Q&A: Hunter & The Dirty Jacks put cards on the table Friday

Robert Brown photograph

Beards, beads, blues: Hunter & The Dirty Jacks bring a bit of everything to the stage.
Photo by Robert Brown

A band’s most important show at the Crystal Bay Casino is its first, because if it doesn’t do well then, it is unlikely to return. Hunter & The Dirty Jacks will be back for the second time on Friday, Jan. 19, so – metaphorically – they’re basically playing with the house’s money.

The mischievous look in frontman Hunter Ackerman’s eyes gives an appearance that he’s holding all of the cards. Moreover, the countenance reveals a confidence in his band and its dedication to merriment.

Shuffle the deck and Hunter & The Dirty Jacks listeners can hear many different styles and influences, the most profound being blues and jam – think Freddie King meets the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. Female-sung harmonies can be heard on its records, but onstage for the Tahoe show everyone will wear beards – and beads.

“Ironically, the crystals protect us from false beliefs and silly superstitions,” Ackerman said.

Ackerman sings and plays harmonica. Jon Siembieda and Carmelo Bonaventura play guitar. The rhythm section is Aaron Barnes (bass) and Brian Lara (drums).

Hunter & The Dirty Jacks have just completed mixing their third album, “Chase The Moonlight.” The songs from the record will be performed at the show. Made for vinyl in addition to a CD, it will have seven tracks, and it’s about 20 minutes on either side. It will take a motorist driving from Carmel to Big Sur to hear it in its entirety. To the second, the band members proclaim.

“It a crosses a lot of boundaries,” Siembieda said. “There’s a 10-minute ballad that jams. The first track is seven and a half minutes. There’s blues rock. There’s country. There’s Americana. There’s some heady jam band kind of stuff. There’s some acoustic guitars. There’s some hard-rocking stuff. There’s a decent amount of harmonies on some of the songs.”

Those harmonies are provided by band member Moana Avvenenti and special guests Dee Hemingway and Janna Brunner.

As they plotted their route from hometown Los Angeles to the north shore of Lake Tahoe, Ackerman and Siembieda humored Tahoe Onstage during a question-and-answer session.

Q — Poker or Blackjack?
A — Blackjack.

Q — New Year’s resolution?
A — To play more Blackjack and continue to improve as a band.

Q — Williamson. Sonny Boy I or Sonny Boy II?
A — I listen to No. 2 more. No. 1 has iconic songs so it’s hard to ignore him. But no matter what No. 2 will tell you, No. 1 is obviously the original, and whole thing is just really weird. But I’d say No. 2 is more of a direct influence for me.

Q — King. Freddie, Albert or B.B.?
A — Freddie. Freddie has this incredible style where he does this thing that Jeff Dale told me a long time ago that Honeyboy Edwards told him. You know what happens when you hit like one really good note? If it sounds good, hit it again. And Freddie was the king of that. He’ll hit one note or one phrase and go through the entire 12 bars and it actually sounds like it’s changing because the chords change but it’s not and it’s just incredible.

Q — Zeppelin or the Stones?
A — (Hunter) I’m Zeppelin, he’s the Stones.

Q — The greatest Chris Robinson album?
A — That’s tough. Everybody likes the first one (“Big Moon Ritual”) and the first one is awesome. But they’re like the Grateful Dead. The greatest album is the one that they are on the stage live playing the night that you are there to see them.

Q — Vanilla Fudge or Coco Montoya?
A — I was all teed up for Vanilla Fudge but I’ve got to go with Coco. Once upon a time we were doing a weekly residency at Harvelle’s in Santa Monica, which is the oldest blues club in Los Angeles. All the proceeds went to feeding the homeless and went for raising funds for music lessons and instruments for children in foster homes, and Coco Montoya was the first to sit in with us and that just seemed to legitimize the entire thing for virtually anybody who came and sat in with us afterwards.

Q — Samantha Fish or Eric Sardinas?
A — Eric. He’s Johnny Winter. He’s incredible. He really respects the blues tradition. And he’s an excellent cook, by the way. Eric came to the homeless shelter with us. He brought a huge thing of mashed potatoes that he made beforehand — his monster mash with sausage and peppers — and then he comes into the homeless shelter with us to help us prepare the meal. It’s a class act, that guy.

Q — Favorite Rat Pack member, Frank, Sammy or Dean?
A — Sammy just for personality and charisma as well as just how to live life in general. He died youngish but give me 60 Sammy years and I’ll be OK with that. But what about Joey Bishop? No love for Joey Bishop?

  • Hunter & The Dirty Jacks
    When: 10 p.m. Friday, Jan. 19
    Where: Crystal Bay Casino Red Room
  • Where else: Crazy Horse Saloon on Saturday, Jan. 20


About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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