Tag Archives: Robert Walter


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



Four Bands, Three Venues, Two Boroughs, One Night

April 23rd, 2012

J. Roddy Walston and the Business > Lucero > Portugal. The Man > the Greyboy Allstars – Webster Hall > Music Hall of Williamsburg > Brooklyn Bowl – April 20, 2012

Just like farmers do with their crops, I rotate my vices. And so although 4/20 is a smoker’s holiday, since I’d just returned to drinking after some time off, I needed to build up my brown-liquor tolerance in preparation for Jazz Fest, two weeks away. So I grabbed a team of idiots and headed out to see four bands at three venues in two boroughs in one night. J. Roddy Walston and the Business got things started at Webster Hall with “Don’t Break the Needle.” The boisterous crowd, which steadily grew throughout the set, throatily sang along from the get-go. It was hard to believe it was only 7:30 on a Friday, but the Baltimore-based band continued with the pedal to the metal, pumping out bluesy rock and roll for nearly an hour, the perfect way to begin our mission.

Next came the country-punk-rock mashup of headliner Lucero. I’m a big fan of their latest album, Women & Work, so I welcomed the chance to finally hear some of the new songs, like “On My Way Downtown,” “It May Be too Late” and “Juniper,” fleshed out live. Lucero was in fine form and singer Ben Nichols’ gravelly, whiskey-soaked voice was as evocative as ever. Having toured together before, these bands are perfect complements and seem, musically, to be two peas in a pod. It was a great one-two punch of party music. But with Webster Hall making the early changeover to club night, we headed to the L to go to Williamsburg for two more shows.

Since I first saw them at Bonnaroo in 2008, Portugal. The Man has steadily gained in popularity and gone through a number of changes. They rarely have the same look—or even lineup—on consecutive tours. But no matter, because their sound remains unaffected. At Music Hall of Williamsburg, frontman John Gourley was no longer front and center, instead positioned all the way to the left, sort of standing sideways. The band covered a fair amount of the The Satanic Satanist and In the Mountain in the Cloud albums. And again, the crowd loudly sang along, especially on “People Say” and the Beatles covers “Helter Skelter” and “Hey Jude.” While the show was sponsored by Jägermeister, the exploratory jams combined perfectly with my now-Jameson-addled head.

The music progressively grew jammier each stop along the way, which worked out well, as our diminishing communication skills had basically become nothing more than head nods and hand signals by the time we reached Brooklyn Bowl for the Greyboy Allstars. And it was refreshing to know after nearly 20 years, this funk-jazz conglomerate is still laying it down. We arrived for part of the third set, which consisted of a fair amount of Michael Jackson teases (if not whole covers). Altogether it was a night of running into old friends while managing to make some new ones, an unlimited amount of hearty “to Levon!” toasts, plus some good old-fashioned drinking in the street and smoking in a cab. It was the perfect warm-up. New Orleans awaits. —R. Zizmor | @Hand_Dog

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com