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Hippie life returns to Virginia City

Sam Bauman
Appeal Entertainment Editor
Courtesy Photo Dan Hicks
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In the spring of 1965, Dan Hicks became the drummer for a nascent San Francisco folk-rock group called The Charlatans, more of a concept than a working band.

They found employment that summer as the house band at the newly opened Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City. The popular hallucinogen-fueled dances held at the Red Dog were the direct inspiration for the legendary psychedelic San Francisco dance hall scene that then blossomed.

Thus, the Age of the Hippie was born.

Today, Hicks doesn’t take credit for that golden era, but in many ways he personifies it. Hicks and his Hot Licks band are legendary in Virginia City. They’ll be at Piper’s Opera House as part of the Hippie Weekend, being celebrated April 4-5. The band will preview some new songs from their upcoming album.

“Songwriting and song-gathering can be a lifelong process,” says Dan, who with his Hot Licks will present an evening of their original folk-swing as well as a rare “sneak-peek” of brand new Dan Hicks songs to be featured on their upcoming album.

“The well is not dry” says Dan, who claims to have found three new rhymes for the word orange.

This rare performance begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 and $30. Call 847-0433.

Hicks is a true original with his proto-psychedelia to western swing and jazz; from Tin Pan Alley to country blues. The original Hicks and the Hot Licks recorded five ground-breaking and Billboard-charting records for the Warner Bros., Columbia and Blue Thumb labels. They toured worldwide and Dan appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine three times.

The newest Hicks rebirth was the wildly successful “Beatin’ the Heat” in 2000, featuring collaborations with Bette Midler, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Rickie Lee Jones and Brian Setzer.

That was followed by the live CD “Alive & Lickin'” in 2001, and the 2003 CD/DVD “Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks Featuring An All Star Cast of Friends.”

That project reunited Hicks with virtually every musician he has ever played and recorded with.

Then 2005 brought the newest studio release “Selected Shorts” featuring special guests Willie Nelson, Jimmy Buffett, Gibby Haynes, Jim Keltner and Van Dyke Parks.

Today, Hicks is a bit more mellow, but he’s still happy playing his “low-volume lite folk rock,” he said by phone from his California home. “It all goes back to 1965 and the Red Dog.” He plays in the area at times and when he does he always tries “to make a stop in Virginia City to see the old Red Dog refurbished.”

He’s played in Carson City the last couple of years, at the Brewery Arts Center Jazz Festival and a concert behind Adele’s. He’ll be bringing five friends with him to help keep the “low-vol” sound ripping.

“Rockin’ at the Dog – The Dawn of Psychedelic Rock” (formerly on VHS as “The Life and Times of the Red Dog Saloon”) is a DVD documentary by Mary Works that will be shown at Piper’s

Hicks and His Hot Licks (Sid Page, Naomi Ruth Eisenberg, Jamie Leopold, John Girton and Maryann Price) produced a musical genre, unique in 1969. As the psychedelic era crashed in a tangle of feedback, smoking amps and torched guitars, Hicks and his Hot Licks continue to play their own music.

• Contact Sam Bauman at sbauman@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1236.

if you go

what: Hippie Days in Virginia City, featuring Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, a video documentary about the Red Dog Saloon and a “Hope for Peace” parade at noon

where: Virginia City’s Piper’s Opera House

when: April 4-5

Cost: $25 for the Piper’s show