Greener Pastures: To the Spheres and Back with Mike Gordon
You don’t really meet Mike Gordon, per se.
You sort of intercept him.
It’s 1:45 on a breezy Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles. In seven and a half hours, Gordon will step onstage with his band at The Troubadour to officially kick off an 17-date American tour in support of his new album, Moss.
Less than six days earlier, Gordon was onstage 2,500 miles away with another little band from Vermont, delivering a precise reading of Little Feat’s double-live opus Waiting for Columbus (which, incidentally, Phish had just finished learning in between gigs on its own fall tour).
And, so, in the five days between—four days if you don’t count travel from Burlington, Vt. to LA—he somehow had to cram in three full-day band rehearsals and enough daddy time with his two-year-old daughter Tessa to keep his loving cup full for another three weeks.
His stacked calendar and ambitious to-do lists may not define his consciousness, but they do evidence a man with a boundless appetite for new experiences and new perspectives.
Pulling up a chair, I wonder aloud if his ambitious touring schedule is emotionally or physically taxing.
“Usually, it takes at least a week after a tour until I begin to feel human again,” he offers, picking at a salad. “Tour can be very draining. But at the same time, it’s energizing, and I really like this album and want people to hear the songs. So here we are.”
These days, for Mike Gordon, things are really that simple.
Until they aren’t.
If you surveyed Phish fans and allotted them three words to describe Mike Gordon, two of the most popular answers might be “the quiet one” and “the weird one.” To be fair, he can be both of these things (see: his film Outside Out). But like any three word description of him, they both fall far short of the mark.
Conversations with Gordon reveal a person and an artist vibrating with complexity and contradiction. He is guarded and private about the people closest to him, but astonishingly and disarmingly open and verbose about his own thoughts and emotions—the things that bring him joy (his family), the things that bring him pain (Phish’s 2004 breakup) and the things that heal his wounds (creating). He is prone to free-associative, deep-space tangents and yet uncannily capable of reeling it all in with a few choice words of earthbound synthesis.
“My Mom’s astrologer told me my role in this lifetime was to go out into the spheres, then come back and report on what’s out there.”
Gordon’s defining characteristic, perhaps, is deliberate and practiced awareness —being conscious in the moment, experiencing people and events as fully as possible while they transpire and then processing them as thoroughly as he can (hopefully, without sailing right past that next moment)
“Mystics talk about the self that sees the self,” he explains. “Then, there’s another self that sees that self, and so on, the further you progress. I’m intrigued by that idea of stepping outside and observing yourself as another being.”
Of course, moments are fleeting and so Gordon has taken to documenting his own life compulsively. Before he checks out of his hotel (the tour bus will whisk him from the LA gig to play a free show early the following day at the corner of Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco), he makes a hurried pass around his room with a movie camera, capturing the bed, the desk, the mirror, the closet door, the flat screen TV, a “hospitality shelf” stocked with quirky host gifts, an untouched wine bottle and (ever-so-briefly) me.
This 6-second clip will find its way onto Mike’s MacBook Pro—a close companion of silicone and steel whose collective contents comprise a puzzle of its own.
The Howlin’ Brothers take to the Relix rooftop and share a song they wrote with Warren Haynes.
Beth Hart shares the opening track from her latest album, Bang Bang Boom Boom, live at Relix.
Jamie Lidell sets up in the Relix boiler room and delivers a tune from his 2005 album Multiply
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Here’s another song from Crystal Bowersox’s new record All That For This, live at Relix.
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In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
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