Tag Archives: Mike Gordon


Mike Gordon Dazzles Brooklyn Steel with Two Sets on Saturday Night

March 12th, 2018

Mike Gordon – Brooklyn Steel – March 10, 2018

Photos courtesy of Dan Salimbene | northfieldproductions.com

A happy byproduct of Phish’s now-nine-year 3.0 incarnation is that the mighty band’s resurgence has left enough creative fuel in the tank to support other projects too. Trey Anastasio, Page McConnell and Jon Fishman have all been busy—or will be, as the case may be—with non-Phish projects, but the band that really became a band in this era is Mike Gordon’s group, which played two sparkly weird and high-energy sets Saturday night at Brooklyn Steel. His solo compositions tend to step up to and peer down the rabbit hole, just short of falling down it. They’re a little—OK, a lot—quirky and often free associative, but they’re not often big, psychedelic, nebulous maybe-statements so much as they’re left-of-center pop and indie-rock tunes, delivered compactly.

OGOGO, which arrived last fall as his fifth solo album, has some angst to even out its breezier, groovier tracks. Gordon doesn’t mind things a little heavy—he’s a bass player after all, and not a shy one—and it comes through in tunes like “Victim,” “Crazy Sometimes,” “Marissa” and “Steps,” without weighing down their bendy, bug-eyed cool. Live, however, is when these tunes come delivered with some muscle—sinewy jams that pull at their already loose edges and drive the band into downright Phish-y territory at times, and into Brooklyn-y indie-rock crew with a synth-guitar-jamming jones in others. Almost every tune Saturday landed at that balance, from the opening “Victim” and an audience-participation oddity called “Trapezoidal Sunshine” to crowd-stoking versions of Phish’s “Destiny Unbound,” Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” and, in a nicely explored veer into left field, Fiona Apple’s “Sleep to Dream.”

The band is the not-so-secret ace, and Gordon’s been telling us that all along. He yields often to guitarist, singer and longtime partner-in-crime Scott Murawski (still going strong in Max Creek and other bands) and/or to keyboard professor Robert Walter, who picks his spots in this band and, among other highlights, turned the first set’s “Got to Be More Careful” into a showcase of whirling organ. And that’s before you get to the drums-and-percussion corps—John Morgan Kimock and Craig Myers—who have a lot of firepower between them and, you soon come to realize, are asked for all of it in the span of a Gordon show. Each was doing his thing and doing it well, all night, and in the end of the first set came “Tiny Little World,” about as good a capture of what Mike Gordon’s band sounds like these days. All the parts working, Gordon at the center playing stabbing bass, singing about how “nothing’s making sense/ So I shake and make it saucy.” It’s a fun world to visit. —Chad Berndtson | @Cberndtson


With a Revamped Band, Mike Gordon Goes over the Top at Cap

June 29th, 2015

Mike Gordon – Capitol Theatre – June 27, 2015

With much of the jam world’s eyes focused on Santa Clara, Calif., on Saturday night, a Mike Gordon show at the Capitol Theatre somehow felt a little bit under the radar, if that’s possible. Returning to the historic venue for the first time since Phish played there in 1992, Gordon and his revamped band gave the jubilant crowd plenty to keep them occupied with two stellar sets of jam-friendly music. After a warm-up opening of “Long Black Line,” the bassist led the band through a highlight-reel first set featuring standout versions of Gordon originals “Andelman’s Yard” and “Horizon Line,” the Phish rarity “Spock’s Brain” and two covers turned inside out. With the addition of Robert Walter on keyboards and John Morgan Kimock on drums, the band felt less like a spin-off side project and more like a high-quality jam-band hybrid: Walter utilizing his innate sense of the groove to get the crowd dancing, Kimock adding a daring ability to both follow and lead through uncharted passageways, Scott Murawski displaying a veteran hand on lead guitar and Gordon adding his unique Mike Gordon–ness to the low end.

While the Cap’s standard light projections often keep the crowd staring at the walls, Gordon’s stage production was an immersive trip on its own, perfectly enhancing the music. While the band took left turn upon left turn in “Andelman’s,” the lights paired colors in equally interesting combinations. During a space-funk version of Fiona Apple’s “Sleep to Dream,” a geometry lesson of shapes illuminated the band, adding cosmic effects while the audience’s front row played sound effects on a giant interactive “keyboard” at the front of the stage. When the band seemed to hit a particularly ecstatic climax in a jam, LEDs in Murawski’s and Gordon’s guitars lit up like the metaphoric light bulb signaling a Eureka! moment inside your mind. Toward the end of the first set, Gordon took his group and audience deep into the Flaming Lips’ “Are You a Hypnotist?” while tie-dyed fractal tunnels appeared on the backdrops, providing a mass hallucination just in case.

