Jorma Kaukonen: Virtuoso At-Large

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Jorma Kaukonen is at the House of Blues March 1
Cleveland nightlife can be totally schizophrenic. Some weeks it seems like all the cool bands are gigging anywhere but here. And then there's weeks when our concert calendar resembles that of San Francisco or Boston. Luckily, the week of March 1 to is packed full of wicked-sweet shows: Wolfmother, TV on the Radio, the Box Tops, Stinking Lizaveta, and so much more. But this also means we don't have room in our Nightwatch section to cover all the good shows. Here, I'm thinking of Jorma Kaukonen's solo engagement at the House of Blues on Thursday, March 1. Not since the late '60s have acoustic guitar virtuosos been so popular. This obviously has to do with the indie world's recent obsession with folk music, classic psychedelia, and all things John Fahey. In addition to such young guns as the brilliant Jack Rose, Ben Chasny, and Stephan Basho-Junghans, we're seeing increased activity from their forefathers. Richard Thompson recently played the Kent Stage, and Martin Carthy, one of Brit-folk's true legends, just played Nighttown. And now there's Kaukonen. Jorma is rarely mentioned in the same sentence as Fahey and company. However, as the guitar player for Jefferson Airplane and later Hot Tuna, Kaukonen was arguably the first axeman anywhere to incorporate the intricate finger-picking of Fahey -- itself an avant-mix of classical, folk, and Indian raga -- into the Airplane's brand of West Coast pop, folk rock, and acid rock. When it comes to psych-rock guitar, Kaukonen is just as imitated as Hendrix and Clapton. Nowadays, in addition to regularly playing acoustic dates across the country, Kaukonen heads up the Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp in Pomeroy, Ohio. So yeah, as that title implies, Kaukonen still gets his hippie on. Just check out the exotic rugs and tie-dye! — Justin F. Farrar

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