Article & Photos by David Shehi
Mike Gordon is coming to a town near you! So what? This has been the attitude of many only to find that, after they missed a Gordo gig, how incredibly sweet it was. Yes, many across the waves of grain are kicking their ass incessantly. Coming off of what we all know was a massively successful run with Phish, it can be a natural inclination to blow off a side project these days. However, this inclination is erroneous for many reasons, but primarily because while Phish is who/what they are in all of their grandeur, side projects allow artists to be themselves and musically explore in their own particular way. Jam Band history lends insight into this and this solo run has accomplished for Mike what Jerry Band did for Captain Trips. It has allowed Mike to be the Mike of Mike’s past that many Phish tour vets have been hoping was not lost over the summer. In this environment, Mike is his old mingling self. His quirky platitudes and latitudes are not drowned out. Shout outs for birthdays and anniversaries are given in a way that only The Cactus can. He is front and center and it is good.
The Gordon quintet on this tour is the same as it was on the past two runs that followed the release of Mike’s solo album, Green Sparrow. It features Scott Murawski on guitar, Craig Myers on percussion, Tom Cleary on the ivory, and Todd Isler on drums. However on this sold out night in Birmingham they would all be introduced as “Rachel.”
The night began with the most universally recognizable track from Green Sparrow, “Andelman’s Yard.” The crowd settled in to the persuasive groove that would be abound through the night. For anyone familiar with this tune, you already know that Mike’s solo stuff is not face-melting. There are no orchestral masterpieces, but there is a double serving of fun. Loose riffs give way to unique and noticeable percussion, which give way to deliciously light and complimentary keys, all while being led by the drums, and of course, the bass.
The great thing about this evening in particular was that it had the feeling that one did not have to know a single word or lick of any of the tunes played to have an amazingly good time. But if that was not the case, Mike threw in his biggest contribution to Phish’s Joy, “Sugarshack.” This song just screams Mike. It is bass driven and elemental in nature, drawing from reggae, funk, and even a little blue grass. The crowd loved it and it proved to draw the crowd in to the show in a major way. Let’s face it, we love Phish, always have, and always will. However through much experience of Phish chasing, I have learned just how fruitless this effort is, and now appreciate that what Phish does is collective, and I do not allow this to take away from what any of the boys venture out and do while in their individual element.
The night progressed to include a Gillian Welch cover, “Time.” There was lots of funk and equal representation from each musician. However this show was not truly about set lists. It was about Mike hanging out at the end of the show to sign merchandise, pose for pictures, and exchange quirky and friendly greetings. It was about experiencing an intimate vibe with phriends on a not so grand stage. It was our song too and we were happy. Isn’t this all we want?
Walls Of Time
River Niger >
Traveled Too Far
Time (The Revelator)*
Dig Further Down
Nobody’s Home >
She Said, She said
Time For Loving Is Now