The month of May marks the beginning of festival season, and many St. Louisans are getting ready to head out to Summer Camp Music Festival and Cosmic Reunion at the end of the month. UV Hippo’s stop last Saturday at Old Rock House was the perfect primer for the season. The night provided a variety of jam bands that properly get you in the mood for Summer time. Opening up for UV Hippo was local group Surco who will be playing Cosmic Reunion, and Chicago group EGi who will be playing at Summer Camp.
First up was experimental Funk/Jam band, Surco, from here in St. Louis. The group is made up of Kyle Bicker (Vocals/Guitar), Jeremy Stout (Drums), Jesse Cruzen (Vocals/Bass), and Jake Dorris (Keys/Synth). The four man band came together in 2015 with the goal of “pushing musical boundaries through fluid compositions and explorative improvisations”. Inspired by artists like Aaron Kamm & the One drops and The Werks, Surco has been pushing their way to the front of the local jam band scene. Despite their status as an independent artist, they have been making a name for themselves around town. Recently they played the Halo Bar after party for Phish’s Trey Anastasio Band, who will be playing at Summer Camp this year along with EGi.
Surco was quickly able to bring up the energy in the room, getting the early crowd grooving to start the night. At various times during their set, Bicker’s performance on guitar functioned as the voice of the songs. His melodious performance gives a life force to the steady grooves his bandmates lay out. Also ringing brightly throughout is Dorris on Synth, whose psychedelic and often ambient sounds add the perfect layer to their music. While they take more of a backseat role, Stout and Cruzen play off each other well, and provide a fast-paced core rhythm on each track. Besides their set at Cosmic Reunion, keep an eye out for their first studio album to be recorded Winter 2017.
Next up was some Progressive Funk Rock all the way from Chicago, Illinois. EGi, or Ethereal Groove Incorporated, is made up of Allan Burokhovich (Bass/Vocals), James Hernandez (Guitar/Vocals), Neo Perez (Guitar/Vocals), Devon Bates (Drums), and Michael “Gonzo” Gonzales (Percussion). Since their 2009 debut, EGi has worked to spread their music across the Midwest, even making an appearance on last year’s Summer Camp lineup after a longstanding effort. Last year the band also travelled to Brooklyn, New York to record their debut studio album, “Plyatron“. The eleven track album even features a couple of songs with Dopapod’s Eli Winderman.
Fellow Summer Camp artist Umphrey’s McGee plays a big role as inspiration for the group, but they go far beyond the expected for their genre. EGi has this magical ability to be completely versatile but still unique to their own sound. The one constant throughout each of their songs is a solid base of groove. Not only do the dual guitars provide ample opportunity for harmonies and intense jams, but Gonzo’s performance on percussion is filled with disco beats and pure funk. Their songs range between everything from Hip Hop, to Psychedelic Funk, to Classic Rock. A few times throughout their set, EGi even bridges on a heavy metal influence, especially in their song “Montezuma”. Perez and Hernandez often evoke artists like Iron Maiden with their melodic power metal-esque guitar riffs. No matter the influence on a given song, the people were dancing nonstop. Keep an eye out for more on EGi from Sound of STL, as we will be covering their performance at Summer Camp 2017.
Crowning off the evening was headliner Ultraviolet Hippopotamus, better known as UV Hippo. UV Hippo fits the classic ideal for a Jam band. Their sound is greatly reminiscent of bands like the String Cheese Incident, STS9, or even the Grateful Dead. The members of UV Hippo are Andy Kirby (Guitar/Vocals), Briand Samuels (Bass/Vocals), Casey Butts (Percussion), Dave Sanders (Keys/Vocals), and Joe Phillion (Drums). The five piece collective has been together since 2004, with four studio albums under their belt.
It’s quite obvious that their aggressive tour schedules and many years of jamming together, despite a few lineup changes, have led to a sound that is both polished and well-refined. Their 2011 album “Square Pegs Round Holes”, is the root of a lot of their recent success. Not only did this album push them to the front of the Jam band scene, but was named “2011 Studio Album of the Year” by Home Grown Music Network.
UV Hippo has a certain interstellar vibe that makes them the perfect blend of old and new. A set by UV Hippo feels refreshing and new, while still having the comfort of familiarity. Their space-age sound mixed with a perfected sense for lyrical funk makes them extremely accessible to any festival goer or music fan. Within their songs you can find vocals that range from Jerry Garcia, to Geddy Lee. This is not a jam band that plays a set full of indistinguishable songs, UV Hippo goes way beyond that trope. You can catch UV Hippo at the tail end of this festival season when they perform at popular Midwestern festival Resonance in Ohio this September.
More photos from the event: