Hooves at The Bikini Lounge

Bikini Lounge
Friday, May 27

For all the focus on the band's antics on stage and off, it's easy to miss how understated Hooves can be. The band announced recently that they are packing up and moving to Bellingham, Washington, and while plenty of bands would take the opportunity to milk a "farewell show" for all it's worth,  Hooves aren't that kind of band.

Rather than put together some glitzy, multi-band celebration, the band choose to play its final Arizona gig -- at least until the band heads out on tour, something the group plans do a lot in the next year-- in a typically tossed off manner: cramming a bunch of gear and a bunch of bodies into the Bikini Lounge, a venue not known for live bands, with precious little promotion, for an informal going away bash.

Of course, it's a shame that Hooves are leaving Phoenix.

An honest to God rock 'n' roll band, Andy Krissberg, Chris Lamb, Christian Reeb, Brad Bielesch, and Parker Morden are prone to the kind of things many of their peers would shrug off an anachronistic: drum solos, call and response guitar/trumpet duets, in-the-pocket bass grooves, and a distaste for "modern" influence.

The band lists its genre as "rock and roll" on Facebook, and under bio it simply says "Party Time."

"Party Time" is an apt description for what went down last night. Despite of, or perhaps because of, the band's thoroughly old-school rock ethics, the band is popular with the downtown set, and packed 100-or-so fans into the Bikini.

Tambourines were distributed, and the moment the band tore into "Roughness," from 2010's Greater Aspirations, Lowered Expectations, the crowd started dancing, and didn't stop for the 45-minutes the band got down.

Some shows feel like perfunctory exercises, and some shows feel like something is actually happening. Hooves giddily treated the audience to an example of the latter.

Trumpeter/vocalist Morden climbed the walls, half horn-man and half hype-man, shouting into the crowd and singing along, even when he was standing on a cocktail table far from a microphone.

The band played a considerable amount of new material; all very funky, indicating the next record may find them refining The Band influence that is nearly always referenced when talking about Hooves (clearly, I'm guilty).

Like The Band, Hooves trade off on vocals. Krissberg's throaty rasp dominates, but Reeb took a turn at the mic, as did Lamb, keeping up his pace at the drum kit while he sang.

Krissberg didn't mention the impending move while playing, barely saying anything but a few muttered "Thanks" between songs. There was no speech dedicated to how much they were going to miss Phoenix, no overly sentimental talk about how much they've appreciated the time spent here, and no shout-outs.

The band simply played music. Finishing with an epic take on "Warm Clothes," the guys seemed to say it all with the music. It's always been easy to focus on the outrageous quality of the band, but antics aren't enough to go on -- fun, but ultimately just a periphery to why people care about this band.

The songs have always been the real story, at once nasty and melodic, heavy but always something you can dance to. The best rock 'n' roll is the kind that doesn't need to be explained, the kind that you just get.

It's not that common anywhere, and while Phoenix is definitely going to miss Hooves, we can take comfort in knowing they'll be back to visit. It'll be "Party Time" then, but it's hard to imagine it all feeling and sounding this good again.

Critics Notebook

Last Night: Hooves and DJ Shane Kennedy at The Bikini Lounge

The Crowd: Downtown Phoenix folk, all good looking, all there to rage.

Overheard in the Crowd: "You're going to love Washington."

Personal Bias: Hooves are one of my favorite local bands. I am bummed to see them go, but know this won't be the last we hear of them.

By the way: Kennedy followed up the band's set with Lou Bega's "Mambo No. 5." Genius.

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.