After a short break, Gordon and company returned for a second set that opened with a dark “Surface” and followed a set-list script but seemed to spend more time meandering and exploring through high-level jamming. The band flexed their collective muscles through multiple levels of improv, awakening all sorts of ghosts in the Cap’s walls. Late in the evening, Luke Temple made a surprise appearance, adding indie credentials by singing along to Gordon’s cover of his Here We Go Magic tune “How Do I Know,” which pushed the show over the top, if it truly needed the extra boost. Temple returned during the encore for his “Make Up Your Mind,” Gordon and Co. perfectly at ease playing backing band, adding a groovy oomph and maybe helping earn a few new Here We Go Magic fans along the way. The night-ending “Sugar Shack” felt superfluous after the preceding show, but Murawski’s lighthearted playing provided a welcome return to ground for the crowd.
—A. Stein | @Neddyo



Mike Gordon Shares New Toys at Webster Hall

March 3rd, 2014

Mike Gordon – Webster Hall – March 1, 2014

During his sold-out show at Webster Hall on Saturday night, Mike Gordon explained that he was like a kid in a candy shop thanks to all the new toys he had at his disposal. Some of them, he said, were the new songs off his recent release, Overstep, and others were the new visual technologies employed throughout the two-set show. The former included a first-set “Surface” with a syncopated-jam section and a show-closing “Long Black Line” with a long improvisation that settled on many themes between Gordon, guitarist Scott Murawksi and keyboard player Tom Cleary. The latter included light-up guitars and a set of oversized “keys” that front-row audience members got to “play” during one jam like some interactive exhibit at a children’s museum. While all of these toys were great to hear and fun to look at, it was clear watching the Phish bassist guide his solo project throughout the night that the band was one big plaything for Gordon.

Gordon not only got to satisfy his polymath urges, but he also got to be the frontman, banter included. So when there were some technical difficulties, Gordon tried to explain moiré patterns to the audience (which were employed on the arty walls onstage), quickly dropping into a homophone tangent about moray eels (acoustic or electric?) before flipping that into the more traditional thank-the-label thing. The set list with its myriad jams and straight bouncers zigzagged with equal dexterity. And the highlight cover of the night was
a rendition of the Flaming Lips’ “Are You a Hypnotist?”—a perfect fit for the band with its bass-driven, off-center melody, building the song out of bird whistles, keyboard electronica and ambient guitar.

The second set was anchored by three powerful jammers: “Morphing Again,” off 2008’s The Green Sparrow, began with a country bounce before a beautiful, full-band major-key jam took hold—while “555,” a new Phish song, went the opposite route, Murawksi leading a darker funk-rock excursion with a distorted-wah tone—and the aforementioned set-closing “Long Black Line.” But for the Phish fans in the room, the surprise of the night was a bust out of “Spock’s Brain,” a long-shelved rarity filled with prog-rock twists and changes that seemed to fit right in for Gordon and his band. The crowd ate it up as they had all night, clearly thankful that Gordon is the kind of kid who shares his toys with others. —A. Stein



Queens Rockers Gospel Play Mercury Lounge Tomorrow Night

February 20th, 2014

Alex Frenkel, Mike Gordon, Alex Marans, Gabe Garzón-Montano and Owen Murphy knew one another from playing in different Brooklyn bands in Buswhick when they decided to make a go of it together as Gospels. Now they live, practice and record all beneath one roof in a house in Forest Hills. They’re influenced by the likes of New Wave, Detroit soul and a little bit of folk. And according to AmazingRadio, “Their sound is refreshing and optimistic, a lot like the band themselves. It’s hard to describe their sound, but if pushed one might compare them to a brighter, lighter and less ambient Sigur Rós
or Mogwai.” Gospels are currently working on their debut EP, and you can see them tomorrow night at Mercury Lounge.


Such a Night

October 4th, 2012

Love for Levon: A Benefit to Save the Barn – Izod Center – October 3, 2012

Levon Helm is a towering figure in American music and the main reason a band, well the Band, that was actually four-fifths Canadian could be considered quintessentially American. After Helm was diagnosed with cancer, he began hosting Midnight Rambles at his home barn/studio—ridiculously intimate affairs filled with music that kept onlookers smiling for days. And despite Helm’s passing, it was clear that the barn and the Rambles would continue. But, of course, there are bills to pay. So last night at the Izod Center, a monumental group of performers—those who had worked with the Band, performed with Helm or appeared at one of those fabled Rambles—gathered to pay tribute to the musical icon and help raise money to finally pay off the barn.

There were far too many talented people involved to list everyone, but the night started with a bang as Warren Haynes, backed by the Dirt Farmer Band, did a rousing version of “The Shape I’m In” before Gregg Allman joined him for a riveting “Long Black Veil.” From there a cavalcade of stars, including Bruce Hornsby, Jorma Kaukonen, Marc Cohn, the Wallflowers and Allen Toussaint, appeared. Lucinda Williams said, “God bless, Levon Helm. His spirit lives on,” after concluding “Whispering Pines.” And then the fist set closed with John Hiatt and Mike Gordon doing a lively “Rag Mama Rag.”

And while that first set was particularly great, the second one was something special. Highlights included Ray LaMontagne and John Mayer on “Tears of Rage,” the Dierks Bentley–led “Chest Fever,” with Garth Hudson laying down the winding “Genetic Method” organ intro, and Larry Campbell eliciting a big crowd response to the “Drink all day, rock all night” line in “Tennessee Jed” as Mayer rode shotgun on guitar. Then somehow the ante got upped once again. First, a jammy “Up on Cripple Creek” with Joe Walsh and Robert Randolph (“Jersey boys are here,” proclaimed Walsh), and then the house band ceded the stage to My Morning Jacket.

