatre.

Hot Tuna's Jack Casady, left, Jorma Kaukonen and Barry Mitterhof play at MerleFest in 2006.
Hot Tuna’s Jack Casady, left, Jorma Kaukonen and Barry Mitterhof play at MerleFest in 2006.

Neither of these groups is given to brief, perfunctory performances, so you’re not likely to need to plan some other entertainment after the concert. (Bear in mind, for instance, that an early Hot Tuna set lasted six hours, without a break. These guys like to play.) Age cannot wither, nor custom stale ...

Hot Tuna was just at the Lobero in March of last year; Bromberg was there in 2007. Both concerts sold out.

Hot Tuna is a band with a group personality distinct from but based on the musical personalities of guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady; Bromberg is Bromberg, and he can play anything with strings but a tennis racket — and I wouldn’t want to bet against him coaxing music out of even a Spalding.

The electrification of folk music was a very controversial subject when all of the above musicians were getting their careers under way, in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I say “the late 1950s” to include the electrification of blues, especially in Chicago, during that earlier period. Whether or not blues are folk music is something I have long ago settled to my satisfaction: Blues are folk music.

One of the greatest of all blues musicians, Big Bill Broonzy (1902-58), has bequeathed something like divine authority on this judgment when he quipped, “I guess all songs is folk songs — I never heard no horse sing one.”

But the electrification of blues did not cause nearly the storm that Bob Dylan caused when he brought an electric guitar on stage at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. This was actually the end of a controversy that had been raging in folk music for almost a decade: the “pure” versus the “commercial.”

Though not intrinsically political, the dispute sorted out on the individual level between left-wing puritans and the great undecided middle-of-the-road fans who just liked the tunes and the drama of the lyrics. I was never comfortable being told that I couldn’t listen to the Kingston Trio or Bud & Travis; only Pete Seeger and Joan Baez were worthy of veneration. Things are much better now, with people listening to whatever gives them pleasure, regardless of ideology or lack thereof.

Whatever else they have or don’t have in common, Bromberg, Kaukonen and Casady are all great folk artists, and the music they make is beautiful and immediately accessible to everyone, regardless of political affiliation — try getting that from a horse.

Tickets to the Hot Tuna and David Bromberg concert are $47 and $37 and can be purchased from the Lobero box office, 33 E. Canon Perdido St. and 805.963.0761, or click here to order online.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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