The Higgs: Hungry SoCal jam band’s rockin’ Tahoe debut

The Higgs

The Higgs jam the Red Room on May 13 during their Lake Tahoe debut.
Mike Smyth / Tahoe Onstage

The jam band scene enjoyed a tasty new treat on May 13 as The Higgs made their Tahoe debut at Crystal Bay.

From the outset, there was no mistaking the musical style of the quartet as it opened with a 10-12 minute version of “When I was Young,”  a Woods Brothers cover.  The first song showed off the classic underpinnings of jam bands, changing tempo and texture within the same song, with extended solo elements from multiple instruments. Throughout the evening, the band showed off a breadth of stylistic abilities, playing songs rooted in rock, funk, blues, reggae, fusion and even an alt-country number.

Michael Smyth

John Lovero busts out a solo.

John Lovero (guitar/vocals) displayed a broad array of solo textures in guiding his Fender Strat through edgy rock, classic tones you’d recognize from virtuosos such as Jerry Garcia, Trey Anastasio and Neal Casal, haunting sustain and wah-wah riffs, and even matching Jesse August Jennings’ (keyboards/vocals) tonally and note for note as the two played together on one track. Jennings joined in the last year what had been a trio, opening a veritable Pandora’s Box in both support and solo roles and easily moving between genres with tastes of southern Hammond organ, hints of Herbie Hancock on electric piano, and synth licks in the planetary systems of Tony Banks and Keith Emerson.

No jam band succeeds without a steady and solid backbone for the myriad solos to cling to, and David Barsky (bass/vocals) and Garrett Morris (drums) provide all of the tight percussion and bass lines that create the ever-changing undercarriage guiding The Higgs’ bouncing bus through a night of cosmic detours and destinations.

The current incarnation has been busy for the last nine months, including a rebranding of the band as a four-piece unit, writing a bunch of new tracks and laying down four of them on a new EP appropriately titled “Change.” Each of the tracks including the title, “Why The Funk Not,” “Freddy,” and “Wit” were played and met with roars of approval from the modest crowd. Several other new and yet unrecorded songs were featured, including the playful “Kung Fu You,” and a solidly composed “Space Traveler.”

Any good rock show has it’s tales of debauchery and this one was no exception. A group of costume-clad ladies had been grooving the entire evening with gusto when one became so enthused that she shimmied out of her tutu and tossed it onstage midsong, landing on the neck of a very surprised John Lovero’s guitar. Unfazed, Jennings reached out over his keyboards, removed the offending item of clothing and announced, “Well. I think I’ll just put this on” and promptly did just that. He wore it for the rest of the show.

The Higgs are a hungry jam band that really enjoy taking a crowd on a vast musical journey and just plain showing off what they can do together. They’re engaging, enjoy the interplay from the crowd, and are poised to find a regular following outside of their local SoCal venues. If you’re looking to latch on to a new band that has the necessary musical prowess for success and simply needs to hit the road hard and play a ton of gigs to be discovered, you may want to get on board. Hopefully we all get a few more chances in Reno and Tahoe to do so again soon.

  • The Higgs
    Crystal Bay Casino, May 6, 2017
    Main Set: When I Was Young, Why The Funk Not, Roll Through The Valley, Rose Will Fall, Rain and Thunder, Get Down Tonight, Freddy, Wit, Road Less Travelled, Kung Fu You
    Encore: Space Traveler, Roll River, Three Little Birds

    The Higgs

    The Higgs soak up Lake Tahoe during their first appearance at Crystal Bay.
    The Higgs Facebook page

About Michael Smyth

Michael Smyth moved to Reno in 2007 after living more than 40 years in the Bay Area. In addition to going to live shows, he enjoys golf, skiing and fly-fishing. Check out his website

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