Words and Photography by Alan Sheckter
It didn’t take long for Trigger Hippy’s spicy cauldron of driving road-house jams and emotion-filled power ballads to visibly win over a sold-out crowd on October 9 at the intimate Center for the Arts in Grass Valley.
Recently tagged as an “Americana super group” by Rolling Stone, Trigger Hippy features the multi-talented guitarist/keyboardist Jackie Greene, dynamic vocal powerhouse Joan Osborne, Black Crowes drummer Tim Gorman, famed session guitarist Tom Bukovac, and bass player/songwriter Nick Govrik. There ain’t no smoke and mirrors here; it’s all talent, mutual respect, quality songs, and great stage presence, and the band seemed to visibly have a good time doing it.
While Gorman and Greene first conceived Trigger Hippy five years ago, the band is gaining lots of traction amid national buzz surrounding its self-titled, debut album, seven songs of which were showcased here live. And good for them that they are doing it largely on the strength of their own songs. Jams are great, and these consummate professionals laid down some epic improvisations, with Greene and Bukovac often trading leads, but it takes solid, well-constructed songs to lay the foundation for these jams. Trigger Hippy has this aspect covered.
With Greene on keyboards, the show began with a blast with a super-charged rendering of Albert Collins’ old blues piece, “Snatchin’ it Back.” “Dry County” followed, a funky alt- country offering, and the first of the night to showcase the fine dual-lead-vocal interplay between Greene and Osborne. “Heartache
on the Live” was next, presenting more of the dynamic magic that the two possess as a vocal tandem. That magic was never more on display than on two of the night’s covers: Bob Dylan’s romantic “Tonight I’ll Be Stayin Here With You” and the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down.”
Osborne, who had plenty of success in the mid-1990s—and later accompanied Phil Lesh & Friends, which is where she and Greene first worked together—was exceptional on the provocative, slower-tempo blues number, “Pretend You’re in Love,” pausing mid-song for some seductive interludes. “Jackie honey, I know you’re a young man,” she teasingly stage whispered, “but I bet you have something to say about love.” Greene answered back with some beautiful, emotional organ passages. Following that, Osborne said to a huge ovation, “I want to ask the ladies in the audience. Did you enjoy that? I know I did!”
This may be finest band incarnation yet for Greene, the versatile Sacramento-based songwriter and rock ‘n’ blues man who has had tours of duty with his own band, of course, as well as with the Black Crowes, Phil Lesh & Friends, the Skinny Singers (featuring Mother Hips’ Tim Bluhm), and the Bob Weir, Chris Robinson, and Jackie Greene Trio.
Greene will return to Chico on December 4 and 5, performing two acoustic benefits for KZFR-FM at the Chico Women’s Club, along with brother and Walking Spanish front man, Alex Nelson.