The Mother Hips can sound a bit like the Eagles or the Byrds or even as psych-rock as Wilco. There are these nice, occasional arena-rock riffs, scaled way down to club size, and now and then some Beach Boys seep through the everyman’s bedrock of the Mother Hips’ sound.
I know this description appears headed toward the warm beer-and-a-shot glaze of blue-collar classic rock, but no. The Hips do their own liberal thing. Their songs are weighty moments that lodge in your memory, unlike the use-once-and-dispose-of sound that has overtaken much of the rest of indie rock. Solid, engaging recordings and lots of touring has earned them fans and gained the band critical acclaim. They didn’t get much in the way of radio play, but documentaries have been made about them. The problem is that they went on a long vacation right after they released what critics applauded as their best album, 2002’s Green Hills of Earth, and they stayed gone for about four years.
The Mother Hips formed while in college in the Bay Area. They were in the right place at the right time: they reached an audience that bought their self-released product and attended their shows in large numbers. They have had a few major record deals in their time but seemed to do better when left to run their own show. That makes them a true indie-rock band, at least in spirit.
The loyal fan base they left behind was still waiting when they returned and began writing, recording, and touring again. Pacific Dust, a continuation of their steady progression from country rock to roots rock, was released in the fall of last year. They may be the most famous California band that was never really famous.
Or, the Whale and Billy Midnight also perform.
MOTHER HIPS: Belly Up, Saturday, February 27, 9 p.m. 858-481-8140. $16; $18 day of show.