On a snowy December night, people gathered together in Downtown St. Paul, filled with anticipation to see their heroes. No, not Santa Claus and his reindeer, but rather Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady of Hot Tuna. While there’s an argument to be made both men would look great in a Santa costume, they were instead dressed in music playing appropriate clothing. The two men have been playing together since the 60’s when they met through their previous band, Jefferson Airplane.
For a person born in the ’90s, it’s hard to imagine what sort of antics the two have been up to for all these years, though I guess being in Jefferson Airplane is a giveaway to some. Regardless of what they were, the two carried themselves through the night with a level of synchronization achievable only by those who have been playing together for so long. Weaving in between standard blues progressions, and improvisations, the two jammed through a number of songs including originals, cover’s, and numbers from their Jefferson Airplane days.
In order for the Kaukonen and Casady to have a warm stage ready for them, they had their friends Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams come out for an hour or so to play through some numbers. The two have been married together for 30 some years, making music with one another the entire time. It shows in their stage presence, both through the music played and loving banter in between songs. Their set was filled with some beautiful originals as well as covers from groups such as The Carter Family and The Lovin’ Spoonful.
The couple returned by the night’s end to join Hot Tuna with a couple of numbers. By that point, Hot Tuna had been playing for close to two hours; not missing a beat once, and barley resting to say hello. Though of course, they had warm and welcoming interactions with the eager crowd. In the group’s last number, “Bar Room Crystal Ball” I couldn’t help but get the impression no one on stage was ready to call it quits on the music. They kept plucking the song away and repeating the ending chorus. It was a heartwarming moment seeing these four people on stage who you could clearly tell have made a living doing what they love.