The five-piece launched into “Ophelia,” with the crowd throatily singing along, and “It Makes No Difference” before bringing out Roger Waters and G.E. Smith for “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Of course all of this was just a lead up to the night’s inevitable conclusion, everyone onstage for “The Weight.” Longtime Levon Helm Band members Campbell, Teresa Williams and Amy Helm rightfully took the first verse, accompanied only by Campbell’s guitar. And then Mavis Staples sang, and then Allman and Haynes. And then Grace Potter, Eric Church, John Prine, Jim James and everyone else took turns trading verses across the stage, before turning to Waters, center stage, singing, “You know I’m a peaceful man,” with smiles everywhere. It was hard to tell who was having more fun, the people in the crowd or those onstage. It was just one of those nights. —R. Zizmor | @Hand_Dog

Photos courtesy of Joe Papeo | www.irocktheshot.com


A Band with Infinite Possibilities

March 23rd, 2011

Mike Gordon – Brooklyn Bowl – March 22, 2011

Mike Gordon - Brooklyn Bowl - March 22, 2011
Cross-breeding genres without a care and inserting long, noodling jams everywhere, Mike Gordon and his guitarist Scott Murawski, another stalwart from the old days of jam yore, filled two long sets at Brooklyn Bowl Tuesday night with original music and inventive takes on other people’s tunes. The first set opened with “Idea” and already the template was struck: asymmetric pop songs, odd-meter rhythms, quirky lyrics and a band talented enough to create infinite possibilities with the material. Like most of the songs played, it had lengthy keyboard and guitar solos, returning to the chorus before launching into a final coda jam led by Gordon’s electrifying bass. Murawski was like a jam-band compendium from the old days of the type, ably channeling Trey Anastasio, Dickey Betts, Jimmy Herring and Carlos Santana depending on what the songs called for. Standout versions of originals “Sugar Shack” and “Can’t Stand Still” and perfectly executed covers of the blues-bluegrass “Walls of Time,” Beck’s “Black Tambourine” and Talking Heads’ “Cities” proved throughout the first set that Gordon truly believes that more is more and also proved that he is correct.

The second set allowed things to get even weirder and more luxuriously self-indulgent. Long spaced-out sections showed the band to be in well-tuned form, with all the musicians locked into grooves that had the audience bouncing. Gordon led the way with effects-laden bass playing that was somehow both bandleader and sideman. A bizarro dance contest was held onstage as the band played “The Void,” a song in 7/4 time. Like all good jamsters, Gordon saved his best for last, wowing the Bowl with a lengthy closing “Suskind Hotel” that segued nicely into “La La La” before going back into “Suskind.” Those in the crowd had been calling for their desired playlist all night, and most were rewarded when they returned for a great version of “Meat,” which found Gordon as phenomenal on his instrument as ever. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Michael Jurick | music.jurick.net


Mike Gordon Starts New Tour at Music Hall of Williamsburg

September 9th, 2009

Mike Gordon – Music Hall of Williamsburg – September 8, 2009

(Photo: Danny Clinch)

(Photo: Danny Clinch)

In the Breakfast Club taxonomy of Phish, Mike Gordon is probably Anthony Michael Hall’s character—the underappreciated geek. But headlining his own band last night, Gordon quickly showed the sold-out crowd at Music Hall of Williamsburg that he can be both the beefy jock and the most popular kid in school. Mere seconds after plugging in his five-string Modulus, we were transported to an alternate universe where kids play air bass, not air guitar, and Gordo reigns.

Opening with a strong couplet from last year’s Green Sparrow, Gordon put on a pyrotechnic display of bass playing—juicy, otherworldly sounds that may very well cure baldness, halitosis and other ailments. Gordon’s off-center worldview, often obscured in the arena grandeur of Phish, took center stage on tunes like “Dig Further Down” and “Radar Blip.” The rest of the band was along for the ride, but watching Gordon was like viewing a far-off star through a telescope. Sure, it might be the sun to a bunch of planets, but it’s shining much too bright to tell or even care. Gordon’s gravity overwhelmed everything in the room.

A nice stretch of brand-new songs—this was the first show of the tour—was highlighted by a groovy shuffle that evoked the Sea and Cake in its melody and rhythms. While every song had a launching point and plenty of solos, it wasn’t until deep into the set that the box was unwrapped and the true jamming began, as quirky ditties became Dead-/Phish-/Allmans-style forays. Mid-jam, local legends Joe Russo and Marco Benevento hopped onstage, seamlessly inserting themselves on the drums and keys. This was a “Remember when it was your band? Now it’s our band now” style of sit-in with the Duo guiding a dance-y expedition of in-your-face free-form. The clock was well past midnight and the show two-plus hours strong before the audience finally returned to a reality where guitar players are kings and bass players toil in anonymity…or did they? —A. Stein