Historically, Legend is born out of greatness but rarely does greatness follow legend and the saga of The High Hawks is one such lore that has only just begun. The namesake is said to be inspired by a journey to a sacred space by a lone traveler who summits a mountainous apex whereupon, prepared to take part in the herbal sacrament, is met by a bird-of-prey on soaring wing who relieves this seeker of his cerebral transport, leaving him alone to reflect on the arcane and to derive meaning and his role in this experience.
Whether one believes this yarn spun by Vince Herman about how the vision for this band was seeded, what is certainly evident is that after three well-attended, high energy Colorado shows under their belt, The High Hawks are ready to rev up the second leg of their inaugural tour in a little more than a week.
On October 20th, following two shows in Boulder and Denver, The High Hawks migrated north to their final Rocky Mountain performance at the Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins and delivered their message with as much enthusiasm and expertise as they had the two prior nights, even in spite of a low turnout of about 100 souls. Although this would have diminished the steam of other bands, these raptors of the road took the opportunity to turn the evening into an intimate gathering and exchanged with the audience on another level, telling more stories and asking questions of those in attendance and extending their set time nearly 45 minutes past what the Boulder and Denver audiences got.
Anyone who has been a longtime fan of Herman and his incarnations knows that he has an affinity for the honkytonk, apolitical, folk, psychedelic and bluegrass themes, and this winged ensemble is no different. However, what falls outside the norm is how well-rehearsed and cohesive this band sounded on leg one of the tour, especially in light of the fact that live rehearsals commenced for a week prior to the first gig and that most of the music performed, with the exception of a few covers by Woody Guthrie, The Band, and Lead Belly, were new original numbers. With changing tempos and a plethora of lyrical arrangements to recall, these talented troubadours displayed mastery of flight of the produced musical lift and showed no visual or auditory signs that they were lost in the music or on stage.
Regarding the talent, each of these players seemed to be bringing their best and having a ball doing so. From the stage banter and tune descriptors, it was obvious that the material was a group effort, and this included everything from individual song penning to the refinement of composition, and no one person stood out as being more in charge or responsible for content or in wearing the leadership badge. The musical prowess and exchanges between the players kept the audience dancing, as well as the band at times, and generated smiles on the faces of everyone in the room. Another dynamic of the supergroup formula that is often overlooked is that when attending these conglomerative formations, one is often exposed to players that fall to the periphery of the staples of many fans. The standouts in this role were certainly Adam Greuel of Horseshoes & Hand grenades, Brian Adams of Dead Phish Orchestra, and Will Trask of Great American Taxi and Analog Son. This trio was as solid on their instruments as so many others who actively perform and are more well-known and repeatedly, these guys drew the direct attention of those in attendance on numerous occasions throughout the night. Chad Staehly delivered excellence on the keys and effortlessly accompanied and soloed in that way that a great player does, making it look so easy.
Regarding Tim Carbone: ‘Nuff said. This man’s talent as a multi-instrumentalist musician, lyricist, and producer makes him a great addition to any project he is a part of. Herman is a legend all his own, acting as musical patriarch as well as the cosmic reflector of that kid inside all of us each and every time he has an audience, both on and off stage, pulling in those around him on some kind of adventure, whether metaphorical or visceral, and blurring the line between it is for the entertainment of others or just himself.
The Aggie crowd also received one last surprise, which actually came as no surprise at all when one considers the musical community that exists in Northern Colorado. Couple that dynamic with the players in question here and some bird-of-a-feather is bound to show up. To close out the evening, the band was joined for the final two songs by Dave Bruzza of Greensky Bluegrass, who, as expected, was given as much leeway as the others to show off his talent and had the other members lining up to exchange solos accordingly, each ending in raucous bouts of laughter and ear to ear smiles.
Starting on November 7th, this band takes flight once again through the Midwest, making only four landings in Wisconsin and Illinois and after that, it is anyone’s guess when or if these fine feathered friends will set out for another jaunt across the skies. So, if you are looking to expand your horizons and need some lift from some new musical thermals, this band is willing to lead the way across an aerial migration, if only for an evening, towards warmer times as the cold of fall and winter set in.