Jorma Kaukonen & Barry Mitterhoff
The Pour House
Speaking to the audience on Sunday evening, singer/guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and mandolin player Barry Mitterhoff — both of Hot Tuna — acknowledged that many fans might tire of standing for three hours while the pair sat at the front of the stage. But for most, the chance to watch the musicians up close seemed worth the trouble. Even Pour House owners Alex and Vanessa Harris took the night off to fully enjoy the intimate performance along with the hushed audience.
The setlist drew upon Kaukonen's own inspirations, including Merle Haggard's "More Than My Old Guitar" and the Rev. Gary Davis' "There's a Bright Side Somewhere." The requisite "Hesitation Blues," a Hot Tuna fan favorite, appreared early in the first set, featuring the first of several cool breakdowns and time signature changes between the twosome. Their interplay in "Come Back Baby," another Hot Tuna tune, dug in deep, spacing out into an ethereal jam.
"I Know You Rider" closed the first set. Mitterhoff did most of the talking, including an extended bit to pitch the merch table, in which he encouraged the audience to get a jump on Black Friday with the "Jorma and Barry Stimulus Package."
Set two included highlights in "Uncle Sam Blues," Hot Tuna's "99 Year Blues," and another Davis tune, "I Am the Light of this World."
Hot Tuna's "Genesis" exposed Kaukonen to a new generation when Widespread Panic covered it years ago. They followed that with the bluegrass classic "Nine Pound Hammer."
After a busy weekend of gigs, this reviewer was already exhausted on Sunday. Few musicians, other than Kaukonen, could have kept me on my feet. The encore rained down like affirming reassurance that all was right in this moment. In an interview two weeks ago, I asked Kaukonen about a Hot Tuna classic. "Do you still play 'Water Song?'" He replied, "Not often, because I'm too lazy to retune my guitar. But would you like me to play it in Charleston?" He did, and I gushed as he made his way through the instrumental, which is perhaps the penultimate example of Kaukonen's contribution to the annals of acoustic guitarists.
The night ended with a mutual feeling we'd just been a part of something magical.